Whether you believe climate change is a planetary or man-made phenomenon, it’s hard to refute that our world is getting hotter. Even though much of the nation has suffered through a harsh winter, the global thermostat continued to set records at the hot end in 2010.
You don’t have to believe climate change is primarily a man-made phenomenon – or even that there is any substantive evidence it is occurring to any great extent – to know limiting the emissions human civilization dumps into the air just makes sense. The data clearly shows the changes occurring and it only seems logical to take reasonable steps to control (to the extent we can) the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere.
Here is some of the latest official US Government information about the state of the climate:
According to NOAA’s State of the Climate Global Analysis Annual 2010 report, last year was the hottest on record. As the debate continues to rage around the world for reasons why, the planetary temperatures appear to be continuing to rise. The effects are scuttle to most of us. But scientists continue to point to the melting of glaciers as a sign of the potential impact if the current warming trends continue.
Governments continue to look for ways to lower the carbon footprint from human activity. International climate treaties, cap and trade programs, carbon sequestration in deep wells and other complicated strategies are proving to be difficult to implement. (See one failed example.)
CIMA and the APA believe there is at least one very easy way to help reduce the carbon footprint—lower carbon home design. Wood provides natural carbon sequestration. Using wood-intensive construction, in combination with cellulose insulation, is an easy way to trap carbon in side houses for the life of the dwelling—providing years and years of carbon sequestration and the potential to lower carbon emissions by millions of tons annually.
In 2010, CIMA joined forces with APA to sponsor the first Carbon Challenge design competition. Designers were invited to submit plans that lowered the carbon footprint of a home based on several criteria, including a new Eco-Calculator designed by the Athena Institute to measure carbon levels for various construction materials. Athena is now completing a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) study comparing the winning design with a home using standard construction materials. A similar Athena study from 2008 in Canada showed remarkable reductions in carbon impacts for a house utilizing wood-intensive construction with cellulose insulation.
We are excited to see the results of this LCA and will be sharing that information here at the Greenest of the Green. In addition to lowering carbon levels, using cellulose insulation adds a wealth of other environmental benefits. To learn more about those, visit cellulose.org.
Sometimes, it’s the simple idea that can have the most profound impact. Cellulose insulation, with its low embodied energy and carbon sequestration potential, is a practical, off-the-shelf approach to dealing with environmental issues. Trapping carbon in new construction isn’t the only answer—it’s just the one that makes the most sense for quick implementation.
Think Green, it’s St. Patty’s Day.
Dan Lea, CIMA Executive Director