Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Real Challenge

These three articles are linked from an energy demand that we are going to have a huge struggle to meet, an influx into government of people unwilling to work within a framework of a global agenda, or even a national agenda, and the devastating consequences of those issues.

In fact, at the global level, in order to shift away from a world that gets 81 percent of its energy from fossil fuels and to cut emissions of carbon dioxide to just 14 gigatons per year, here is what the International Energy Agency says will have to be built every year between now and 2050: 35 coal-fired and 20 gas-fired power plants with carbon capture and storage; 30 nuclear power plants; 12,000 onshore wind turbines paired with 3,600 offshore ones; 45 geothermal power plants; 325 million square meters-worth of photovoltaics; and 55 solar-thermal power plants. That doesn’t even include the need to build electric cars and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in order to shift transportation away from burning gasoline
These new energy infrastructures would have to be spread over areas ten to a thousand times larger than today’s infrastructure of fossil fuel extraction, combustion and electricity generation…. This is not an impossible feat, but one posing many regulatory, technical and logistic challenges.”

When the universities were doing well — and in many parts of the world, they have just enjoyed decades of expansion — the concentration of scientific research within their walls was more or less entirely beneficial. When the economic storm struck in 2008, the ride came to an abrupt end. Now, as Western governments attempt to maintain investment in science as a route to innovation and industrial development, they are undermining support for students and the quality of their education. Instead of joining with students and teaching staff elsewhere in academia in protest, too many scientific leaders have stood aloof. (Martin Rees, until this month the president of the Royal Society in London, is a notable exception.) Strategically, this approach is a disaster in waiting.

China and India know this and are building universities from the ground up, with a firm emphasis on student education as their bedrock of energy and ideas. In the United Kingdom and elsewhere, these foundations are being demolished, and students drowned in debt, to keep researchers' grants flowing. It can only end badly, and more in the scientific establishment should have the courage to say so.
Over the next 100 years, many scientists predict, 20 percent to 30 percent of species could be lost if the temperature rises 3.6 degrees to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit. If the most extreme warming predictions are realized, the loss could be over 50 percent, according to the United Nations climate change panel.

Polar bears have become the icons of this climate threat. But scientists say that tens of thousands of smaller species that live in the tropics or on or near mountaintops are equally, if not more, vulnerable. These species, in habitats from the high plateaus of Africa to the jungles of Australia to the Sierra Nevada in the United States, are already experiencing climate pressures, and will be the bulk of the animals that disappear