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Data Misses on Embodied Carbon

Aaron Fisher | June 30, 2024

There is significant urgency to avoid, reduce, or even reverse the emissions of greenhouse gases (CO2e) to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. With the climate emergency bearing down, its clear that we need to address large sources of emissions and the building sector is a large element. The problem is that the initially presented data often came with an agenda to sell one product over another. As it’s been aptly put: “a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.”

In looking where to focus the U.S. Department of Energy developed a document entitled Decarbonizing the U.S. Economy by 2050: A National Blueprint for the Buildings Sector. Much of the document details where federal action and coordination can lead to success in addressing climate goals. One of these goals is “Minimize Embodied Life Cycle Emissions” which is looking at the energy it takes to produce the materials that make up a building. However, this section begins by noting that, “accurate estimates of embodied emissions from the national buildings sector are not currently available.” To first understand a problem you must measure and understand it. We have not done this.

The section goes on to note that while this needs to be done, it is unclear that this strategy has somewhere between 0.4% and 11% impact on our global emissions. While it settles on a value of 4% it is clear that this remains quite unsettled. And while important enough to not wait for the initial baseline, it’s critical that we understand the scale of this problem to best balance where we spend our limited resources.

There are a lot of ideas on ways to reduce the embodied carbon of materials, and certainly every little bit helps. But a lot of the smoke being blown is by the wood sector who isn’t being entirely truthful/forthcoming about their own environmental footprint.

 

VP of Business DevelopmentAaron Fisher

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