Human World

Robert Socolow: ‘Live well, transform energy to help climate’

Robert Socolow: We have the incredible challenge of living well, while we transform our energy system.

Robert Socolow of Princeton University spoke at the March 2009 climate summit in Washington DC.

Robert Socolow: We have the problem of fitting on the Earth. The Earth was big enough for human beings, our culture, until now. But I think the young people today will be more and more familiar with the challenge of 6 or 7 or 8 billion people wanting the kind of prosperity that Americans have gotten used to.

He said he’s not talking about extreme wealth, but simple comforts we in the U.S. take for granted

Robert Socolow: I mean home appliances. I mean cars and driving substantial distances on holidays. I mean air travel. I mean the large numbers of things in our homes that took steel or aluminum to make.

Socolow’s research focuses on management of the carbon emissions causing global warming. He pointed out that oil and coal supply nearly all of humanity’s power and fuel today. His research looks to energy from nuclear, solar, wind, geothermal, and biofuels. He said more than one winning technology might emerge.

Robert Socolow: Well, America could love a winner. What we’re talking about here is following quite a few horses at once, maybe betting on nearly the entire field going out the starting gate. And then you have a very good chance of having bet on the winner.

EarthSky spoke to Socolow at the March 2009 summit that launched America’s Climate Choices, a new suite of studies at the National Academy of Sciences. The studies are expected to run about a year and a half.

Robert Socolow: It’s been mandated by Congress to try to inform Congress and the U.S. public about the meanings of climate change, and there are many meanings. Part of it is what we have to do differently to reduce the U.S. impact on the global climate. Part of it – and maybe the most ground-breaking work – will be centered on the fact that climate change is coming. What are some of the things that we will have to do, no matter how hard we try to reduce the impacts, to suffer less as it arrives?

He called the enormous challenge of coping with climate change a 50-year proposition.

Robert Socolow: We have to be grown-ups. We are facing news we would rather not have heard. We’d rather be told that we had a large planet on which we can do everything that we wanted. We are now learning that we have to both transform the technology systems that we have and probably have different aspirations. It’s the young people who are going to have to sort out how they’re going to live on the planet.

Our thanks to:
Robert Socolow
Princeton University

April 14, 2009
Human World

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