Climate Change & Sustainability: Understanding our Impact

Sustain : tr.v. sus·tained, sus·tain·ing, sus·tains
1. To keep in existence; maintain.
2. To supply with necessities or
nourishment; to provide for.
3. To support from below; keep from
falling or sinking; propel.

Hubbert Oil Model : It took 125 years to use the first trillion barrels of oil. We'll use the next trillion in 30 years. Is this sustainable?

"Sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."- 1987 World Commission on Environment & Development

Through the burning of fossil fuels, such as petroleum, coal and natural gas, humans have increased the amount of carbon dioxide (one of the major greenhouse gases) in the atmosphere by more than a third since the industrial revolution. Changes this large have historically taken thousands of years, but are now happening over the course of decades. The releasing of these heat-trapping gases in Earth's atmosphere creates a "greenhouse effect" preventing heat from escaping, just like the glass walls of a greenhouse. Levels of greenhouse gases are higher now than in the last 650,000 years - and still increasing. The effect is known as global warming.

Understanding our impact

The U.S. comes in second behind China for countries with the highest annual greenhouse gas emissions. With only 5% of the world's population, the United States is responsible for 22% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2008, South Carolina was ranked 19th in the nation for per capita (or per person) energy consumption. Calculate your carbon footprint!

On a per capita basis, the U.S. produces 11 times more carbon per year than a person in any other country in the world. Our per capita share is more than twice that of other industrialized countries – such as the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan –

If everyone on the planet consumed resources at the same rate we in the United States do today…We would need SIX planets to support our consumption habits.

As we power our modern lives, reflect on our consumption habits. We must keep in mind that resource use, pollution and environmental degradation will all inevitably occur, but the problem is the rate at which they occur. For example, even petroleum is a natural product, if given enough time, it too would breakdown. The included statistics serve to remind us that our our country operates with excessive rates of use, abuse, and waste. It is people and our actions that matter- Population and lifestyles are significant contributing factors of environmental destruction.

Tread Lightly.


What is global warming?

The gradual increase in the earth's temperature cause caused the earth's remaining ice sheets (such as Greenland and Antarctica) to begin to melt. As a result, predicted effects of global climate change include rising sea levels. The term 'climate change' is also used precisely because beyond the melting of glaciers, the climate can change in unexpected ways - weather is projected to become more extreme -- more intense major storms, more rain, longer and drier droughts, loss of water supplies that have historically come from glaciers - it is causing a set of changes to the Earth's climate, or long-term weather patterns, that varies from place to place. (What is Global Warming? )

A study by the Clemson School of Architecture and the City of Charleston Civic Design Center examined the potential impacts of global climate change and rising sea levels on the urban design of the Charleston peninsula over the next 200 years.

Envisioned in four orders of magnitude (M1-M4), this study proposed design strategies to deal with increasingly severe climate change scenarios due to sea level rise and intensifying storms. The above image visualizes the peninsula under 1 foot, 3 feet, 6 feet and 12 feet sea level rise.