Taxonomy term


Voices: Greening the Gross Domestic Product

When measured in terms of annual Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, the United States is the richest country in the world, followed at a distance by China and Japan, and then several European countries, including Germany, France and the United Kingdom. The GDP — the value of all final goods and services produced in a country during a given year — is a simple computation that allows a direct comparison of wealth between countries.

01 Apr 2010

Voices: Redefining humanity through energy use

What is it, exactly, that distinguishes us from other species? The definition of humankind has perplexed scientists, philosophers and theorists for centuries. DNA composition differentiates species in a technical sense, but that definition is hardly satisfying. Certainly there must be something more ethereal that separates us from “lower” forms of creatures. Over the centuries, several definitions have emerged — from using tools to speaking — but have then been proven insufficient in some heuristic way. So I propose another option: manipulating energy.

24 Mar 2010

Voices: Should science dictate whether to rebuild after a natural disaster?

Move Port-au-Prince? Maybe. San Francisco and New Orleans? Never.

It is common for scientists to call for the relocation of a city to a safer location after it is struck by an earthquake or hurricane. After all, when many cities were built, the nature of the hazard they faced was either unknown or very poorly understood. This is true whether we’re talking about San Francisco, Calif., New Orleans, La., or Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Now that we know the hazards, is it time to relocate a city in a dangerous locale? Port-au-Prince? Yes. San Francisco and New Orleans? No.

24 Feb 2010

Voices: Natural gas can lead the way

Much of the debate concerning energy, climate and the economy involves how to manage the transition from fossil fuels to sustainable energy sources. In this context, it may seem ironic to promote one fossil fuel over another, but natural gas is an inexpensive, abundant and relatively clean fuel that can lead the transition away from coal and oil, while achieving significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants over the next two decades. In short, increased use of domestic sources of natural gas needs to be an essential component of U.S. energy policy.

01 Feb 2010

Crystal Ball EARTH: Natural Hazards: Reducing society's risks

The global financial disaster of 2009 has many parallels with catastrophic natural hazards. It struck pretty much without warning, its impact was greatly exacerbated by an incredibly complex system of cascading consequences, and finally, mechanisms supposedly in place to mitigate the worse impacts (regulations, in the case of the financial system) failed. There was awareness that such a meltdown could theoretically occur, but it was considered such a low-probability event that it was evidently not worth planning for.

11 Dec 2009

Crystal Ball EARTH: Agriculture: The future will have a different face than the past

Tomorrow’s agriculture is facing an immense challenge. By 2050, the world’s population will reach somewhere between 9 billion and 10 billion people, and a greater proportion of those people will be enjoying a richer diet than today’s population. That means farmers will have to grow twice as much food. The world has already witnessed a preview of what might happen if large populations don’t receive an adequate supply of food: They do not accept their fates passively.

04 Dec 2009

Crystal Ball EARTH: Energy: A fool's look into the future

In the 1985 classic “Back to the Future,” Doc Brown, the mad scientist played by Christopher Lloyd, queries his time-traveling visitor, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), in 1955 about the future of America with the simple question of who was president. The answer of Ronald Reagan appeared astounding and ridiculous, as his name was on a movie poster at the time.

04 Dec 2009

Crystal Ball EARTH: Energy: Oil and gas around the world

Energy is a combined product of natural resources, human ingenuity and economy; it is also an engine for economic and social development. This is truer now than ever before because the global economy is more integrated and populations are growing, and with that, competition, challenges and prospects are also rising.

01 Dec 2009

Three Cheers for Peak Oil!

After decades of back-and-forth, the debate about peak oil boils down to two points of contention: Is peak oil real, and is it cause for concern? But instead of arguing tired positions that don’t seem to be converging on consensus, maybe it’s time we shift our tack and instead see what we can do to bring about the peak as soon as possible.

08 Jun 2009

Oil barrel politics

As a new president and Congress entered office in January, current events continue to keep energy in the forefront of national concern. Volatile prices, resource depletion, climate change and national security impacts of energy trade have become a part of daily news and policy discussion. Americans will be watching the new policymakers to see how they respond to energy concerns. How they treat energy research and development — particularly the amount of funds dedicated to R&D, and the portion of that R&D that is allocated through earmarks — will be telling.

08 Apr 2009