Should we question green orthodoxy?
Readers are split in their responses to last week’s leader calling for a debate on climate change
“Dangerous and depressing” thundered Paul King, chief executive of the Green Building Council, in reaction to last week’s leader. The organisation, which includes architects, developers and engineers, said: “through this editorial BD has positioned itself alongside an ever diminishing number of sceptics… We have a very short space of time indeed to prevent climate change’s more extreme consequences”.
This too was the view of the Centre for Alternative Technology, which spoke for many when it said “there is now overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is happening and that it is caused by human activity.
The issue is no longer ‘out for consultation’ ”.
But other readers disagreed and a war of words broke out on web and in the blogging community.
A number of comments defended the right to have debate. Robert Adam said “it is important to question all accepted wisdom”, while Austin Williams, an architect and director of the Future Cities Project, said that by not citing scientific “evidence” in her leader Baillieu was opening herself up to “a baying mob of outrage”.
“She should realise that architects have come to rely on the get-out-of-jail card of ‘evidence’ which can then be used to justify their work. Evidence shows that meagre space standards are often more carbon efficient; evidence shows that reducing carbon makes you happier; evidence shows that you cannot possibly have an ‘opinion’ because you have to cite ‘evidence’ to back that opinion up.”
The scientists have also weighed in. James Dent (see Letters, page 8) said “many professionals are uneasy at the totalitarian approach adopted by the media and government to force acceptance of climate change ‘initiatives’”.
Full marks for having the courage to raise probably the most controversial issue today (other than race). The idea that you shouldn’t question accepted wisdom because you “don’t know” sounds a bit like book burning to me. There are lots of people out there, including droves of architects, who take on the accepted view and know absolutely nothing about global warming, so why should they silence debate on the basis that the person who disagrees also doesn’t know. This is just a new religion where heretics are to be silenced.
Robert Adam Architects
Regrettably and incorrectly sustainability/energy conservation as the sole cause of global warming has become the new “sacred cow” which is only very rarely questioned given the risk of general derision. The herd instinct remains strong. The Breeam regime would be funny if it wasn’t so alarming and wasteful. Why have we seen the birth of a new politically correct politburo who have taken over what is essentially such a sensible idea.?
Is there a direct, causal link between man-made environmental impacts and global warming? I’m afraid the really inconvenient truth is that in terms of universally accepted, irrefutable scientific evidence, we may never know the answer. Some scientists believe the case to be proven already whilst others do not — this illustrates the complexity of a data collection and analysis process which is still at a relatively early stage.
As a teacher, researcher and co-author of the Green Guide to Specification, part of the Breeam programme, and as a writer of many articles and academic papers on green issues, my commitment to reducing the environmental impact of property is self-evident. But perhaps surprisingly, my environmental commitment is not dependent on this particular debate being settled and neither should the adoption of tough new environmental laws and targets at the Copenhagen summit.
Architect and university lecturer
I admit to being a climate change sceptic. The majority in my view are simply getting on the band wagon without really knowing what it is all about — particularly politicians.
I believe in energy saving of fossil fuels but no one talks about the world population explosion which negates our efforts. It will have to be talked about one day but it is not PC yet and no politicians dares to.
As a journalist Amanda Baillieu is observing, reporting and questioning... that’s what I’d expect her to do. I’m not a climate change scientist, but if current orthodoxies are being challenged what is the problem if you’re on solid ground? Make the case, don’t recoil with moral shock and awe.
Al Gore’s famous propaganda An Inconvenient Truth has been proven to be misleading, manipulative and incorrect yet is still the basis of green brigade facts and figures. The “hockey stick”, the flagship to the warming alarmists has been scientifically proven to be incorrect yet is simply ignored in favour of deliberate lies.
Recently a UK judge agreed and stopped schoolchildren from watching this film yet do we hear about this in the media? Do we hear that the IPCC panel is made up of a small proportion of scientists and even fewer climate experts? Even Gore has backtracked and stated that carbon is not the main problem! I have yet to see a piece of legitimate evidence for man-made global warming.
The environmental movement is a beating stick used by governments. All you believers will be in for quite the shock when you cannot afford to turn on the heating or even have a drink of water, because you cannot afford it.
For the record, many scientists have the opposing view. Go to www. oism.org/pproject
It is one thing for a journalist to be provocative, it is another to deliberately and mischievously mislead. There are no reputable scientists still seeking to disprove man-induced climate change, or climate-chaos (as it should be more appropriately called). The theories the climate deniers have put forward have all been disproved. There are plenty of propagandist around, most of whom have been shown to be in the pay of the petrochemical industries.
Vice president, Scientists for Global Responsibility
Amanda Baillieu is utterly wrong. The evidence that the global climate is changing at an unprecedented rate is overwhelming. There will always be debate about the exact mechanisms and how much of the change is a direct consequence of mankind’s activities, but that is the nature of science. If anything, the real evidence shows that the changes will be more dramatic and that the actions needed to mitigate these effects are even more drastic and urgent than ever. The property sector has an enormous role to play in reducing emissions and helping to combat the impacts.
Environmental director Land Securities Group
It seems so reasonable to call for debate on this issue, but this is a flawed view. Unless you are a climate scientist yourself, you are a fool to doubt the overwhelming consensus of those who are. Calling for debate on this issue is like calling for debate on evolution. The debate is settled.
Part II architectural assistant
You and I are not climate change scientists. We can only interpret the modelling, analysis and advice of others. On reading the opening few sentences I was expecting reference to amazing new evidence that global warming is a myth. But the only justification seems to be that “global temperatures (have) failed to warm”. I guess you’re referring to the current La Nina cooling effect which is taking the edge off the undoubted trend for long-term warming. But others can do better justice to the science than I can.
I’d strongly recommend you read Michael Pawlyn’s (Exploration Architects) recent debate with Bjorn Lomborg.
Read the transcripts at http://tinyurl.com/yfj2hcz
UK Green Building Council
Nothing wrong with questioning orthodoxy if there is evidence to cause that questioning. Unfortunately, the majority of sceptics that I have encountered also happen to be the ones that just don’t want to make the effort on transitioning to a low carbon, sustainable world. So their scepticism is indeed religious, they base it not on evidence but on their wish to be in heaven (ie not have to make the difficult choices and changes). But I remain open to being convinced otherwise, so please, provide the evidence and I will look at it like I have the scientific evidence for man-made climate change.
We should be conserving world resources and the real difficulty comes in deciding how to do this. It is too easy to adopt policies that penalise the weakest such as people in the developing world and the poor everywhere.
The question should not be about whether the science is right or wrong, but the tougher questions of who is going to have to pay for reduction in consumption and how this will be done. The RIBA is surely right to insist that, as a start, we adopt good environmental standards for buildings for in general it is the richer people of the world who will be paying for this.
There is a well travelled quote that says: “The issues of global warming and climate change are far too important to be left in the hands of politicians.” With respect Amanda, your editorial leads me to conclude that, in addition, these issues cannot be left in the hands of journalists.