I want to start by saying I am part of the national labs system. I’m at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and work as a science writer for a small group that publishes for the Office of Biological and Environmental Research within DOE. That being said, I’m still a concerned citizen as well. I want my daughter to experience this planet as I have. This opinion article in the Washington Post by Naomi Oreskes, a professor of history and science studies at the University of California at San Diego, is brilliant and articulate. Straight at the heart of what the Executive Branch can do without going through the cluster f#ck that is Congress. However, as always, it comes down to money and reapportioning funding for the suggested changes in this article would essentially have to go through Congress. Here are the suggestions in the article:
●Alternative energy. The climate problem is fundamentally an energy problem. While strides have been made — by both industry and government — in developing alternative energy sources, renewables still provide only a sliver of the U.S. energy profile. The scale of renewable energy research and development needs to be radically increased.
●Carbon capture and storage. Shale gas development in the United States and Canada is generating jobs and revenue and could substantially decrease our reliance on petroleum. But shale gas is still gas — methane: a fossil fuel that when burned produces carbon dioxide. Large-scale development may exacerbate the climate problem if inexpensive gas undercuts the market for renewables. If, however, shale gas development could be coupled with carbon capture and storage, trapping the carbon dioxide produced, then this resource might be usable without worsening climate change.
●Energy storage. Wind and solar are real sources of energy, but only when the wind blows or the sun shines. Yet many wind and solar projects produce excess capacity that could be used later or elsewhere if it could be stored. Ideas for renewable-energy storage need to be developed and expanded.
●Social obstacles to energy efficiency. Numerous studies show that Americans could cut energy use by 30 percent or more through efficiency measures and save money at the same time. Yet most of us don’t. This is a bit of a mystery for economists; social science research in the laboratory system should be mobilized to figure out why we don’t save energy and money even when we could.
●Climate engineering. Deliberate alteration of the climate to compensate for inadvertent modification is a technically and ethically troubling concept, but it may be one of the only available means to slow climate warming and buy time while other solutions are implemented. Physical scientists should expand their work in this area, and social scientists and humanists should be enlisted to address the ethical dimensions and governance issues.
Curiosity-driven science has not yet provided the solutions to global warming, and universities are not well situated to address a single, overarching problem. Moreover, the president does not have authority over our nation’s universities. But he does have authority over our national laboratory system. The labs have been mobilized before; the time has come to mobilize them again.
The last part (in bold) is a great remark and one I completely agree with. These suggestions should be sent to the White House, perhaps through the petitions website. Are you with me?