John Carlos Baez on “Energy and the Environment — What Physicists Can Do”

I hadn’t had a chance to listen to Professor Baez’s talk until now, having learned about it from his blog which is really excellent. (I don’t know how he manages to write so much good stuff per week.) In addition to setting out the case, including key facts (e.g., people increase atmospheric CO_{2} by a whopping 1/3% per year), I like the optimistic tone and find that helpful.

Professor Baez’s case for nuclear power and conservation are compelling, and the need for behavior change in populations is severe. The case for the need to actually reduce carbon emissions is tightly made. From Professor Baez’s slide about 38:45 into the talk:

  • For most practical purposes, carbon dioxide stays in the air forever. 1/3 to 1/2 will stay there for over 1,000 years!
  • So, to a good approximation, to stop rising CO_{2} concentrations:
    • Holding emissions constant is not good enough.
    • Cutting them by 80% is not good enough.
    • Stopping them entirely is good enough.

I also find his insights about science education to be useful, particularly regarding participatory problem-solving in groups.

There are also shockers like this:

In the US [unlike the EU], if a wind farm’s predicted power generation is off by 1%, it can cost them millions of dollars!

http://www.perimeterinstitute.ca/videos/energy-and-environment-what-physicists-can-do

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