Home Green Home: The Quickest Carbon Cut

Buildings gobble up almost half the world’s energy and spew out nearly a third of global greenhouse gas emissions. Making them greener is the quickest, easiest way to avoid a climate catastrophe.

Imagine for a moment taking all America’s cars and trucks off the road.

That would be the climate impact of green building, say consultants McKinsey & Co, who reckon that 520 billion dollars spent on building efficiency through 2020 would reduce U.S emissions by 1.1 gigatons every year.

Sounds expensive, but wait: That cash would also buy 1.2 trillion dollars of energy savings in a world facing rising prices and insecurity of supply. No wonder the Empire State Building in New York is going green. The retrofit should slash power bills by 38 percent.

And no wonder the U.S. and China put building efficiency at the heart of their climate plans, while Europeans are dumping wasteful lightbulbs and India is nurturing an eco-building revolution: In the campaign against global warming, green building promises quick wins.

On the other hand, if we do nothing our rapidly urbanizing world will double emissions from buildings by 2030. And because buildings are the biggest greenhouse gas emitters in most countries, this would make it impossible to prevent runaway global warming.