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Articles by Kif Scheuer

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  • We’re inside it

    We all know buildings are part of the global warming problem, but many people don't recognize how central they are to the solution. A recent UNEP report -- "Buildings and Climate Change: Status, Challenges and Opportunities" -- shines light on how relevant and accessible building-related climate change solutions are. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said:

    By some conservative estimates, the building sector world-wide could deliver emission reductions of 1.8 billion tonnes of C02. A more aggressive energy efficiency policy might deliver over two billion tonnes or close to three times the amount scheduled to be reduced under the Kyoto Protocol.

    The International Energy Agency estimates that a total global switch to compact fluorescent bulbs would in 2010 deliver C02 savings of 470 million tonnes or slightly over half of the Kyoto reductions. We have to ask what the hurdles are -- if any -- to achieving such positive low cost change and set about decisively and swiftly to overcome them, if they exist at all.

    I realize Kyoto is not our final goal, but the point here is the potential for harvesting carbon reductions from buildings is immense, and most of solutions are 1) with us already and 2) relatively low-cost to deploy. The challenge is largely changing practices. But as Achim notes, the hurdles in the building sector, unlike some other sectors, may not be very substantial.

  • Brown to make green

    NYT has a story today about some prominent "green-tech" venture capitalists who are investing in fossil-fuel development, making them more "brown-tech."

    Defense of this muddying of the green-tech profile rests on our collective worship of the profit motive ("I'm here to make the kind of green my limited partners can spend"). But what made me laugh out loud (even as my stomach was turning) was this quote by Joseph Lacob, a managing partner at Kleiner Perkins, which is investing heavily in Terralliance, an oil and gas exploration company: "If we can improve the efficiencies of the oil and gas exploration, in some ways that's a green message as well."

    Please, please please tell me how expansion of oil and gas development is a "green message"?

  • The real tipping point? Maybe?

    The claim in a McGraw Hill NAHB report that green homebuilding will reach a tipping point in 2007 has gotten a fair amount of attention (like CNN Money and USA Today):

    Green building will reach its tipping point -- the point where the building community turns from "less involved" to "more involved" in the 2006 to 2007 time frame, depending on how conservative the estimate. ... more than 2/3 of builders will be building green homes (more than 15% of their projects) ... Looking beyond 2007, the sheer number of participants in the homebuilding market will pull the rest of the market up to their standards to remain competitive.

    There's nothing I'd like to see more than a real tipping point in green building practices. But trying to spot green tipping points often seems like the environmental community's favorite hobby. We're like compulsive birdwatchers looking for exotic species of environmental progress. Too often it turns out to be a wee bit more complicated than it appears at first glance.

  • Is it really all that rosy?

    Lately, most of what you hear about green building is pretty rosy; the industry is booming, everyone's on board, and green building has gone mainstream. By and large, I tend to agree that things are looking nice. But there are three different trends(?) in green building that caught my attention recently. I think the push and pull from these activities could lead to a not-so-pleasant dustup among industry, green building advocates, and public policymakers down the line.