Tag: future of energy

The Future of Energy in a World of 400ppm and Rising

When you think of the future of energy, do you think of hillsides blanketed with wind turbines, cars powered by batteries instead of gas, and solar-powered office buildings?

If none of that sounds futuristic enough for you — where are the flying cars, bioengineered “living” cities fed by the sun and algae-powered lights? — that’s because it really isn’t.

The future of clean energy technology is already here, according to Dan Kammen, Jigar Shah and Joe Fargione — panelists at The Nature Conservancy’s “Future of Nature” forum on energy held Monday, May 13 in Boston. These experts — representing academia, business and conservation — agreed: The world has all the technology we need for a clean energy future. The challenge is implementing it at scales that can make a difference for controlling the global greenhouse gas emissions caused by energy production.

And we need this now more than ever. Last week, scientists measured 400ppm of CO2 in Earth’s air — a level that hasn’t existed in millions of years, before humans were around. With the global population expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050 and no uniformed effort to control emissions in sight, CO2 measures will likely surpass the 400ppm marker very soon.

Moderator Anthony Brooks of Boston radio station WBUR — a co-sponsor of the event — asked the panelists: Can renewable energies help make a dent in climate change while still meeting our energy needs? Here’s what they had to say.

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How Can We Get to Zero-Carbon Energy?

Last week, Earth hit a long-awaited (and much dreaded) climate milestone: the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (as recorded at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory) has exceeded 400 parts per million for the first time in the 55 years atmospheric CO2 concentrations have been measured — and perhaps not since the Pliocene Epoch, which was between 2.6 and 5.3 million years ago.

The reading was just for a single day — May 9 — and will fall in the summer if previous annual trends hold. But even with substantial improvements in energy efficiency and conservation, atmospheric CO2 levels will continue to grow over the coming decades unless significant global steps are taking to stabilize them — among them, a large increase in zero-carbon energy production. What will it take to achieve that increase? (I’ll speak on that topic tonight at 7:30 PM as part of The Future of Energy,” a Nature Conservancy/WBUR panel discussion at Boston’s BSA Space that also includes Daniel Kammen of the University of California-Berkeley and Jigar Shah, clean-tech entrepreneur. Learn more about the panel and The Future of Nature discussion series.)

Obviously, political will would help get us to zero-carbon energy. But innovations in several key areas could have a big impact. And innovations that lower costs of zero-carbon solutions, making the switch relatively painless for families and businesses, should help bolster political will.

The future of zero-carbon energy production is a big, complicated topic, but there are three areas that seem particularly worthy of discussion: 1) the importance of energy storage for renewables, 2) the diversity of options for zero-carbon electricity, and 3) zero-carbon transportation.

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Forest Dilemmas

Too many deer. Logging one tree to save another. Beavers versus old growth. Welcome to forest conservation in the Anthropocene. Beginning Monday, July 21, join us for a provocative 5-part series exploring the full complexity facing forest conservation in the eastern United States.

What is Cool Green Science?

noun 1. Blog where Nature Conservancy scientists, science writers and external experts discuss and debate how conservation can meet the challenges of a 9 billion + planet.

2. Blog with astonishing photos, videos and dispatches of Nature Conservancy science in the field.

3. Home of Weird Nature, The Cooler, Quick Study, Traveling Naturalist and other amazing features.

Cool Green Science is managed by Matt Miller, the Conservancy's deputy director for science communications, and edited by Bob Lalasz, its director of science communications. Email us your feedback.

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