The entire paper is available for download via the link below. You are encouraged to freely distribute this document to whoever may benefit from it. Distribution and use is governed by Creative Commons licensing: Creative CommonsThe Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), along with numerous other regional, national, and transnational scientific associations, concludes that the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHG) we are emitting into the atmosphere are putting us at considerable risk. “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations,” where very likely is defined as greater than 90% probability of occurrence (IPCC Synthesis Report, 2007). The report describes significant impacts under various emissions scenarios. Under a businessas-
This paper was written by the Carbon Working Group of the ASCE/SEI Sustainability
Committee. We are a dedicated and concerned group of engineering professionals with design, industrial, and academic backgrounds. We are united in our passion for addressing the causes of climate change today through professional practice.
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
usual scenario, temperature rises due to greenhouse gas emissions are expected to cause very serious changes to food productivity, water security, ecosystem resiliency, coastal communities, weather patterns, the frequency and severity of storms, and the prevalence of cardio-respiratory disease. Additional concerns include maintaining peaceful international relationships amid water and food scarcity and relocating large populations of environmental refugees (Burke et al. 2009).
Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases remain in the atmosphere for a very long time; the build-up is accelerating relative to the decay of these gases. The urgency of reducing carbon emissions in the short term is not widely recognized. A recent report (Committee on America’s Climate Choices, 2011) by the National Academy of Sciences summarized the necessity of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the near term:
Ultimately, the authors hope that this paper will spur actions that will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with building structures. The materials in the built environment are a substantial source of anthropogenic carbon emissions, and structural engineers have unique opportunities to specify materials for construction projects that can significantly affect the contribution of each project to more climate changes. As structural engineers, our choices make a difference. We can reduce the risk of destructive climate change impacts by choosing and using building materials with climate change in mind. This white paper introduces some strategies structural engineers may use to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For further information, see the SEI Sustainability Committee’s Sustainability Guidelines for the Structural Engineer (Kestner et al, 2010).
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