Climatic change and the built
Federico M. Butera
The energy metabolism of developed countries’ cities is the main cause of climate change. If
developing countries’ cities follow the same development path and reproduce the same
energy system – and unfortunately most signs suggest that this is happening – there is
no way to escape global warming and its effects. The analysis carried out in the present
study tells us that, to mitigate the impact of global warming, the development paths of
both rich and poor cities must converge to a new, low-carbon energy system, capable of
ensuring a minimum acceptable quality of life for the poorest inhabitant of a shanty town
and preserving the present high quality of life of the wealthiest inhabitant of a rich city.
The analysis also shows that there are all the necessary technological means for cities
to enter the path of sustainable development, intrinsically capable of meeting the
requirements of both mitigating the global warming process and improving the quality of life.
B Keywords – built environment; climate change; CO2 emissions; developed and developing countries’
cities; energy consumption patterns
Climate change becomes, eventually, one of the main items in the political agenda of both
developed and developing countries. There are no more doubts about the mainly
anthropogenic cause of it and about the dramatic events that will take place if we are
not able to reduce the present trend towards the increase of greenhouse gas (GHG)
concentration in the atmosphere.
About 60 per cent of human impact on climate change is due to CO2 emissions deriving
from fossil fuel combustion, and industrialized countries have been mainly responsible for
this impact. However, in recent years, the picture has been changing: some countries such
as China, India and Brazil, just to mention the main emerging economies, have started an
economic development process that, as in industrialized countries, is based on a growing
use of fossil fuel.
As a consequence of this process, if it is still true that per capita emissions of emerging
countries are far lower than those of developed ones, it is also true that Chinese total GHG
ADVANCES IN BUILDING ENERGY RESEARCH B 2010 B VOLUME 4 B PAGES 45 –75
doi:10.3763/aber.2009.0403 B ª 2010 Earthscan B ISSN 1751-2549 (Print), 1756-2201 (Online) B w