YSE scientists contributed to a new U.N. report that lays out an ambitious path to decarbonize the building sector, which is responsible for more than one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. Slashing emissions in this industry is key to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius set by the Paris Agreement and achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century.
Barbara Reck, senior research scientist at YSE, was one of the five lead authors of the report, which calls for a three-pronged approach — “Avoid, Shift, Improve” — to reduce embodied carbon emissions from the production and deployment of building materials such as cement, steel, aluminum, timber, and biomass. The report, “Building materials and the climate: Constructing a new future,” was published by the UN Environment Programme and the Yale Center for Ecosystems + Architecture under the lead of CEA Founding Director Anna Dyson.
Reck’s chapter focuses on decarbonizing six major conventional building materials, including concrete, steel, and aluminum, which are the three largest sources of embodied carbon in the building sector. “Decarbonizing building materials requires a combination of better production technologies, access to low-carbon energy, design for circularity, and material efficiency measures that include lifetime extension and higher efficiencies in manufacturing and recycling,” Reck says.
Yao contributed to a section on the potential of mass timber as an alternative to concrete and steel. Studies have found that substituting mass timber could reduce global CO2 emissions between 14-31%.
YSE PhD candidate Aishwarya Iyer worked on a case study on India, where the country’s building sector is expected to grow by 20 million square meters between 2015-2030. Iyer says it is important that a diversity of building types is considered when assessing material and energy demand in low- and middle-income countries. The case study authors recommend that the government enact and enforce policies that require companies to use recycled materials and an industry shift to bio-based materials, among other pathways to decarbonization.
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Dorceta Taylor Highlighted in National Portrait Gallery Exhibit
Dorceta Taylor ’85 MFS, ’91 PhD, senior associate dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion and professor of environmental justice, will be among more than 25 U.S. environmental leaders featured in an exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery that traces the history of the environmental movement from early 20th century conservationism to present-day action on environmental justice, biodiversity, and climate. Her portrait, which is being painted to mark the occasion, will be on view along with Rachel Carson, George Washington Carver, Maya Lin, Henry David Thoreau, Edward O. Wilson and others.
Taylor is one of the nation’s leading environmental justice scholars and activists. Her landmark book, “The Rise of the American Conservation Movement: Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection,” documents how racial, class, and gender dynamics shaped the formation and evolution of the conservation and environmental movements from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century.
“I am deeply humbled and honored to be included in this exhibit and to be considered among the thought leaders on a topic of such import. From the earliest days of the emergence of American pro-environmental thought and activism, conscious efforts were made to shun many people who could contribute to environmental activism. This exhibit is important because it recognizes diverse peoples and perspectives as foundational to the vitality of the past and future environmental movement,” Taylor says.
“Forces of Nature: Voices that Shaped Environmentalism” will be on view at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., from October 20, 2023, through September 2, 2024.
A New Initiative Aims to Increase Tribal Co-Management of Public Lands
There are more than 600 million acres of public lands in the U.S. of which 100 million acres are Indigenous lands. The Yale Center for Environment Justice, in partnership with The Forest School, recently launched an initiative aimed at increasing tribal co-management of public lands, and in support of President Biden’s executive order that 30% of public lands and oceans be preserved by 2030.
To kick off the initiative, YCEJ and TFS held a workshop at the Wilderness Society in Washington, D.C., examining the current co-management of Bears Ears National Monument and Columbia Rivers fisheries. Participants, including stakeholders from tribal communities, the federal government, and conservation groups, discussed how co-management techniques employed at the two sites could be replicated elsewhere as well as what type of reforms are needed to achieve sustainable oversight of public lands nationally. The recommendations will be included in a white paper that will be published in early 2024.
YSE Lecturer Pat Gonzales Rogers, who is co-leading the initiative, emphasized the importance of increasing tribal representation in land management and cited lack of staffing, funding, and equipment as among the most significant barriers to achieving greater parity in land management leadership.
“Tribal co-management is truly a force multiplier. It places real decision making in the hands of our original stewards. It allows for traditional knowledge to instruct the management of our large landscapes, and it provides real license and agency for Native communities to practice their theology and cultural traditions in a meaningful way. It is effective and practical environmental justice in real time,” Gonzales-Rogers says.
Stakeholders discuss increasing tribal co-management of public lands during a workshop March 27, 2023, in Washington, D.C.