Steven Chu

At the presidential level, it means choosing as your nominee for energy secretary someone who knows the difference between their colorectal orifice and a hole in the ground. A Nobel-laureate instead of a lobbyist?

In a presentation at this summer’s National Clean Energy Summit convened by the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), and the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Dr. Chu described why he has moved from his background in experimental quantum physics to tackling global warming:

Consider this. There’s about a 50 percent chance, the climate experts tell us, that in this century we will go up in temperature by three degrees Centigrade. Now, three degrees Centigrade doesn’t seem a lot to you, that’s 11° F. Chicago changes by 30° F in half a day. But 5° C means that … it’s the difference between where we are today and where we were in the last ice age. What did that mean? Canada, the United States down to Ohio and Pennsylvania, was covered in ice year round.

Five degrees Centigrade.

So think about what 5° C will mean going the other way. A very different world. So if you’d want that for your kids and grandkids, we can continue what we’re doing. Climate change of that scale will cause enormous resource wars, over water, arable land, and massive population displacements. We’re not talking about ten thousand people. We’re not talking about ten million people, we’re talking about hundreds of millions to billions of people being flooded out, permanently.

As a friend noted upon Obama’s election last month, it feels like rain.


The sound you hear

In a video I linked to previously, a visiting speaker gave a pretty rousing, if pessimistic, take on the current state of affairs in our lurch toward inalterable climate change, with added emphasis on how our renewable fuels development strategies are exacerbating the situation. He offered a pretty concrete demonstration of what happens when glaciers melt, using a chair and a table at the front of the room. It’s not like they slowly melt away to nothing over the course of eternity; instead, like a chair leaned against the end of a table, they reach a point, a tipping point, where their melting slide dissipates the friction holding it in place and allows the glacier to fall into the sea. Like the chair falling to the floor. Very dramatic.

Kind of like this.

Extra: Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer on renewable energy.