A report issued Oct. 8 by the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change stressed that to prevent a catastrophic range of irreversible environmental impacts, global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) need to fall by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, and achieve net zero around 2050.
The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlights climate change impacts that could be avoided by limiting global warming to a mere 1.5°C increase by 2030 compared to a ½-degree more, a difference that could mean irreversible damage. For example:
- Coral reefs would decline by as much as 90 percent with global warming of 1.5°C, but would face complete loss with a 2°C increase.
- The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared to at least once per decade with that 2°C rise.
It’s a dire forecast, but there is hope. Climate experts note that it is possible to apply technology already in use today to lower CO2 levels and remove any remaining emissions from the air by 2050.
How to achieve the impossible
As massive C02 emitters, buildings present a prime opportunity for making a big difference in global warming. After all, in 2017 about 39% of total U.S. energy consumption came from the residential and commercial building sectors. And while that number is dramatically high, it actually represents a decrease in CO2 emissions from 2016 levels. In fact, U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions declined in 7 years within the past decade, bringing them 14% lower than in 2005.
We’re already on the right track. But to achieve the drastic reduction in CO2 emissions the IPCC says is needed, these actions need to accelerate.
The first step in taking control of their energy consumption is for building owners to track their current levels. Tools such as EnergySTAR’s Portfolio Manager and Lucid’s BenchmarkMyBuilding help building owners identify opportunities for further emissions reductions. When supported by building management systems, this understanding can be translated into action, including the cost-effective use of renewable energy sources as recommended by the report.
We have the tools in place to succeed
At Lucid, we believe this massive change is possible because we work with companies and institutions every day to drive aggressive reductions in energy consumption. While the business case for sustainability is often a driver for change—and we’ll agree that millions in cost savings is a sound reason to go green—the IPCC report gives companies around the world a powerful new motivation to act.
One of the key messages coming out of the IPCC report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming: we’re faced with more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among many other changes. It’s going to take a major commitment from the entire global community to take greater control of energy use. But together, by acting now, we can turn the tide of global warming.