1)It does not matter whether we agree that global warming is here or not. The important questions are:
* Is it a good idea to pollute our air?
*should we consume our resources at such a high, unsustainable rate?
*can we increase our population without limits?
2)No matter what we do with any energy source, we will affect some aspect of our planet, perhaps using many different ways of generating energy will minimize the impact.
3)We need a national, practical, energy policy or at least a proposal to guide the process. At the present time DOE is guiding nothing and is probably more of an obstacle to progress than a help.
4)If we are to address any of the problems, all parties need to look at the issues without preconcieved notions. For instance, if we try to resurrect nuclear power, is there a way of making it practical and safer such as combining it with the proposed Accelerator Transmutation of Nuclear Waste?
5)There is no magic wand, even fusion produces radioactive components.
6)Overpopulation needs to be addressed sooner or later, preferrably sooner.
7)Instead of just screaming against any proposal, we need people (including environmental groups) to PROPOSE solutions and discuss them rationally. Importing platinum from other planets is not a realistic proposal.
I challenge environmental groups, utilities, and especially the DOE and congress to start a meaningful discussion of the energy problems without preconceptions.
PROPOSE, DON'T JUST OPPOSE.
santa fe, nm
We were dismayed that the FRONTLINE/NOVA program "What‚s Up with the Weather" gave viewers the mistaken impression that natural gas is as polluting as coal and oil, and in fact may
be a major contributor to global warming. In reality, natural gas - the cleanest fossil fuel - is part of the solution.
Although your program featured interviews with numerous scientists and showed footage ofscientific tests under water, in the air, and on polar ice caps, it failed to draw important
distinctions among fossil fuels. To borrow a term from the coal industry, whose representative was characterized as speaking on behalf of "the fossil fuel industry," natural gas got lumped in
with more polluting fuels.
For the record, natural gas emits 45 percent less CO2 than coal and 30 percent less CO2 than oil on an energy equivalent basis. The benefits of using natural gas outweigh the increased methane
emissions associated with its use. That‚s why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, among ofhem, have~recommended,
that energy users switch to natural gas to help mitigate global climate change.
Increased demand for natural gas, coupled with increased competition in the energy industry,
have stimulated development of technologies like natural gas fuel cells and microturbines that
will revolutionize the way people use energy - in the U.S. and worldwide.
We encourage viewers to learn more about natural gas technologies at http://www.fuelingthefuture.org . In addition, we would look forward to working with you on a future program focusing on solutions to global climate change - many of which involve increased use of natural gas.
David N. Parker
President and CEO
American Gas Association
While I thought you did a good job on some issues, I was extremely disappointed in parts of the show.
1) You do attempt to give "equal time" to skeptics. But you do not explain that the scientists of the entire world have overwhelmingly concluded that global warming is occurring, as evidenced by a recent (I believe UN) sponsored study signed by over 1600 scientists. The skeptics represent a small minority, many of them with financial connections to key industries opposing GHG emission regulation.
2) The emphasis on Prof. Haffert's views was totally misleading and misinformative to the point of journalistic ineptitude. His conclusions regarding the potential for solar (can't use at night, not enough land) are laughable for anyone who has researched the issue of the potential of renewables and energy efficiency. I do not have the time to give an explanation of this topic. Why didn't you guys do your homework and contact any of the numerous groups who have analyzed this issue. (You could start with Union of Concerned Scientists and American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.)
3) I note that several people attack you for not addressing population growth. While a vital problem, population growth is one-halfof the equation: Energy Use = People * Use per person. The U.S. uses over 20% (maybe much more) of the world's energy with less than 6% (please check my numbers) of the population. It is the height of hypocrisy for Americans to blame problems on population!
san francisco, ca
I wish you had spent more time discussing the use of nuclear (fission) power. The experts interviewed seemed too ready to dismiss it. ...
The Integrated Fast Reactor (IFR) developed by the team at Argonne in the early '90's would allow usage of fission generated power over a geological timespan. Breeder reactors use uranium more than 100 times as efficiently as the current light water reactors. Hence much more expensive uranium can be used. At $2,000 per kilo, uranium would contribute only 0.03 cents per kWh.
Nuclear Physicist Bernard Cohen considers it certain that uranium can be extracted from seawater at less than $1000 per kilogram and considers $200-400 per kg the best estimate. Cohen calculates that we could extract 16,000 metric tons per year of uranium from seawater, which would supply 25 times the world's present electricity usage and twice the world's present total energy consumption over a period greater than the sun will support life on earth.
In addition, the so called "nuclear waste problem" would be completely eliminated since all light-water (or thermal reactor) high-level waste would serve as fuel feedstock in the IFR. In this way nuclear fuel is recycled and recycled until what remains is less radioactive than the original ore from the ground.
Along with the IFR another promising technology which I think deserves a show devoted entirely to it is the thorium-based reactor technology known as RTF (Radkowsky Thorium Fuel). Designed to fit into the containments built for current generation pressurized and boiling thermal reactors this new technology avoids the generation of plutonium and relies on a resource four times greater than uranium: thorium.
Nuclear fission is several orders of magnitude safer, cleaner, and cheaper than mundane coal power generation or exotic solutions mentioned by Martin Hoffert such as mining asteroids and constructing Manhattan-sized photovoltaic arrays in space.
Contrary to the impression left by your program nobody is saying present generation thermal-fission reactors represent a long term solution.
A. Michael Rizzio
Your Frontline/Nova special on global warming was excellent and hit upon most of the issues. Marty Hoffert's work deserves particular attention.
Two points deserve mention. First is a technical point that renewable liquid fuels like biomass ethanol can serve as hydrogen carriers for fuel cells. Please see the renewable energy link on our site at www.generalbiomass.com.
The second point is that there are currently severe institutional and financial barriers to doing the real work on finding solutions. This problem requires a large amount of innovation, something that government agencies and large companies are not in general very good at.
Most environmental groups grasp the end problem, but are presently committed to advocacy. Venture capital is mainly interested in quick returns, something unlikely for the real innovations needed.
We need to find a way to support innovative businesses in the hard work and trial-and-error process of creating the new technologies which may be able to slow global warming.
This particular episode was terrible. It played like the subtle propaganda that permeates the issue of climate change by starting out assuming that man is the significant cause of what global warming exists.
You see what you want to see. It started out raising the question of the human impact on the climate of our planet, and then went off on a political story without establishing an answer. People reading this scoff that I am dilusional, but the proof is not presented.
The climate changes. Earth can be a truely nasty little planet . . . has been, and will be . . . get used to it. How about some discussion on solutions to rising sea levels, or what we can do to deal with the changes that may be inevitble!
This is why I am "proud NOT to be a subscriber to public television."
san luis obispo, ca
We cannot solve tomorrows problems with todays technology, but we could certainly take some steps to slow the arrival of tomorrows problems, if we only would.
In general, people refuse to conserve unless there are significant monetary advantages to be had. And of course population control is always a good idea for "them" but not for "us." How sad.
I would immediately trade my small Ford for a SmartCar if I could find one in America. It angers me that the Big 3 lack the courage to even offer us a truly economical car choice. Why must I drag a useless back seat and an extra half ton of sheet metal around with me all the time when all I need is two seats? How do consumers get manufacturers to offer efficient alternatives?
Even though the solution to the environmental problem is not available at present, American capitalism isn't even offering us reasonable interim choices. Could it be Corporate American is selling us out just for the margins on SUVs? It's a fine line between marketing and brain-washing.
Thank you for a tremendous program.
I have read through all of the comments posted so far in this discussion. There are a lot of objections that the show didn't cover population growth as the root of all of our energy problems. I believe this criticism to be unfair. The program clearly outlined the expanding numbers and energy demands of developing countries, especially India and China. Indeed, the increasingly pessimistic tone of the second half of the program was due to its logical foray into the frightening explosion of energy consumption to come.
As far as SOLUTIONS to the population problem, that would have required a four or five hour ducumentary, if not a separate one altogether; as such, it was not this program's place to delve into such complex matters.
I really appreciated the program's even tone. It did not preach or shove policy down the viewer's throat. Some viewers, in this comment section, seemed to see the show as biased towards a "greenie" or big-government liberal point of view. I also believe this criticism to be unfair. For me, the ideological core of the show was the default stance of science vs. that of business (and unfortunately most regular people as well).
Scientists, when confronted with the evidence related to carbon dioxide build-up and temperature rise, are the true "conservatives": the reaction is, "why don't we take it easy and slow down what we're doing consumption-wise, since we're not sure what kind of effects this will have." Business people, when confronted with evidence, have the opposite reaction: "Hey, if it ain't 100% proven (which rarely happens, if ever, in scientific matters), let's just keep doing what we're doing. After all, things are great, aren't they?"
As another viewer remarked, this kind of blissful default position has largely taken hold of American people, who, when confronted with these issues, have no recourse but to think of themselves as consumers who don't want to shell out the dough to make changes. I really don't blame regular people for this point of view.... Most people are trapped into work and spend, high-debt lives, and we don't have the time, resources, or social SPACE to get perspective on huge issues like global warming.
I was more than alarmed by "What's up with the weather?," I felt the same way I remember feeling after watching "The day after" back in the 1980s.
I think this program calls for all of us to make education on this issue a high priority. We esp. need to target the youth on this issue.
After reading through the thoughts of other viewers at this site, I have a few to add in response to this program. 1) I think that the attitudes of the fossil fuel industry make it clear that one factor which makes it continuously difficult move forward on this issue is campaign finance. I fear that until we as a nation confront and solve the problem of big business setting our political agenda, no politician will have the guts to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and start setting some limits on what we can consume.
2) I agree with other viewers at this site who see that population is also at the root of this problem.
3) I would like to respond to the Indian viewer who commented on the attitude of the Americans, and say that I totally agree. It is time that we start to value our future and our children's future more than we value a new pair of Nikes and an SUV.
Thank you for providing us with this forum for discussion. Let none of us forget the urgency of this issue.
My car only gets around 25 mpg. I drive everywhere and love to travel (jet fuel). I recycle everything that comes into the house, but that is probably enough to sustain an entire village in Haiti. Your documentary really made me ashamed of what I am doing to the earth, that my daughter and her children will have to cope with, or die.
Anyone who regards themselves as a responsible adult should ask themselves what they can do to reduce their wasting of our limited resources, or to support the development of technological solutions. I am thinking about that now. Thank you for the program.
san jose, ca
What struck me most during this excellent program was the round table discussion by 'average' people.
One lady commented that 'consumers' should not be expected to pay extra taxes to deal with the problem of CO2 emissions.
What realistic hope of a solution can we have when people regard themselves as consumers rather than citizens?
The mind boggles that anyone could place their rights to CONSUME over the potentially catastrophic changes being wrought to the climate of the planet.
The female environmentalist could barely keep a straight face when suggesting solar and wind power as viable alternatives to current energy sources.
I for one believe that we drastically need a crash program to develop nuclear fusion. Otherwise the prognosis for the latter half of the 21st century will be grim indeed, global warming or not.
Thank you for an excellent program on a most difficult subject.
Dermot O Connor
The simple reason for this problem we are faced with is economics. The multibillion dollar fossil fuel industry is not interested in relinquishing thier stranglehold. This was clearly evidenced by the dis-information campaign put forth by the coal industry propogandist on the show.
Although the program fell flat in this area of investigation, the fact is that we ALREADY have technology that could set every human on the planet free from dependence on carbon based energy sources. Every home in every sunny part of the world should be outfitted with solar panels to heat water and generate electricity. Water turbine technology already exists, just waiting for us to harness the limitless energy potential of the ocean tides. Yet, we all remain tied into the National Power grid. Why?-GREED
The dramatic graph showing the rise of greenhouse gases in the last 50 years correlates not just with the burning of fossil fuels in the industrialized world, but equally well with the dramatic rise of human population, particularly in the third world. Perhaps this is the prime cause of the problem.
Also, why didn't you mention the promising research into hydrogen production by microbes and molds, thereby producing a perfect clean fuel?
Thank you for the interesting show on Global Warming, and for an informative web site. Here are some comments:
1. The root problem, which was almost unmentioned, is overpopulation. It may be a very difficult to solve, but
we should at least have the courage to face this issue.
2. We need to employ 'realistic' solutions which actually work and do not cause suffering for millions.
This probably means embracing all
carbon-emission reducing technologies. Realistically, the
most important technologies that
are currently viable are efficiency
improvements and nuclear power.
Of course we should pursue solar,
wind, CO2 scrubbing, etc., but we
should not wait decades for these
to materialize. Instead we should
immediately begin building (safer)
nuclear power reactors and encourage
higher efficiency energy usage.
For an example of a safer nuclear
reactor, please look at:
3. Greenpeace seems to live in a fantasy world. They need to get
some remedial science education
before proposing to cover the globe
with windmills. The
solutions they propose might work
if the human population was 10 times
smaller than it is. But it is growing, not shrinking.
4. The skeptics may be right -- but
is it a chance we can afford to
take? Research should continue,
but "win-win" actions like efficiency gains and nuclear plants should not wait for research results.
san diego, ca
Frontline and Nova being two of my favorite sources of information, i was very disappointed to watch representatives from fossil fuel and nuclear industries pontificate with such clear lack of scientific backing paired with obvious financial conflicts of interest.
Also, with nearly two dozen NGOs with scientific and policy knowledge of renewable energy, you had to run with a kook from greenpeace?
Another excellent and timely program on a "burning" issue from NOVA and Frontline! It is troubling that there are so few other presentations like this on our social and ecological trajectories to stimulate debate and action.
As a corporate pilot, I get a constant bird's eye view of the breathtaking destruction I see below me. The Indian email post is right: we are addicted to ferocious, thoughtless consumption of everything, as fast as possible. Having lived through the energy crisis in the '70's, I actually enjoyed the conservation effort then. "Yankee ingenuity" was applied to reducing waste on a personal and nationwide level. It was patriotic to save and not be "fuelish". Then the selfish, greedy "I want mine, too much is not enough" mentality returned with a vengence. Are any of us overfed, mindless consumers happier for being pigs? I don't see it.
A free, democratic society requires that we are thoughtful and engaged. A healthy biosphere demands no less.
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