Climate Primer #17: Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions – 5. The Building Sector

To summarize, climate crisis is the defining issue of the century. Buildup of anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHGs) in Earth’s atmosphere is driving global heating, while a convergence of global crises threatens to rupture key planetary boundaries beyond which organized human life on Earth would be threatened. Although the human activities which drive these converging crises (for simplicity: the climate crisis) are diverse and complex, the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) offers a high level categorization of the sources of anthropogenic emissions. Pieces thus far in this subset of primers have focused on the energy sector (the largest single contributor to anthropogenic GHG emissions at 35% in 2010 according to the IPCC); agriculture, forestry, and other land use (or AFOLU) (the second largest contributor at 24% in 2010); industry, the third largest, at 21%; and transport, the fourth largest contributor, at 14%.

Today, another short piece, this once centering the fifth and final sector, according to the IPCC’s schema, namely, the building sector, which contributed ~6% of all anthropogenic GHG emissions in 2010. Because these posts do not follow an indirect emissions approach to GHG emissions attribution (that is, the emissions associated with electrifying and heating buildings are not attributed to the building but to the energy sector; were these indirect emissions attributed to the building sector, its overall GHG emissions contribution for 2010 would jump to 19% according to AR5), I believe it is correct to see this 6% figure as only representing the emissions associated with construction, demolition, and related activities. It is not clear to me exactly how extractive industries (for example, the sand mining, which provides a key ingredient for the concrete that is an essential ingredient of India’s building boom) fit into the IPCC’s schema, but I suppose emissions owing to extraction itself would be assigned to industry, while emissions owing to transportation of the extracted substance would be assigned to transport, and only the emissions owing to the actual construction process would be assigned to the building sector. Whether this supposition is accurate, I’m not sure.

Bonus material today is this new UNEP report – “Preventing the Next Pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission” – on the industrial/agricultural/economic roots of zoonoses. So far, I’ve only read the “Key Messages” myself, but I hope to look over the report in its entirety in the coming days.

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