Action In The Face Of Change

By Johanna Schweiss,
Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator,
USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter

It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the challenge of climate change. In October 2018, the Intergov-ernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report that calls for significant emissions reductions over the next decade to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change. In order to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 45% from 2010 by 2030, and 100% by 2050. Avoiding the worst impacts of a changing climate will require transformation that has “no documented historic precedent.” (Visit www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15 to read the full report.)

1.5 degrees of warming may not sound like much, but even at that level, scientists expect that we will see extreme drought, wildfires, floods, sea level rise, and food shortages. In Missouri, we can expect that climate change will bring a variety of extremes – more intense heat, more flash flooding, and more periods of drought.

Climate change is caused by greenhouse gas emissions, released as we burn fossil fuels, when waste decomposes, from the refrigerants we use in air conditioning, and more. For most people, when they think about greenhouse gas emissions, they may first think of cars, power plants, and industry. But one of the biggest potential solutions to climate change is one we are all surrounded by daily – our buildings.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the energy used by buildings in the United States is responsible for almost 40% of our national greenhouse gas emissions (US EIA). Locally, we see an even bigger impact. In 2015, residential and commercial buildings accounted for 62% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the City of St. Louis (2015 GHG Inventory).

Because they contribute such a large percentage of our greenhouse gas emissions, buildings have a huge role to play in the climate action ahead. The stakes are high and the timing is short – but key thing to remember is that the solutions to this problem already exist. Consider the energy used in our buildings – we know how to design, build and operate our buildings to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is not the time to lose hope, but to get to work.

And the solutions that can yield big results often have other benefits. We use the term green buildings to refer to buildings that have reduced environmental impacts – they use less energy, less water, have a lighter impact on their surrounding environment, and are healthier for the people inside. Green buildings are not only better for climate – they are better and healthier for all of us.

Each of us have a role to play in the work ahead, and you can make a difference in your own home and in your community. Check out the City of St. Louis’s Climate Handprint resources for ideas on how you can reduce your contributions to climate change at home and at work (www.stlouis-mo.gov/sustainability). Ready to do more? Join the U.S. Green Building Council – Missouri Gateway Chapter as we work to advance green building solutions in Missouri and Illinois!

The U.S. Green Building Council – Missouri Gateway Chapter is a non-profit community of members and partners working to advance green building solutions – because we believe green buildings are better for people, and better for the planet. Join us: www.usgbc-mogateway.org