Scientists Issue a Global Warning at MIT

By Eric Lundquist  |  Print this article Print


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At the Emerging Technologies Conference at MIT, researchers agree that reduction of greenhouse gas emissions needs to be the country's overriding technology investment and government funded program.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Today, the Charles River forms a pleasant border between Boston and Cambridge. Now for the bet. When will global warming submerge the MIT Cambridge campus under water?

Apparently not all that far in the future if we are to listen to the scientists who spoke at this year's keynote panel at the Emerging Technologies Conference at MIT.

Maybe next year they will have to rename it the submerging technologies after the dour outlook provided by the researchers including Robert C. Armstrong, Professor of Chemical Engineering and co-director of the Energy Research Council, MIT; Nathan Lewis, Professor, California Institute of Technology; Joseph Romm, Founder and Executive Director, Center for Energy & Climate Solutions; and Kelly R. Fletcher, Sustainable Energy Advanced Technology Leader, GE Global Research.

"I don't think there is a middle path anymore. You either get on path to stay under 500 parts per million [of atmospheric CO2] or you lose the planet for thousands of years," warned Romm.

The deadline to get on the correct path to halt global warming or pass the point of no return? The panelists were largely in agreement on that date: 2020.

"It is not anymore about science anymore; it is now about risk management," said Lewis.

He then went on to explain why various energy plans including more nuclear, cleaner coal and even geothermal simply are either too scarce or too technologically limited to meet the increasing energy needs of the world and also provide a cleaner, less environmentally harmful waste product.

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Fletcher said what is urgently needed is a clear government policy that outlines how energy will be generated and emissions controlled.

The question about when the MIT campus might be submerged was raised as a good graduate student topic by the panel.

All the panelists agreed that the control and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions should be the overriding technology investment and government funded program, even if it meant abandoning such program as space exploration or cancer research to provide the trillions of dollars that the panel estimated is needed to tackle the problem.

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Since 1996, Eric Lundquist has been Editor in Chief of eWEEK, which includes domestic, international and online editions. As eWEEK's EIC, Lundquist oversees a staff of nearly 40 editors, reporters and Labs analysts covering product, services and companies in the high-technology community. He is a frequent speaker at industry gatherings and user events and sits on numerous advisory boards. Eric writes the popular weekly column, 'Up Front,' and he is a confidant of eWEEK's Spencer F. Katt gossip columnist.

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