I am a believer in the man-made cause and effect of global warming and I am also a research scientist that uses computer modeling for a lot of my analysis. The idea that solar or wind energy will replace current levels of fuel-based energy production is, at best wishful thinking, at worst, it is a complete delusion.
I also agree that it is unlikely that either the third world countries or the US will seriously curtail their energy useage until such time as it become painfully obvious that the issue must be addressed. That time may not come for a decade or more. Unfortunately, when it does, it will be far too late to take ANY preventive actions and we have no idea how to take corrective actions. I am very pessimistic about how this will end up. However, being a scientist, it is not my nature to give up so I do have a suggestion.
It seems to me that if one or more of the computer models were validated that their predicted impact might be taken more seriously. At a minimum, the predictions of serious negative impacts in some countries or industries by such a validated model would motivate those countries and/or industries to support changes, research, etc. The problem, of course is how to validate the models' predictions of the future.
Suppose you didn't predict the future, you predicted the past. By pretending that these computer modeling tools existed in 1800 or 1700 or 2000BC, and then predict forward from there using what is known at that time about the history of the atmosphere prior to that time.
Since we know what will happen from 1800 to 2000, then the model that predicts what actually did happen would be validated. It would, for instance, have to use data only up to 1800, just as our current models can only use data up to 2000.
Once the algorithms and parameters of the best model is determined, we can focus on refining THAT model rather than dilutiing our R&D efforts on dozens of conflicting models that each have their backers and supporters and funding....
Since we might end up with a very high confidence level but only for a period of say 29 years into the future, we then advance the start date to 2000 and predict with that very high confidence level out to 2029. The results of THAT model is then used to appeal to the general public, politicians, industry, the other nations, etc. of the consequences.
Each year we advance, we can use that year's data to revalidate or refine the model's prediction confidence while also advancing it out another year.
There are some other techniques and tactics that might work to validate the models and/or get the public's attention. If we don't do both soon, I fear it will be too late to do anything but sit back and watch what will happen and hope we can survive.
severna park, maryland
The "skeptics" presented on your program seemed to have opinions which affected their view of the situation.
The suggestions that conservation and increased energy efficiency would not affect carbon dioxide levels are purely irresponsible. And to say that an increase in average surface temperature would be positive rather than negative without any real evidence goes to show that perhaps these skeptics have more than just scienctific validation in mind. Some of their comments seemed politically motivated, at least in my opinion.
Unless the politics can be distanced from the issue, I don't see anything happening on a national scale. People need to keep an open mind on the issue until a proper judgement can be drawn.
I agree with Marty Hoffert that technology will save the day, but since there are millions already dying of starvation and disease in the context of the overtaxed environment, that day will not come in time to save everyone. I am concerned that humanity will not have the good sense to apply the viable solutions -- see http://www.ecotopia.com/apollo2/ -- until much suffering has occurred.
The best one can do is become informed about accessible energy technology. Using energy conservation and 20-30 percent of a rooftop, solar cells can provide adequate power here and now. Considering the high stakes, the price of PV (solar cells) is cheap insurance against future shortages.
santa cruz, ca
I found your program and web site fascinating. I am dissappointed with Nova/Frountline because in the end of the program, you suggested radical new ideas for addressing the reduction of greenhouse gases. You even had a picture of a power station with the smoke stack running through a mechanism and the CO2 being returned to the earth. I looked for discussions about such an idea but did not find anything in your web site.
The answer to man-made greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere is to develop technologies to eliminate CO2 from being dumpted into the atmosphere after burning fossil fuels.
This may be an extermely difficult technological process but far easier than having the politicians decide who should sacrifice their quality of life to achieve a reduction in greenhouse gassess.
The show was excellent. However, I was bothered throughout by the very limited mention of controlled thermonuclear fusion as an alternative. This seemed to be a strong alternative source of energy several years ago. Would enjoy seeing a documentary on fusion.
I recall a sequence of events related to one fusion venture and wonder if it shows a strong, covert move over the last 30 years to keep fusion down. My memory is a s follows. There was a modest start-up company in the seventies in Michigan, named KMS Fusion. It was beginning to report limited success. The government clamped down on information because of national security concerns. Shortly thereafter, KMS was purchased by Exxon. It has not been heard from since.
I believe this is close to what actually occured. A documentary would perform a great service to clarify what actually happened and where the world is headed with research in this area.
...This is one of the best documentaries you have presented, however, there ARE many more positive ways of solving it than you presented.
Most of these are presented in a new, excellent book, "Natural Capitalism" bu Paul Hawkin, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins. Among the solutions they suggest are the "hypercar" which is made of such strong but lightweight carbon fiber material that it can be powered by a small electric motor, getting the equivilent of 300 or more miles per gallon.
Another idea they suggest is recycling buildings, walls, bricks, and plumbing. ... Intelligent, new designs in remodeling old buildings as well as in building new ones such as inherent solar heating from skylights in large interior spaces and placing the plumbing and other immovable fixtures at locations which make the building much easier to remodel - almost like legos.
It's amazing how much energy is wasted today. Just by using our intelligence, companies can save energy, preserve the environment AND make MORE profits!
I am an Indian, here in the US temporarily. The very fact that neither any of the US senators nor the US public cares shows the extreme selifishness that prevails in this country. When it comes to personal sacrifice, they are all the same- let the third world countries suffer. No American is willing to sacrifice or give up the arrogance.
Everyday, when I go back home after work, I see the soccer moms driving "tanks" on the roads. Owning these tanks has become a status symbol for these morons. In the soccer field, I see each kid with ten, not one, soccer balls. They have 5 to 10 pairs of shoes. In the office, I see reams and reams of paper being thrown into the dumpster. Of course, the AC unit has to run even in this nice spring weather. This is not high standard of living. This is sheer arrogance and stupidity.
Americans, though living in the most developed nation on this planet, are very ignorant when it comes to environmental issues. Not only are they ignorant, they are arrogant and very, very selfish.
Americans should get out of their country and spend a month in other parts of the world. There is more to life than buying tanks and going to the malls.
little rock, ar
"Whats up with our Weather" program was very interesting and alarming to say the least. Over-poplation is now a very real concern to our substainable, livability. Our economies being based on growth, do not really address the infrastructural problems that arise from growth. My thoughts on energy production is incentives,(since we seem to need incentives to do positive changes) for individuals and corporations to produce a portion or all of their own energy needs. Such as solar, hydro, wind, geothermal, methane and biomass. There are solar systems for homes that can store enough energy to power all of our energy hungry conveniencies throughout the night, even though R&D on better battery storage could even make this more efficent. Instead of huge power sources, with powerful tramission lines leaking power (and EMF's) around the country, we could all take some responsibility for our own power.
We used to have tax credits to install solar hot water systems, but somehow they were discontinued. We could have Incentives for homeowners and builders to install skylights in all new and exsisting construction, and tax credits for energy efficent construction. I believe that indivuduals need to be given the opportunities to generate their own power. One last thought...Here in Southern Oregon, we get our power from Montana coal plants, even though Ashland, which is only 5 miles south, gets it's power from Bonniville dam. It amazes me that our power has to come from so far away, leaking energy along the way. I believe there is a great potential in Wave power generators, since there is a constant ebb and flow of energy all along our coastal shores. Hmmm, generating our own power???? Will the deregulation of the power companies allow this?
The program suggested that people who thought nuclear energy would contribute to greenhouse gas production were stupid. However any technology involves construction and transportation and these take energy. So for example, the nuclear industry would involve the combustion of gas for mining trucks and coal to make cement for reactors. Wind turbines, solar panels and hydro-electric dams also have energy costs for construction and maintenance. These sources produce much less greenhouse gas than fossil fuels but conservation is the only free lunch.
Thank You for doing such a non biased thorough job on climate change.
The conservative voices on this issue remind me of the tobacco lawyers claiming cigarettes don't cause health problems. There is consensus throughout the scientific community that CO2 is causing climate change the only contention is over how much and how fast. The worst scenarios are just too scary with the desertification of the midwest, prime growing land moving North to the thinner soils of Canada, the extinction of temperate forests, and the innundation of all of our most populous coasts. Today we find Antartic glaciers calving icebergs as big as the Bahamas. The last two years have exhibited the largest climate induced disasters in human memory. How can ANYBODY deny that this is taking place?
I hope that your program wasn't just preaching to the choir and people did gain an understanding of this highly complex process.
highland park , nj
I would like to point out that the statement that breeder reactors could meet the worlds power supply for a few hundred years is innacurate. That number is based on the fuel not being recycled. With fuel recycling nuclear power could supply the world for thousands of years, and the fact that 1950's technology and marketing were not up to the task does not mean the technology isn't.
Also, as a physicist I am looking toward zero-point energy sources for our long term future. While there is a lot of junk science in the field, the underlying phenomenon shows tremendous potential.
I have to disagree with Pascal Redfern of MT about the biased nature of your show. I thought the show was very well balanced in its presentation of the debate (Is global warming a man-made problem? Are the consequences catastrophic?) They gave what I found to be equal time to the skeptics (3 if I remember correctly). And while they might have had more than 3 believers interviewed, the skeptics were given significant time to present their case.
Most, even the skeptics, are in agreement that warming is happening (Its the cause and effect they disagree on). However, what disturbs me most is that some of these skeptics propogate the idea that global warming could be good for us (more forest growth, improved agriculture, "fun in the sun"). I find this to be the height of human arrogance -- an "experiment" on a immense scale that many of us are unwilling to conduct.
Thought the show was very interesting and balanced. I was surprised to see much of your focus was on activities in Minnesota. However you highlighted Northern States Power and their nuclear waste problem and provided pictures of the wind farms along the Buffalo Ridge, but you didn't have any views from Minnesota's strong and vocal sustainable energy community.
Your web site visitors might appreciate a link to Minnesotans for an Energy Efficient Economy's Sustainable Minnesota web site as an excellent starting point for sound energy policy information resources. Find Sustainable Minnesota at
It was outrageous that the "p" word, population, was not mentioned once in your program. The only solution to the ultimate anthropogenic destruction of global genetic diversity is global human population control, either voluntary or involuntary.
A global "one mother, one child, one earth" policy for the next 100 years would reduce population levels to sustainable levels. Without such a scenario, it will take involuntary population controls; war, famine, disease, global climate upsets, to protect the biosphere.
Another key point missed was that all carbon sequestered in fossil fuels once participated in the biosphere: we cannot create a biosphere that has not existed before.
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