Do you believe in man-made global warming?

That was the question we asked readers in our April poll and the results were astonishing.

A total of 271 people — 51 percent of participants — said, “Yes, I think global warming/climate change is a problem.”

And, 238 individuals — 45 percent of the vote — said, “No, I don’t think the science has proven it.”

Science Experiment

Before we get going here, let me state the obvious: I’m not a scientist. That said, I’m not about to deny science, either.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most prominent greenhouse gas, comprising about 82 percent of emissions in 2013.

And, the most prolific polluter: residential and commercial buildings, which contribute approximately 37 percent of the total emissions in the U.S., according to a University of Michigan survey, “Green Building and Climate Resilience.”

Irrefutably, the quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere is rising, reaching 400 ppm for the first time ever this year.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration boldly states, “The accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is driving the increase in global temperature and other climate changes.”

Again, I’m not a scientist, but I’m not blind to research either.

Acknowledging the Issue

National and local governments have enacted legislation requiring energy-intensive businesses to monitor and reduce carbon emissions.

President Barack Obama recently issued an executive order designed to cut the federal government’s greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent over the next decade from 2008 levels. And, more than 1,000 cities nationwide have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the absence of a national policy.

A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) phaseout of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) in 1996 and a phasedown of R-22 — a notoriously high-GWP (global warming potential) refrigerant — have been widely accepted and celebrated by the industry. A pending phasedown of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) is gaining global momentum, as well.

HVAC entities, including Honeywell Intl. Inc.; Emerson Climate Technologies Inc.; Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI); Danfoss; and many others have implemented policies or products designed to embrace lower-GWP refrigerants and systems.

Contracting Solutions

As an HVACR contractor, you play an important role, as well. When given the option, consider equipment that utilizes low-GWP refrigerant alternatives, including hydrocarbon- (HC), hydrofluoroolefin- (HFO), and CO2-based systems.

Also, always reclaim used refrigerant. If only 30 percent of HFCs were reclaimed and reused by 2040, approximately 18 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalent would be prevented from reaching the atmosphere over the next 25 years, stated a recent report by EOS Climate.

Contractors are also encouraged to share the EPA’s heat-cool checklist with customers, suggesting they replace heat pumps that are more than 10 years old and furnaces or boilers that are more than 15 years old.

Do the Right Thing

In March, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection banned the term “climate change,” and Wisconsin voted 2-1 to block employees from engaging in “global warming” or “climate change” work while on the clock.

As building professionals, you must consider the potential impacts of climate change on the built environment. You must incorporate appropriate adaptation strategies so the environments you build, design, and manage today will be suitable for an uncertain tomorrow.

To blindly claim that our behavior has no impact on the climate of today or tomorrow for financial or political gain is irresponsible.

Publication date: 5/18/2015 

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