Call to action: confronting climate change
A letter from 2018 AIA President Carl Elefante.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is committed to finding design solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. As an association founded to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public, the AIA has a responsibility to speak out against climate change and to promote emissions reductions in the building sector. If we’re going to make a difference in climate change, we need the efforts of every firm and every architect.
The Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) confirms, again, the consensus of the international scientific community: the Earth is warming due to human activity and if left unchecked, the consequences will be catastrophic for human life.
Released on November 23, 2018, the NCA4 reports that the Earth is already 1 degree Celsius warmer than at the start of 1901 and that human activity is the only explanation for this amount of global warming.
Climate change and the heightened severity of weather events will cause increased loss of human life, more frequent crop failure, and more displaced people. This will destabilize governments, increase the risk of conflict, and hurt the global economy. Meanwhile, human health is already jeopardized by air and water conditions around the globe.
The science is irrefutable. The NCA4 comes in between two recent United Nations reports, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report and 2018 Emissions Gap Report, which together make clear that the Earth is warming faster than anticipated and that the current international response is not enough.
AIA takes these reports very seriously and urges immediate and meaningful action to address the ever-increasing threats being created.
The building sector accounts for roughly 40 percent of current global greenhouse gas emissions. By achieving significant emissions reduction in our own sector of the economy, we can contribute a large portion of the solution.
The AIA has taken steps to confront climate change. In 2009, we helped set the federal 2030 net zero energy goals and established the AIA 2030 Commitment. Earlier this year, we endorsed policies and signed onto multiple commitments to decrease emissions across the built environment. We updated the AIA Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct to address sustainability directly through our work with clients, materials selection, and within design. And for many years, the AIA has lobbied elected leaders at all levels of government for sustainable policies.
These are important steps, but as the NCA4 makes clear, much more must be done.
I call on all of us to elevate climate change in our conversations with clients, industry partners, and elected officials. Add your firm to our Call to Action. As architects, we have unique skills to explain the challenge to a wide audience, and the design knowledge to find more ways to reduce building emissions. We are equal to the task. But we must not wait.