As part of climate change caused by human activity, global warming seems to be well underway. Average temperatures have risen (o.5°F) over the past 100 years and seem destined to rise i°F to 2°F or more by 2050, without dramatic changes in current patterns of energy use and continued global population and economic growth.
A number of gases contribute to global warming, including carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning (from homes, cars, buildings and industry) and methane from bovine flatulence (believe it or not, this is major contributor). However, other gases also have global warming potential, including chemicals in common use such as chlorinated hydrocarbons used in refrigerants, nitrous oxide (laughing gas), trichloroethane (a solvent) and other halogenated compounds (those containing chlorine, fluorine and bromine atoms).
The 2007 Fourth Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put the odds that human activity is causing global climate change at more than 90%. That report, along with Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth, and the British Government's "Stern" report, have moved public opinion in the advanced economies toward fully recognizing the threat of global warming and pressing their governments to take immediate action.
Global warming could cause the Arctic ice cap to melt, releasing huge amounts of fresh water into the North Atlantic, the rapid splitting off of parts of the Antarctic ice sheet and melting of glaciers worldwide. The latter could greatly increase droughts because there is less winter rain held as snow and, therefore, reduced river flows during the summer. Vast portions of Southeast Asia depending on the Mekong River for sustenance, in turn fed by Himalayan glaciers, could be affected. Low-lying areas such as Miami and New Orleans could become like Venice, Italy, inundated a good part of the year and basically uninhabitable. Island nations could see their habitability decrease dramatically in the next few decades. Warmer seas could increase the severity of hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico in years ahead, even if their frequency does not increase.
Global warming is observable, and the consequences predictable and dire. The connection with fossil fuel burning is getting more provable scientifically each passing year. Green building advocates strongly favor "zero-net-energy" buildings as one way to cope with this dramatic chal-
lenge to current civilization. Globalization is not only an economic phenomenon, it's also an ecological phenomenon. We are one interconnected world, at levels we don't really fathom or can't accept. Green buildings provide a way to ensure sustainability of current economic, cultural and political institutions.
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