The Whole Building Handbook

 The Whole Building Handbook

The Whole Building Handbook

Human activities and the technologies we use can cause many problems. Our extensive use of fossil fuels and hazardous chemicals pollute the atmosphere, water and soil – the essential commodities for our survival. Burn-ing of fossil fuels discharges carbon oxides (COx), sulphur oxides (SOx) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), which affect the climate and the ozone layer, and contribute to acidification of soil and water. Many current human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels and massive deforestation, cause increased CO2 and other ‘greenhouse gas’ levels in the atmosphere. This creates the enhanced greenhouse effect, heating up the average global temperature and causing climate change.

Calculations show that a temperature increase of 1.6–6°C is Possible, which would lead to a 15–100cm rise in ocean water levels. There will be a shift in climatic zones over a large part of the Earth. Extreme weather conditions such as storms, floods and drought will become more common. The social and economic impacts of climate change could be huge. In 2006, Sir Nicholas Stern, former Head of the British Government Economic Service and Adviser to the Government on the economics of climate change and development, wrote a report on the economics of climate change.

He reported that stabilization of CO2 levels requires that annual emissions be brought down to at least 80 per cent below current levels. The cost of action was estimated to be limited to around 1 per cent of global GDP each year if adequate action were to be taken immediately. Since then, Stern has revised this up to 2 per cent of GDP because global warming is happening
faster than previously predicted. If no action is taken, the cost could be between 5 and 20 per cent of GDP each year, now and forever. And it will be difficult or impossible to reverse the changes.

Population growth and our overexploitation of resources also cause massive
problems. It is currently believed that oil reserves will last for 30 years, natural gas reserves for 70 years and coal reserves for 250 to 300 years.Fresh water is scarce and unequally distributed,groundwater reserves are being used up, and water is being polluted so that it is undrinkable, meaning that water management will very soon be one of the world’s greatest problems. Arable
land is a limited resource: fertile topsoil is being lost because of erosion and agricultural land is being destroyed by salinization, water logging and the building of cities on arable land.

The seas and oceans are heavily over-fished; without a decrease of current fishing, many fish stocks will disappear. Considerable deforestation is taking place in many parts of the world, especially in the tropical rainforests. Biological and genetic depletion is increasing both on land and in the water. Cheap fossil fuels have made possible a growth in population that is without historical precedent. According to predictions, the global population will increase from 6.7 billion in 2007 to 9 billion in 2050.How large a population can our Earth support?

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