Steven Chu: "It Could Be Very, Very Bad"

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“It’s not too late; we can minimize the alteration, or we can just plow on as usual … and if we plow on as usual … it could be very, very bad.” So says Nobel Prizewinner for Physics, Steven Chu, who is now Energy Secretary of the Obama administration Department of Energy – at Stanford University this week.


“Speaking to the choir” (peer reviewed scientists and the educated already understand the problem) but really addressing the Senate Republicans who need to pass climate legislation, Chu stressed the danger and risks of inaction.

Much of the outcome will depend on the Earth’s response to an anticipated temperature increase of five or six degrees centigrade, an effect that won’t take hold for another 100 to 150 years, he said.

That’s when the oceans, a vast storage sink for carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, are expected to reach capacity and begin expelling gases back into the air.

There are great uncertainties as to the outcome awaiting us if we continue business as usual by relying on a fossil-fuel-guzzling energy infrastructure to meet everyday needs, said Chu.

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On the other hand, he argued, switching to clean, safe renewable energy will not only be good for the environment, but will be good for the American economy. But it will take putting a price on carbon.  “We have to get people in the United States to skate where the world is going to be.”

The Obama administration did manage to initiate what will be an investment of $80 billion in developing the new renewable energy economy, by leveraging The Recovery Act (ARRA – the stimulus bill) that was passed by congress a few months after the Bush Recession Bank Bailout, to jump-start the green economy. But many of its conditional loan guarantees await additional moves from VC funders or banks to kick into action; like with Nordic Windpower and Sage Electrochromics.

With Senator Franken unconfirmed for 6 months, and Senator Kennedy in hospital for most of 2009, Democrats actually did not actually have the 60 vote super-majority for much of 2009, and those numbers are largely unchanged with Scott Brown, making legislative solutions for anything other than naming post offices just as impossible in 2010 as in 2009.

That is because Republicans’ new and unfair use of a procedural trick to block voting on taking normal up or down votes has been used increasingly over the last two years to prevent any legislation: and especially any renewable energy legislation.

The filibuster has been used so much so that a complacent media now reports the need for a super-majority of 60 as normal procedure. However, that is not how a democracy normally works, and not how this one worked, throughout American history. Till 2007 when Democrats won a Senate majority – 51 has (for 200 years) constituted a majority vote.

We have to get moving,” Chu warned last night, citing the example of China that invests $9 billion every month in renewable energy.  “If we hold off for another 10 years, we’ll fall behind the other countries.” (In China 98% of the educated understand that climate change is a serious issue.)

If only today’s Senate Republicans would hear that: “It could be very, very bad”.

Their constituents like you need to let them know what you want. The Senate switchboard is (202) 224 3121. They won’t listen to just another scientist, Nobel Prize or not.

Source: Aimee Miles at Stanford News

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