National Academies call on G8 leaders for action … press is asleep

On May 16th,

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences joined 12 other national science academies … in calling on world leaders — particularly G8 leaders who will meet in June — to address global climate change and energy-access issues by promoting low carbon-emission energy systems and more efficient use of energy. The academies also urged leaders to facilitate scientific and technical innovation, and to simplify and enforce a balanced intellectual property regime.

This is a strong and clear statement … a clarion call even.  Sadly, it is unlikely that you saw anything about this in your local paper or another ‘traditional’ news source. I hadn’t.  Thanks to Michael Tobis at Grist for the tip to this important statement.

Tobis wrote Bad news re: good news about bad news

The bad news is that we are in quite a pickle.

The good news about the bad news is that the national science academies of the G8 countries, along with those of Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, China, and India, have issued a unanimous and remarkably strong statement (PDF) about our global energy quandary.

The bad news about the good news about the bad news is that the press is almost totally silent about it, at least in English-speaking countries.

Tobis is right. 

This two-page statement, signed by 13 heads of national academies, is quite strong:

  • Our present energy course is not sustainable.

  • Responding to this demand while minimizing further climate change will need all the determination and ingenuity we can muster.

  • The problem is not yet insoluble, but becomes more difficult with each passing day.

  • A goal of confining global warming to an average of 2 centigrade degrees above pre-industrial levels would be very challenging, and even this amount of warming would be likely to have some severe impacts.

Situation is bad … and getting worse … action is possible to avert utter calamity … but, even with serious action, the situation will not be rosy … wake up and act … is, to me, the call from the National Academies.

They lay out clear steps to take:

  • Develop and deploy new sources and systems for energy supply
  • Promoting Efficiency: a key element
    • Sustainable buildings — 27% of final energy is consumed in private households with much energy efficiency possible from them
    • Efficient transport and alternative fuels … “Here in particular lies a large package of possible measures, like innovative engine concepts with energy efficiency standards, alternative fuels, and integrated transport systems”
    • Modern power technology — “best coal-fired power stations now achieve efficiences substantially better than average …”
    • Electricaal appliances … “in line with state of the art.”
    • Energy consumption … “It is important to create the conditions and opportunities for energy consumers to use energy more efficiently.”
  • Research focused on the energy field must be enlarged significantly
    • Increasing energy efficiency is a first crucial step towards solving the climate-energy problem. An entire portfolio of approaches will be needed, especially the substitution of fossil fuels by renewable energy sources, clean coal technologies, carbon capture and storage and advanced exploitation of nuclear fission and, in the longer term, fusion. This portfolio can be developed only through aggressive investment in research, development and innovation, with the efforts ranging from basic science over strategic analyses to practical applications.

    • Key research and innovation issues include: overcoming the intermittency problem for renewables, converting biomass (eg lignocellulose) to transport fuels, and coming to grips with the challenges of safety, waste, and non-proliferation in the nuclear energy domain. A wholesystems approach to energy security needs to be pursued.

The above is just a taste of the good material in this two page document that should be read by, in my opinion, every legislator in a G8 nation, all key ministers, and by the government leaders.  And, well, the educated populace might have valued the chance to read this and see it reported in their press. 

How do they conclude:

We call on all countries of the world to cooperate in identifying common strategic objectives for sustainable, efficient and climate friendly energy systems, and in implementing actions toward them.

G8 countries bear a special responsibility for the current high level of energy consumption and the associated climate change. Newly industrialized countries will share this responsibility in the future.

The conclude with six bullets in a call for action for the G8 Summit this coming month.  Take a look … do these make sense to you?

  • Set standards and promote economic instruments for efficiency, and commit to promoting energy efficiency for buildings, devices, motors, transportation systems and in the energy sector itself.

  • Promote understanding of climate and energy issues and encourage necessary behavioural changes within our societies.

  •  Define and implement measures to reduce global deforestation.

  • Strengthen economic and technological exchange with developing countries, in order to leapfrog to cleaner and more efficient modern technologies.

  • Invest strongly in science and technology related to energy efficiency, zero-carbon energy resources and carbon-removing technologies.

Each of these actions would strengthen the global position in terms of Global Warming … and, they each will also strengthen the economic competitiveness of the nations that pursue them vigorously.

They are win-win strategies for moving toward a sustainable and more prosperous energy future.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a good future to me.


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