NASA Climate change exacerbates [PDF] the frequency and intensity of natural disasters, disease outbreaks, and human crises such as poverty, famine, mass migration, and war. To model future outcomes, scientists use four standard “pathways” for different possible levels of CO2 in the atmosphere over time. The most extreme-sounding projections, the ones that make headlines, actually follow an entirely plausible pathway, in which humanity simply carries on burning fossil fuels as usual and temperatures continue to rise. According to a recent study, if humanity does not sharply reduce CO2 emissions, by the end of the century the chances of an extinction-level event could be 1 in 20. Pictured: Hurricanes Katia, Irma, and Jose on Sept. 8, moving west across the Atlantic Ocean to North America.

NASA Climate change exacerbates [PDF] the frequency and intensity of natural disasters, disease outbreaks, and human crises such as poverty, famine, mass migration, and war. To model future outcomes, scientists use four standard “pathways” for different possible levels of CO2 in the atmosphere over time. The most extreme-sounding projections, the ones that make headlines, actually follow an entirely plausible pathway, in which humanity simply carries on burning fossil fuels as usual and temperatures continue to rise. According to a recent study, if humanity does not sharply reduce CO2 emissions, by the end of the century the chances of an extinction-level event could be 1 in 20. Pictured: Hurricanes Katia, Irma, and Jose on Sept. 8, moving west across the Atlantic Ocean to North America.


Climate change is the fundamental design problem of our time. Not style, not fees, not education, not community, not health, not justice. All other concerns, many of them profoundly important, are nonetheless ancillary. The threat climate change poses is existential, and buildings are hugely complicit—even more so than that stock culprit, the automobile. As every architect should know, buildings consume some 40 percent of the energy in the U.S. annually, and they emit nearly half of the carbon dioxide (CO2), through greenfield development, cement production, and the burning of fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal. Because CO2 traps solar energy in the atmosphere, thereby heating the planet, it is the chief agent of climate change [PDF], making buildings—and by association, the architecture profession—profoundly responsible.