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Building for a Climate Emergency

It has become clear that our countries' governments do not want to deal with the unpopular reality of a Climate Emergency.

Our younger contributing editor, President of SES Consulting provided this article for the July issue of AutomatedBuildings.com, talking of a seismic shift. As his mentee, I agree with this article as a harbinger of some of the major changes, we will see as we Recalibrate for 2020 Vision 

Buildings in the Age of the Climate Emergency  by Brad White, SES Consulting Inc.:

Decarbonization, Electrification, and Resilience is quickly becoming a common part of our lexicon as cities across North America and around the world start to take aggressive and urgent action to curb emissions from buildings. 

There has been a slew of recent legislation from municipal governments targeting commercial buildings, both new and existing, with aggressive greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets. Here in Vancouver, it all started with the declaration of a “Climate Emergency” by our city council, joining over 400 other cities around the world. In response to this declaration, city staff developed a response plan consisting of six big moves. 
 
In a city that relies primarily on burning natural gas for space heating and hot water, “Big Move” number 4 represents a seismic shift. While the details are still being sorted out, they will largely be modelled on the recently passed New York City Climate Mobilization Act that requires a 40% reduction in emissions from buildings over 25,000 sq ft by 2030, and an 80% reduction by 2040. In NYC’s case, penalties for missing these targets will be $268/ton. At that price, adopting low carbon technologies for heat and hot water starts to become the cheaper option. With the onset of these regulations only a few years away, building owners are already starting to include steps toward aggressive emissions reductions in their capital plans.


Declarations of Climate Emergency are a start — these declarations can unify a movement, clarify the truth of a situation, and put lawmakers on record. But they are not enough — only a sustained global movement focused on winning power, mobilizing, and bringing the fossil fuel industry to heel will give us a chance at survival.

It has become clear that our countries' governments do not want to deal with the unpopular reality of a Climate Emergency. Our cities are prepared to ignore the manipulation of our governments by the fossil fuel industry.

Worldwide organizations such as the UN seem incapable action, but the reasoning of a 15-year-old, coupled with the power of the incoming generation Z, plus the combined initiatives of some 400 major cities seems to finally be getting the ball rolling. Check out this article from Kate Taylor, writing in the Stamford Advocate:


Gen Z Republicans are ready to force America to address climate change as a reality instead of a myth

Gen Z is leading the movement to address climate change, as young people on the right and left demand the government take action. Only 18% of Gen Zers who identify as Republicans said they believe the Earth is warming because of natural patterns in a Pew survey, compared to 30% of millennial, 36% of Gen Z, and 42% of baby-boomer Republicans. "We see younger generations being more concerned, and part of it is a realization that they're going to have to inherit a lot of the decisions," Melissa Deckman, a political science professor at Washington College, told Business Insider.

With a similar take, here’s Aylin Woodward, writing for BusinessInsider.com:

Millennials and Gen Z are finally gaining ground in the climate battle — here are the signs they're winning

In the last eight months, global agreement about the need to address climate change has skyrocketed, according to environmental activist and author Bill McKibben.  Much of the push to do something about the climate problem has been spearheaded by young people. Worldwide climate strikes and the Green New Deal are just two pieces of evidence that these efforts are having an effect.

And one more from Jake Johnson at Common Dreams:

'We Are in a Climate Emergency, America': Anchorage Hits 90 Degrees for First Time in Recorded History

"This is unprecedented. I tease people that Anchorage is the coolest city in the country—and climatically that is true—but right now we are seeing record heat," said Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz "We are in a climate emergency, America," wrote meteorologist Eric Holthaus in response to the news.

Action to date

Here’s a quick run-down on the Green New Deal from the Sierra Club web site:

What is a Green New Deal?   A Green New Deal is a big, bold transformation of the economy to tackle the twin crises of inequality and climate change. It would mobilize vast public resources to help us transition from an economy built on exploitation and fossil fuels to one driven by dignified work and clean energy.

Alexander Kaufman, reporting on the CityLab web site, talks about what one U.S. city, New York, is doing to address the problem of climate change:

New York City Passes Sweeping Climate Legislation

“We are on the precipice of climate disaster, and New York City is acting,” Corey Johnson, the council speaker, said in a statement. “I hope other cities follow suit.”

The effort demonstrates one of the clearest examples yet of what a municipal version of the Green New Deal, the national movement for a multi-trillion-dollar climate-friendly industrial plan, might look like. The legislation is forecast to spur thousands of blue-collar jobs and make it easier for the city to take advantage of future state and federal funding for clean-energy projects and climate change-ready infrastructure. 


A fairly comprehensive breakdown of the current climate situation can be found here, at Climate Emergency (https://www.theclimatemobilization.org/) From the site:

We’re working to compel governments in the US and throughout the world to declare Climate Emergency, adopting an emergency response to climate change and the broader ecological crisis. 

Climate Emergency Campaign

We demand governments adopt an emergency response to climate change and the broader ecological crisis. Declaring Climate Emergency is the critical first step to launching the comprehensive mobilization solution required to rescue and rebuild civilization. We are working to compel governments in the United States and throughout the world to declare Climate Emergency. 

Why Focus on local governments?

Cities and local governments have historically been the spark for progress, from minimum wage to civil rights. Local wins inspire other communities to follow and build a mandate for much-needed national mobilizations. For example, the Climate and Environment Emergency Declaration in the United Kingdom started in cities and local councils.

Also declaring an emergency is the UK’s Royal Institute of British Architects:

RIBA declares climate emergency saying it is architecture's "biggest challenge"  

The Royal Institute of British Architects has declared a state of climate emergency, committing to a five-year plan of action for climate change.  The decision to formally acknowledge the role that architects have in causing climate change and alleviating it was made at a council meeting of the RIBA. "The climate emergency is the biggest challenge facing our planet and our profession," said RIBA president Ben Derbyshire. "But to have a significant impact we need to do more than make symbolic statements – we need to turn warm words into impactful actions." Architects must "transform" their practice

Amazing how we are all connected globally, simply by caring about climate justice and the living planet.

Using the problem as the solution, I love my friend Art Southerland's twist on the climate emergency:

Six ice rinks at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will use CO2 as a refrigerant, according to Art Sutherland, president and CEO of Victoria, B.C.-based ice arena contractor Accent Refrigeration Systems.

Sutherland explained that five rinks that are being built will use CO2 while four existing rinks, which were using R404A, plan to employ R449A, except for one that decided to switch to CO2. 

"Once those other four ice rinks saw that [the new rinks] were going with CO2, one them then jumped on board," said Sutherland, who gave this update during the contractor's panel discussion on day two of ATMOsphere America, held June 17-18 in Atlanta, Ga.


ATMOsphere America is an event where key experts, policy makers and end users gather to learn about the very latest developments in the industry. It features interactive workshops bringing together decision makers from industry and government to change the future of natural refrigerants. 

R744, or carbon dioxide, is making its re-entry into the industrial refrigeration scene. Once thought to be a wasteful chemical requiring too much high pressure to be feasible as a coolant, environmentalists now hail R744 as an answer to growing concerns regarding traditional and widely used chemical refrigerants, including contributing to global warming, as well as ozone layer destruction. Proponents of R744 technology insist that the use of R744 as a coolant for refrigeration and other cooling systems (including heat pumps) are the wave of the future for industry wide equipment. R744 technology has advanced in recent years.


From a purely theoretical standpoint, CO2 is slightly less efficient than ammonia, but this difference decreases as the evaporator temperature drops. But because CO2 is a very dense gas, the size of the equipment needed to provide the same refrigeration effect is significantly smaller. But, given the danger of ammonia, CO2 technology is becoming more attractive.

Contributing Editor Tom Hartman offered this advice all the way back in 2006, and it’s still good today:

A sustainable building industry will not only require new technologies, but also a vastly improved process for designing, constructing, and operating buildings

It’s hard to think of North America as a backwater part of the world, but in terms of our appreciation of climate change issues this may be an apt description. Hardly a day goes by without a report of new research findings regarding the perils of greenhouse gasses and the effects of human activity on climate change, but on this continent such news seems hardly noticed. A month ago the UK issued a devastating assessment of the situation and the need to act quickly to avoid almost certain disastrous consequences later in this century. More recently at the climate change conference in Nairobi, the discussions turned to the enormous costs that will have to be borne from global warming. And the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is working on a soon to be released major report that from early descriptions will offer similar projections of climatic and economic disaster by the end of the century if the issue is not promptly addressed on a massive scale. All this has been received with barely a ho-hum in our news.


So will we "Fiddle While Rome Burns?" or follow our cities' lead while listening to our younger mentors? This is yet another amazing opportunity to raise the importance and purpose of our building automation industry. The decision is yours.

Wow! It was over 50 chapters ago we began our never-ending online book! That first chapter was Sensing the Change. Now we are here, discussing the Climate Emergency—what will come next?

Our next Chapter will expand our 2020 vision with our education sessions for The AHR Expo. AHR is the world’s largest HVACR event, attracting the most comprehensive gathering of industry professionals from around the globe each year. See you then!

 

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