“This is an opportunity to build something new – infrastructure for solar thermal (power plants) for example, or wind power…we could be the Saudi Arabia of Wind. Why do you need one solution? We should look at science – see the biodiversity lesson.”
On nuclear power
“Japan was ‘prepared’ but didn’t plan for the Perfect Storm. Nature will find a way to outsmart us.”
On Global Warming
“Over 50% of incoming Republicans don’t ‘believe’ in global warming. The great majority of scientists AGREE on global warming…we don’t talk about ‘the debate’ on Science Friday. Should you bring creationists in to debate evolution? Or have a debate that the world is not flat?”
“If you want change, you have to DEMAND IT. Like in the 60’s. You can’t change people’s minds if they’re entrenched. With Global Warming however, change is happening and the evidence of melting ice is visible.”
On Science Education
“All kids are natural scientists – they need good teachers and mentors to nurture it.”
I was surprised to learn that Science Friday gets only 10% of its budget from NPR. The remainder it has to raise through fundraising. If you enjoy Science Friday and want to learn more about supporting it, check out this link.
This week, a report by the Pew Charitable Trustwas released, underlining how much the United States is trailing in the clean tech race. Phyllis Cuttino, Pew’s Program Director wrote a succinct piece in the Huffington Post pointing to the fact that the United States fell far behind China in clean energy finance and investment in 2009. China’s total was over $30 billion compared to the U.S. clean energy investment of approximately $17 billion. In light of the BP oil spill and the continuing saga of disaster, both environmental and economic, she reaches a strong conclusion:
An excellent time to revisit the advice of one of the most vocal advocates for a new energy policy: Author and New York Times columnist, Tom Friedman who spoke with Fresh Dialogues on the subject of energy policy and DC last year.
From the archives: I caught up with Pulitzer Prize winner, Tom Friedman, at the Foothill CollegeCelebrity Forumlecture series, where he delivered a spirited argument for why the United States must embrace a green economy. In this second part of our interview, we explore his part in driving the green agenda. Last January, he took part in a congressional hearingon green tech and economic recovery, sponsored by US Senator, Barbara Boxer. We discuss his role in that; and how he deals with critics.
“I use my platform as a journalist to drive this agenda that I see as important… I see a lot of things that are very exciting happening – exploding really – on a kind of small scale, but they haven’t yet reached critical mass and when you’re talking about changing the climate, you are talking about critical mass. It hasn’t yet been translated into policy at scale.”
“It was an informal hearing, sponsored by Barbara Boxer, on climate and energy. John (Doerr) and I were the two main expert witnesses…No one intervention like that is going to be decisive, it takes many more…most of all from the President.”
On dealing with critics
“I think there’s a big audience for what I say and I don’t really pay attention to the critics. I keep on marching on. I hear it and it’s fine. And it’s a free country. You can say whatever you want. But I’ve got my own bully pulpit and I use it. I don’t use it to shout back at critics; I use it to get my message out. I’m looking forward. You know, the dogs bark and the caravan moves on. I’m in the caravan. My feeling is, I’m out there. And therefore, if you can’t take the heat, don’t be out there… Why would I waste a column writing about one of my critics? So what I always say to the critics is: ‘you may be writing about me, I really appreciate that, but don’t think for a second that I’d waste a column writing about you.’ ”
What drives Tom Friedman?
“I’m having fun. I have the best job in the world. I get to be a tourist with an attitude…go wherever I want, write whatever I want…and they pay me for that. I wouldn’t give it up for the world. I still enjoy getting up every morning, hitching up my trousers and getting out there…opening up my laptop and taking on the world.”
The interview was recorded at the Flint Center in Cupertino on September 10, 2009
Robert Ballard, the ocean explorer of Titanic famesat down with me in Silicon Valley to discuss his expeditions, global warming, and alternative energy. This respected scientist spoke candidly about global warming -“I’ll be honest, it’s too late, all the ice is going to melt.” READ the TRANSCRIPT
On the global warming controversy: Natural cycle or Human impact?
“Hey folks: it’s both. Whenever you have a tremendous controversy both sides tend to be right and wrong. You do have the natural interglacial warming that we’re experiencing, but you are increasing the severity of it with the human footprint. The concern most people have is that we can’t do much about the natural cycle, but we can do a lot about the human cycle. ..if you steepen it too much, evolution can’t keep up and you get extinction.”
On being Politically Correct
“Sometimes I see this tombstone that says, “the human race came and went but it was politically correct.” As a scientist I am not politically correct. My job is not to be politically correct. My job is to call it as I see it. And I see that the biggest problem the human race has is that there are too many of us.”
On the need to reduce our carbon footprint (more…)
Alison van Diggelen: Hello and welcome to Fresh Dialogues. Today I’m interviewing Robert Ballard, ocean explorer and discoverer of the Titanic. Thank you for joining us. Dr. Ballard, I want to thank you very much for being on Fresh Dialogues today.
Robert Ballard: Pleasure to be here.
Alison: A question came up last night about global warming and you had a two-prong answer…Can you explain what you meant by that… you’re not worried about the planet…
Robert: I’m not worried about the earth. There have been times in earth’s history, in the Cretaceous (period) for example, 90 million years ago, when it was a lot warmer than it is now. There were no glaciers, there wasn’t an ice-cube on the planet, sea-level was much higher. We’re just the latest bad thing, maybe, that’s happening to the earth. So, I’m not really worried about the earth’s survival.
Alison: What about mankind?
Robert: I worry about mankind. Sometimes I see this tombstone that says, “the human race came and went but it was politically correct.” As a scientist I am not politically correct. My job is not to be politically correct. My job is to call it as I see it.
And I see that the biggest problem the human race has is that there are too many of us. You can’t have uncontrolled population growth. And then to take that population growth and multiply it times our footprint. Everyone wants to be an American and that would be the worst thing in the world… if everyone emulated us, because we’re so consumptive. An important thing for Americans to do is to drop their footprint.
Alison: Are you talking specifically about their carbon footprint?
Alison: Are you saying there is a human element to global warming?
Robert: Absolutely. I mean, we’re in a natural cycle. The real argument is: how much of this is a natural cycle and how much is it human additive? Hey folks: it’s both. Whenever you have a tremendous controversy both sides tend to be right and wrong. You do have the natural interglacial warming that we’re experiencing, but you are increasing the severity of it with the human footprint. The concern most people have is that we can’t do much about the natural cycle, but we can do a lot about the human cycle. What people are worried about is if you steepen it too much, evolution can’t keep up and you get extinction. You don’t have adaptation to change…you have extinction and I think that’s what people are really worried about; they do see extinction.
Alison: Do you agree with Al Gore that there’s an urgent impetus for us as Americans to do something?
Robert: If you want to know the truth: it’s too late. Okay. All the ice is going to melt.
There’s a lag and it’s already in the system. In fact people don’t want to say that because they still want people to change their ways. But when it comes to glaciers and Polar Regions: it’s going to melt. Sea level is going to come up.
Alison: Are you saying we should do nothing?
Robert: No I’m not. I was taught, when it doubt, try the truth. It’s never too late to change your ways. I’m not so worried about warming, because that’s going to happen and it’s happening. I’m more worried about disease; I’m more worried about pandemics. I’m more worried about that than the sea level rising. At least we can walk inland. But I’m more worried about the spread of disease. That’s a bigger threat.
Alison: What are your views on alternative energy? The ocean is over 70% of the earth, what about harnessing the power of waves?
Robert: As an American, I’m more pro alternative energy because it so affects our relationships with other countries than it does economic impact. I don’t like being dependent upon oil that’s controlled by countries that don’t like us. So, I’m more concerned about that than I am moving away from fossil fuel to wind energy or solar energy. I’m more worried about how it affects our foreign policy. So I come down more on that concern than reducing our carbon footprint.
Alison: What about wave energy?
Robert: Wave energy is a lot harder. I’m actually very pro nuclear. I thought the Three Mile Island calamity was an absolute disaster. A disaster for our country, because I’m very pro nuclear energy. I think it’s safe if done wisely. I envy what France has done. I think they’re up to 90%. But because of that horrible tragedy and how it frightened people…and the media added to that fear. I was a little upset with that…of hyping it…which media has a wonderful capability of doing…that we lost a generation of bringing more and more nuclear power online.
Alison: Well Dr. Ballard, I really appreciate your taking the time.
Robert: Pleasure, pleasure.
This interview was recorded at the Flint Center in Cupertino, California. Dr. Ballard was in Silicon Valley as part of the Foothill College Celebrity Forum Series, hosted by Dr. Richard Henning. To see and read more interview segments with Dr. Ballard, on how he inspires education in science, gets funding for his expeditions and what his next adventure will be, check back soon.
For the young or young at heart, in answer to my Barbara Walters’s inspired question, if you were a sea creature, what sea creature would you be? Ballard answered: A killer whale.
This exclusive interview with Nobel Prize winner, Paul Krugman was recorded on November 12, 2009 in Silicon Valley. Dr. Krugman was in town to deliver a lecture as part of the Foothill College Celebrity Forum Series. Here is the transcript of Part Two: On China and Climate Change. To listen to this interview click hereand or watchvideo (coming soon)
Alison van Diggelen: Paul thank you very much for joining me today on Fresh Dialogues.
Paul Krugman: OK. Good to be doing this.
Alison: Talking about other countries, Spain took the lead… Denmark is taking the lead… China is now way ahead of us in certain clean energy technologies. Do you feel that we’ve lost eight years and we have at least eight years to catch up? Is it feasible we can catch up?
Paul: It’s always feasible. You don’t want to get too hung up on the specific sexy technologies. I guess the Danes are ahead of us in building wind turbines. But a lot of what we’re going to be doing on the environment is going to be… insulation, clever urban design to minimize energy loss. That’s all stuff that’s coming along and look – the history of information technology has said very clearly that nobody gets a monopoly for very long… I don’t get anxiety about it. I’m just more concerned that we won’t do what we need to do to protect the environment.
Alison: How big is the role of government? Ultimately it’s the private sector investment that’s going to make the substantial investment…
Paul: But the government has to provide the incentives…what we have now is the economic concept of an externality…if you have something where you impose costs on other people but you don’t have any incentive to reduce those costs, bad stuff happens. And climate change is the mother of all externalities. It’s a gigantic thing and the private sector by itself is not going to deal with it. Left without any government intervention, we’re just going to basically par-boil the planet, right?
So what you have to do is have a set of rules in place. Now the idea is for it to be market oriented. Yes, there can be some public research, some public investment, some things will have to be done directly by government… but mainly put in a cap and trade system – put a price on greenhouse gas emissions and then let the private sector do its stuff.
Alison: Right. Why is it you favor a cap and trade system over a straight carbon tax?
Paul: Oh, there are a couple of reasons. One is, right now, cap and trade looks like it might pass Congress and a direct tax will not. Partly that’s because cap and trade is relatively well suited to paying off the industry groups, right? We live in the real world. By handing out some of the licenses, at least in the first decade or so, you make it easier to swallow.
International coordination is easier with cap and trade. If we say to the Chinese – well we want you to have a carbon tax – how can we really tell it’s enforced? But if we negotiate with the Chinese that they will have total CO2 emissions of so much, we can monitor pretty well whether that’s actually happening. So that’s a lot easier to envision an international agreement with cap and trade.
So, I would take a carbon tax if…
Alison: If it were politically feasible?
Paul: It’s not clear to me that it’s even superior. But it would be OK, certainly. The fact is, cap and trade could be a bill by this time next year. A carbon tax is like single payer health care. It’s not going to happen this decade and I want something to actually happen now.
Alison: Paul Krugman, thank you very much I really appreciate your taking the time.
Paul: Thank you so much.
Check back soon for more interview segments on the stimulus package, what gave him that “missionary zeal” to write such fervent columns in the New York Times, and whether the green economy can be our salvation.
To check out more exclusive Fresh Dialogues interviews, click here