Saturday, October 15, 2005

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

In a post ominously entitled Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid Clifford Johnson at Cosmic Variance talks about a campus colloquium he organized, featuring Professor Nathan Lewis.

The topic was Scientific Challenges in Sustainable Energy Technology. The reason for the bleak, sepulchral title of the post may be inferred from this paraphrase of a key point of Lewis' talk:
no matter how conservative you are about the effects this [carbon dioxide dumping] will have, and no matter how optimistic you are about the difference we will make by trying to clean up our act using emissions reductions, we are extremely late in getting around to considering greenhouse-gas-emission-free primary sources of energy. How late? Well, using generous estimates of how the trends will continue if we use the policy of “business as usual” currently advocated by our policy makers, by about 2050, we will begin to pass the point where it will take of the order of 1000 years to restore the levels of greenhouse gas to anything like we were used to. [emphasis in original]

The talk as a whole was generally about sustainable energy technology, and the bottom line is that no matter how much effort we put into development of that technology, it can't come soon enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently to avoid significant global warning.

In other words, under any foreseeable scenario, we're probably going to have to cope with the effects of global warming within a few decades. Although I'm not even close to being an expert on this, I've already come to that conclusion.

Anyhow, this is a very worthwhile post to ponder, and you can learn more from other material associated with the presentation.

At the end of the post there's also a plug for another favorite theme: The quest for better science education

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