“The One Degree War Plan,” a new–and somewhat controversial–paper by environmental thought leaders Jorgen Randers and Paul Gilding, holds that “a major threat to the stability of human civilisation and the global economy” is inevitable and right around the corner—before 2020. When talking among themselves, climate experts “discuss geopolitical breakdown, mass starvation and what earth would be like with just a few hundred million people.” The disruption will force governments to act boldly, similar to U.S. reaction to the bombing of Pearl Harbor—thus the “War Plan” title. In anticipation of the great powers of the world uniting to take drastic action, Randers and Gilding have laid out the framework for what will need to be done.
Looking just at the “buildings” element, I see that carbon-equivalent emissions will drop from 4 billion tons in 2018 (the hypothetical year of the crash) to 1 billion tons just five years later, and then to zero by 2038. Of course, if three-quarters the Earth’s population dies off due to environmental catastrophe, we won’t have to do anything special to meet the first target. And if geopolitical systems collapse, the breakdown in energy delivery systems could do the job for us.
Indeed, the co-authors don’t say exactly how buildings will reach net-zero emissions—only that they will because they must. I’m not convinced that a state of catastrophe is so close and so unavoidable, but even if it’s not, there are plenty of solid financial reasons for building owners to maximize energy efficiency today, thereby significantly reducing carbon-equivalent emissions—not by 75 or 100 percent, unfortunately, but maybe enough to forestall the day of reckoning.