22
Apr
07

Fueling Our Future

Fueling Our Future

Climate warming is accelerating as energy use soars. Nuclear power won’t close the gap. We need to learn to live with coal. Here’s one elaborate engineering solution.
by Jonathan Shaw

Our demand for energy, on which we depend for health and prosperity, rises all the time: oil and natural gas to heat our homes; electricity for lights, refrigeration, computers, and televisions; gasoline and diesel for our cars and trucks. Fossil fuels provide 80 percent of the energy that powers civilization. The more fuel we burn, the more heat-trapping greenhouse gases we produce, principally carbon dioxide (CO2). We know the carbon is coming from fossil-fuel combustion because, as Iain Conn, executive director of British Petroleum, said in a recent visit to Harvard, isotopic fingerprinting of the carbon tells us so. The consequent global warming is already linked to a pattern of record floods, droughts, heat, and other extreme weather events around the globe, and is expected to lead to extinctions of some plants and animals. But such news from the natural world has done little to galvanize political will. Even forecasts of disastrous effects for the human sphere—severe drought in parts of Africa and Europe in the next century, and rising sea levels worldwide that will someday drown major cities—have thus far failed to mobilize public action in the United States. The time to act is running short.

http://www.harvardmagazine.com/on-line/050692.html

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