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Global Warming as an Engineering Problem?
Michael considered fate at 14:29   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
This is an excellent collection of slides discussing the global warming "problem" in an engineering domain. Specifically, it answers the question "how can we actually solve this problem in concrete terms?" Forget large numbers, statistics, and doom and gloom - this is something palatable!

The presenter, Saul Griffith, won a MacArthur Fellowship last year - a no-strings-attached "genius grant" of $500,000 over five years. In the presentation, he tracks his energy consumption for a year and gives a very detailed breakdown (and a lot of realism about how accurate these numbers cannot be), then compares that to the average consumption per human over the entire world. Then he figures out how much carbon we can reasonably put into the atmosphere a year (answer the question: "how warm are we willing to let it become?").. then he lays out how much renewable energy sources we will have to create (broken out into Nuclear, Solar, Wind, etc) in the next 25 years in order to reach the goals he has outlined.

The scary part:

One new 3 Megawatt Nuclear Reactor per week for the next 25 years

Three new 100 Megawatt geothermal steam turbines per day for the next 25 years

Twelve new 3 Megawatt wind turbines (in "great locations") per HOUR.

Et cetera.

The optimistic part of this all is that we've created 6TW of new power sources in the last 25 years. We only need 11.5TW of new carbon free sources in the next 25 years. Daunting? Sure. Doable? I certainly think so. It is about re-working our perceptions and approaches.

For example, Griffen points out that GM produces an entire car every two minutes - enough production to handle the generation of the 2TW of wind power laid out in his scheme.

Looking at the situation on a concrete level, such as in this presentation, is a good way of reigning in the "We're DOOMED!" mentality, in order to get us thinking about actual solutions (you know, besides trading carbon credits in a virtual market)..

Seriously, the link is worth half an hour of your time. Even if you just skim it.

(I especially like the idea of "consumption facts" on consumer products. See here)

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