Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat: Cities in the Third Millennium

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The Urban Habitat After Globalization: Cities in the Age of Climate Change and Fossil Fuel Depletion

P. Droege


Two daunting challenges confront the world's cities and city regions well within this coming generation, affecting the global urban system and human civilization as a whole: fossil fuel depletion and man-made catastrophic climate change. If these are not swiftly and effectively met their impacts will deeply affect all industrial, world and mega-city systems - and hit hard the fast-growing, major urban agglomerations of the developing world, along with their economies. Tall buildings carry a special significance in this context.

Since the 1970s and 1980s the prospects of fuel depletion have only slowly begun to enter general urban planning and development frameworks, largely as energy efficiency and conservation issues. In terms of climate change communities have only during the 1990s begun to recognize that all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are directly or indirectly generated locally, through acts of agency, production or consumption. This has provided a boost to the role of local places in the debate since GHGs can be allocated and made understood locally and hence form the basis for specific policies, programs, plans and projects.

A number of organizational and cultural barriers mitigate against swifter, wider change. Among these are the subsidiary regard in which cities are held in the traditional hierarchical frames of international arrangements dealing with globally encountered challenges. Another is posed by the short planning horizons and political uncertainties that prevail on the local level. In terms of policy development, measurement techniques and planning reality an extraordinary, even paradoxical gulf exists between the global nature of greenhouse gas impacts and fuel depletion prospects, and the local reality, that represents both final impact and original source of globally experienced changes.


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