Updated Guide: Climate Change and Landscape Architecture

A recent report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal.” According to the IPCC, average global temperatures are increasing at an alarming rate. In just the past 50 years, northern hemisphere temperatures were higher than during any other 50-year period in the last 500 years, perhaps even the past 1,300 years. The IPCC projects that the Earth’s surface temperature could rise by as much as 4°C within the next century.

The primary cause of climate change is increasing concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs), especially carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. The 2007 Assessment Report by the IPCC indicates that GHG emissions increased by 70 percent between 1970 and 2004. These gases are primarily emitted as a result of human behavior, such as the burning of fossil fuels to produce energy. Building consturction and energy use account for more than 30 percent of worldwide emissions, while the transportation sector is responsible for another 30 percent.

Experts predict that the increase in the Earth’s temperature, if left unchecked, will have devastating effects. According to the IPCC, the projected sea level rise could reach 19-23 inches by the year 2100. Additional impacts could include increased spread of diseases; extensive species extinction; drought and wildfires; mass human, animal and plant migrations; and resource wars over shrinking amounts of potable water. 

There are a range of landscape architecture-based mitigation strategies that, if employed at mass scale, can help reduce GHG emissions by 50-85 percent by 2050 and limit temperature rise to 2 degrees celsius, targets that the U.N. recommends. Given the effects of climate change are already being felt in many communities, landscape architecture-based adaptation measures are also now being planned and implemented across cities and countries.

In a completely revamped climate change resource guide, which is part of ASLA’s series of sustainable design guides and toolkits, there are hundreds of vetted Web sites, research studies, and projects to explore in the following areas:

Climate Change Mitigation and Landscape Architecture

  • Low-Carbon Community Development Through Smart Growth
  • Energy Efficiency

Climate Change Adaptation and Landscape Architecture

  • Climate Resilient Communities
  • Preparing for Sea Level Rise
  • Increasing Density with Green Spaces
  • Combating Urban Heat Islands
  • Water Efficiency
  • Species Adaptation

Go to Combating Climate Change with Landscape Architecture and check out other guides in the series.

Image credit: Dry River Bed / iStockphoto

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