CNU XV Blog, Part 15: Environmental Issues

MLewyn's picture

On Sunday, the last few panelists focused in varying degrees on environmental issues. Denise Scott Brown began with a variety of questions for new urbanists, including the relationship between urbanism, congestion and pollution. She asked us how we respond to the road lobby argument that speedy traffic, by reducing congestion, reduces pollution.

Then Ed Mazria explained global warming to us, answering the following questions:

*How do we know that global warming is related to carbon dioxide? Government computer models detail world temperatures in the absence of increased CO2 emissions, and world temperatures with such emissions. Since 20th-century temperature trends are closer to the latter model, it seems likely that global warming is linked to CO2.

*How bad is it? In all likelihood, humanity and much of nature will survive - but there won't be as much of either. Mazria asserted that if the international consensus of scientists (as reflected in the IPCC report) is correct, about 50% of plant and animal species will be wiped off the Earth, mostly species in northern climes. Why? Because animals (and plants) in polar regions will lose habitat, and animals from more temperate regions will migrate to those places and outcompete the first group of animals for habitat.

The results for humanity will be especially dire in coastal regions: rising sea levels mean no more Miami Beach, no more Galveston, and possibly a sharply reduced San Diego or Boston. The resulting mass migrations will destabilize the economy and polity, possibly turning America into a Third World society.

*What do we do about it? Mazria focused on increasing the efficiency of buildings, since 48% of electricity (if my notes are right) comes are from buildings and building-related emissions have been increasing over time.

Scott Bernstein didn't really disagree with Mazria's presentation, but focused on transportation and on possible efficiency gains from more compact building development.

And then (after a brief "open mike" session) we adjourned.


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