It is awfully easy to get lost in the contentious debate about sustainability and climate change. In this blog-like section I have included selected links and a little discussion regarding the actual science behind the debate, hoping to do my part to improve the general quality of the discussion.
I have intentionally drawn from publicly available resources such as Scientific American, The Economist, and Wikipedia to ensure that the resources are accessible to all. When appropriate, if the math/science is challenging I have inserted a warning. Please do not let this stop you. By skimming for ideas, just like the taught us in High School, you can master the key arguments of any of these resources.
Finally, I encourage suggestions, debate, and discussion. This is my own idiosyncratic selection and I’m perfectly happy to expand or adjust it. Please post - it's the whole point.
Climate Modeling -how do climate scientists do their science?
You hear it all the time - “scientists” are convinced that climate change is real, and that we need to change our habits. But how can they know this? These huge processes unfold over tens of thousands of years, and there are at least some scientists who are not convinced. Well, the ones that are convinced are gathering all sorts of current data that show change, and over the last 20 years they have built an entire science around mathematical simulations that help them test their theories. Have a look at just a small selection of what has been published before you make up your mind one way or the other.
- Instant Expert: Climate Change (A good survey of the issues)
- How Climate Models Work
- How Climate Models Are Built (MATH WARNING)
- Climate Model Predicts Greater Melting, Submerged Cities
- New Model Aims to Predict Quick Climate Changes
- Ice Core Extends Climate Record Back 650,000 Years
- The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change - relatively impartial account of who’s for and against, good for all of us to consult from time to time.
Cleaner Energy Resources - Solar, Nuclear, Hydrogen, et al
Assuming that you buy the link between human activities and climate change, or even if you just want to reduce US dependance on foreign oil, then the inevitable next question is what can we do that doesn’t involve a radical change in our lifestyle? Here are some useful links that go beyond what you see on TV and read in the papers.
- Plan B for Energy: 8 Revolutionary Energy Sources - this a LONG piece, but it lists and evaluates every resource you’ve ever heard of, and some that you haven’t.
- Nuclear Energy Pros and Cons - useful repository of technical and policy reviews of this contentious topic.
- Renewable Energy - comprehensive survey of available technology options with lots of good links to primary resources.
- Alternative and Advanced Fuels - Really useful Dept of Energy resource on Hydrogen, Ethanol, biodiesel, etc. Especially good on how each works.
The Economics of Sustainability
OK, now how do we choose among these alternatives? Well, probably by considering what we can feasibly afford. WARNING - goofy statistics and poor analyses abound! Here are some resources that IMHO appear to be competent and relatively unbiased.
- Alternative Energy - this is a good, recent, and mostly impartial review from the Economist; also check out their quarterly technology review section.
- Bjorn Lomborg - just to show my (relative) lack of bias, IMO this is the skeptic to read, and his analysis, while provocative, is solid and useful, especially in his later work such as the revised Cool It.
- National Renewable Energy Laboratory - OK, so you gotta dig through a lot of stuff, but this site is a gold mine of wonkish economic modeling by technically adept analysts.
- Hydrogen or electricity? A nuclear fork in the road - the author is an advocate, but he makes a solid case against hydrogen and for other renewable options. You see there’s this little problem with the first and second laws of thermodynamics...
The Politics of Sustainability
And finally, assuming that we know what to do, how should we do it? Here are some current ideas. Prepare to be a little bit depressed.
- Obama’s Position - He’s the president and he has a position. Read it here.
- Global Development Research Center - a useful if wonkish resource on development and sustainability issues.
- MOVING TO A HYDROGEN ECONOMY: DREAMS AND REALITIES - International Energy Agency policy paper that puts everybody’s favorite “magic bullet” in context.