By Christine Ramadhin and Annesia Lamb
Balazs Fekete an assistant professor from City College, CUNY gave a talk entitled “The Science is settled. Why don’t we act?”
Science is about facts and observations to support a hypothesis.
Presentation of data is important for example the Mauna Loa CO2 curve. Depending on how you plot this you can make it dramatic or not. The global temperature curve shows a plateau during the last couple of years. The CO2 increase, global temperature increase and the greenhouse effect are all facts that scientists agree on; these are undisputed. According to long term isotopic data the Earth has seen warmer temperatures but they were gradual compared to our current warming.
Patrick Moore wrote a book “Confessions of a green peace dropout” as he is now a climate change skeptic but he made an interesting point in a past paper. He said that plants evolved when CO2 was higher than today at about 1000 ppm so they suffocating today because our CO2 levels are a fraction of plant development. He made the point that fossil fuel usage has helped the planet from becoming depleted in atmospheric CO2 and plunging into a colder climate.
But the question is if climate change going to be catastrophic or something that we can live with? In looking at his work which is in hydrology we see that the changes in temperature anomalies and precipitation are not that extreme from what the earth has ever experienced before. The puzzling thing about climate change is the human impact from waste released, water used for irrigation and energy use.
The global energy use distribution is inequitable as seen in the distribution curve and the reason why the Kyoto protocol failed was because it assumed that the poor people will remain poor.
An average energy use per capita energy use, where people use not an extreme amount energy is seen in countries like Chile (2200W), Lebanon (2264) and Romania (2376). Do you like the lifestyle enjoyed by these countries? The question is, are we willing to drop our consumption to this level? We have not yet come up with an acceptable number that everyone can be comfortable with.
Therefore, the reason the Kyoto protocol failed was the carbon emissions are rising more rapidly than predicted because the poor countries are developing, using more energy and releasing more carbon. Arguably energy conservation by wealthy, developed countries will not lower CO2 emissions. But developing nations do have a conservative model to build upon where as the western world did not.
An interesting interjection was a slide where air travel to places where climate change conferences were held and showed that these required large energy use, much more that used by the people of those countries. The green agenda seems to be getting increasingly antihuman but given our large density we are doing pretty okay (we haven’t reached a destructive non-inhabitable Earth population yet). This is demonstrated with the use of the desert locust which when it reaches a large density is very destructive to everything in its path, so given our density it’s not bad.
Fossil fuel use allows us to use more energy so what happens when this runs out? Let’s look at the alternatives:
- Energy conservation will not solve it
- Renewable energy is not efficient enough
For example plants have an energy conversion efficiency of 5%, solar panels are not better. Eric asked if these photovoltaic?
Professor Fekete said these are about 10% efficient but most used by NASA, the ones we use have a 5 % efficiency.
Biofuels: should not have been even considered as the processing into ethanol is highly inefficient as the land use efficiency numbers are very low.
The electric car challenge is that liquid fuel is still easier to store opposed to batteries that are expensive, it’s just the Physics of it there is no new innovation that can solve it.
Potential hydropower: the global capacity is 3.5TW which is not a lot when compared to 45TW that is currently needed.
The Jacobson 11TW plan is what can be generated globally if the world switches to renewable energy but still will need an insane number to supply this energy and numbers are probably underestimated. Wind Turbine, Conc. Solar, Photovoltaic, Rooftop solar, hydropower, tidal wave. The amount of land you would need to support our energy needs by alternative energy devices is about 15% land use.
Nuclear Power seems to be our only viable alternative. We need a balance between the three:
1. Waste water treatment
2. Water for irrigation
3. Energy supply.
Therefore, since energy efficiency and renewable do not work the way to be sustainable is to decrease the world’s population to 3-4 billion people since alternative energy use is not viable.
Sam: How are you gonna make the population go to 3-4 billion people?
Well Italy’s fertility rate is decreasing so we can maintain this trend.
China has a one child policy but this is not without problems since this generation that is retiring do not have a younger one large enough to support them.
Speaker recommends reading The Breakthrough website where they are a group of policy makers that call for the country to invest in innovation (research and design). The type of innovation discussed is more efficient alternative energy.
The temperature monitoring sites have been decreasing since the late 1980s as more emphasis is placed on modeling studies. Other things that went on at that time are collapse of Soviet Union and James Hansen’s testimony to congress on global climate change. Coincidence? Speaker suggests satellites funding and technology needs to improve and should begin to track 50-100 years into the future using one formatting software.
Tri: Do you think we place too much emphasis on modeling?
Professor Fekete responds with a yes even the satellite monitoring is declining and there is a need to build a one hundred year record.
Professor Tedesco: Who is to blame for this?
Scientists, but the ultimate problem is the population and a large part of the energy consumption is by a small part of the population; for example the US has the largest per capita energy use.
There is a need to consider how the future cities will be built as by 2050 the population of cities will double and how these are built will define the future. The scientific community has not yet put forward a good example of what a sustainable city would look like. What type of life can humans build after the fossil fuel area? Better to live in cities or villages. (speaker thinks cities). Ratio of urban to rule population passed 50% and by 2050 75% of people will live in a city. Instead of talking/studying climate change we should invest in sustainable thinking/practices. Learning to live in a different Earth without fossil fuels. As of now if everyone on Earth lived like the United States we would need 6 Earths. Therefore we must decrease the population by 1/6th if we want to maintain our way of life. Is this possible? Will we be happier with a smaller population? Are we happier if we use more energy? Population decrease vs. energy decrease.
Decreasing the population
When women are educated the fertility rate is lower and this is tied to development which requires energy.
Tri suggested that perhaps it’s a change in policy that actually brings down the birth rate as more women are given an opportunity to have a business.
Sam summarizes Professor Fekete proposal as:
A large population has an impact on energy use, therefore to decrease the energy use a smaller population is needed and this is achieved through development because this leads to the education of women which lowers the fertility rate. But energy is needed for development which in turn still uses energy.