Kevin Knobloch, head of the Union of Concerned Scientists addresses the City Club

Submitted by Sudhir Kade on Tue, 10/11/2005 - 21:49.

For eight years Kevin Knobloch has lead one of the most well-known nonprofit groups, the Union of Concerned Scientists. A graduate of MIT, Kevin has dedicated efforts to the application of science to the preservation of life. Global Climate change is (rightfully) seen as the most pressing and important issue to resolve. Effects of unabated levels of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide in the atmosphere have already had significant effects – from doubling the number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes to dramatic temperature hikes of 7-12 degrees Farenheit during the summer and winter.

President Bush has still failed to acknowledge global warming – stating ‘we don’t know enough to act’. Other republican leaders, like California Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger, and Senator DeWine have seen the light and taken a leadership role along with democrats seeking global climate reform. They all realize that global warming presents a real and grave threat to life on earth. The United States and Australia, (nonmembers of the Kyoto Protocol) contribute disproportionately to the global warming problem and as such, need to take a measure of responsibility to curb the problem. Great opportunities to mitigate this critical issue include:

  1. using ultra energy-efficient technology
  2. applying alternative energy strategies like wind implementations or hybrid technology
  3. Slashing emissions of particulate matter
  4. renewing the present electrical grid to be more efficient
  5. providing tax deterrence of fossil fuel use or incentives for alternative energy use.

New jobs created will be in Europe and Japan – and there is no one to blame but ourselves – the U.S. is on a trajectory, Knobloch indicated, to be importing 70% of the country’s oil within 2 decades. Another surprising statistic was that IF we produce more fuel-efficient cars across the board – ones which provide 40 mpg by 2015, for example – 8400 new jobs would be created in northeast Ohio alone : and Ohio consumers would save $907 Million annually. Global warming will disproportionately affect those with the lowest incomes – in this region leaders from Brooklyn, Dayton, Toledo and Garfield Heights have made the most dramatic strides toward renewable energy. In industry, Fortune 50 leaders are calling for action to remove global warming emissions – examples include Ford and GE  who are writing business plans for wind technology implementation and hybrid vehice technology.  Economists can look at true and honest cost accounting of the cost of fossil fuels like coal by considering the negative impacts of the fuel on :

  1. respiratory disease
  2. loss of productivity
  3. ER visits, effects on health

Natural gas is another which has more than doubled in the last 5 years. The economic impacts of this reach far beyond direct use of the fuel to power processes – 90% of chemical fertilizers are synthesized using natural gas – this could aversely affect agriculture moving forward, unless natural fertilizer alternatives are considered.

The question-and-answer session revealed some interesting insights as well. Suggestions on the city level include leading like example like David Orr of Oberlin College – whose state-of-the-art green building uses revolutionary photovoltaics to power an entire building and the one next door.

Low tech solutions for the global warming problem include carbon sequestration and wetland mitigation. Clean coal technology which gasifies coal to be more efficient is another option. Fifty percent of the nation’s electric consumption uses coal.. the key with carbon sequestration is effectively sequestering the carbon for a long period of time to ensure it stays buried. Supporting Research and development of such opportunities is very important.

The campaign for building friendly communities which are pedestrian, walkable, and support public transit is a huge opportunity when looking at the rebuilding of New Orleans. A great opportunity is created by NOT sitting in cars, in traffic, adding emissions. Recently 130 city mayors stunned the White House by creating an unprecedented coalition for action regarding climate change. Knobloch suggested that climate scientists meet with decision-makers at every level – and push hard for national legislation. Senator Mccain is a tremendous champion who needs to broaden a leadership support base for his efforts.

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