Whole Life Thinking

Firstly I would like to thank our guest bloggers for July, Susie Diamond, Ant Wilson and the team at the University of Sheffield who contributed to the Energy Engineering Conscience topic. Some really interesting thoughts and experiences were shared that helped stimulate a great deal of discussion on the CIBSE LinkedIn group and on Twitter. Thank you also to the CIBSE staff who assist in managing the blog and supporting activities.

Continuing my theme on cities, the next thought is about international Law and whether its doing its part in this increasing world of climate change; which is resulting in serious risks to our cities, organisations and people throughout this precious earth on which we totally depend upon.

The law both national and international, gives permission to governments, organisations and investors to take as much from the earth's resources on which all life depends as they want, with little or no relation to the impact on the climate. The same legal system does not have a provision to create a balance that prevents the destruction of the environment that is crucial for all life, surely this needs to change and fast?

International law can change society direction and its structure; history teaches us this is so. But we generally act after events have occurred to create the laws that provide future protection. We do not have that opportunity when it comes to the impact of climate and social change on our cities and the damage we are doing to Earth's environment.

Over the past 10 years or so all the international conferences, governmental collaborations and gatherings seem, to me, to have not achieved very much in real terms. For example the challenge and consequences of cheap subsidised coal has not been addressed. However, nations such as Germany have moved significantly towards the goal of total renewable energy supplies, predicting confidently by 2050 this will be achieved.

We know at least 70 percent of current coal, oil and gas reserves must stay in the ground if we are to stand a reasonable chance of achieving a manageable limit to climate change. Yet coal consumption has risen by over 50 percent since 2000 to 2010 (IEA). We have already seen emissions rising to 400ppm and there is serious concern as to whether or not its still possible to achieve the 2°C limit of climate change and that itself comes at a high price indeed.

Our cities are heading for 70 percent of people living in them, so our cities continue with increased heat build up and creating their own environmental conditions. Solving global warming alone will not be sufficient to solve the problems in our cities.

However, strategic improvement of city conditions and large reduction in energy use would seriously contribute to addressing global warming. A goal that requires embracing through diversity and equality in the workplace and at Government levels; that should create the enthusiasm and capacity of resources and international networking needed to rise to the challenges. A point I have made many times and often in collaboration with the CIBSE diversity panel.

The concept of international law to protect the earth in combination with whole life thinking for the built environment; in which each city can achieve huge improvements is now a major opportunity for success. This surely leads to adaptation to climate change and relieving ourselves of our addiction to fossil fuels?

For debate: With all the above in mind I ask myself some questions which I share with you now:

1) What law do we need to put in place to rid ourselves of our economic addiction to fossil fuels?

2) What kinds of innovation will we need in the way that buildings and energy production are engineered to meet the challenges of climate change impact and heat islands?

3) What is driving innovation in the total built environment and why is its R&D investment pitifully so low compared to other aspects of the global economy and especially the unnecessary continuance of fossil fuel exploration.

4) Once we have a legal plan, what will be the additional/new tools and techniques we may need to make the concept work?

These questions and more will be part of the focus at the CIBSE presentation in January to ASHRAE – the climate change challenge of cities. Please share your thoughts, experiences and ideas and I will do my best to incorporate responses into the overall theme.

CIBSE President George Adams

George Adams


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