Third World Conference on the Future of Science
"The Energy Challenge"

by L. Spairani


VENICE, SEPTEMBER 19-21 2007
Fondazione Giorgio Cini - Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore
TDF Staffa was present.

Da Venezia: interviste a:

The aim of this Conference ,unlike the usual meetings on energy ,is not primarily to discuss technical and scientific aspects, but to provide information for the public about the need to develop and use sustainable sources of energy so as to preserve the climatic and environmental balance of the planet.


FIRST DAY - Energy: Present and Future Sources

It is vital to have the means to assess the environmental, social and economic impacts of different approaches to energy production and storage for the future. In this session various energy sources have been surveyed, including nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, fossil fuels, plant biomass, solar energy and geothermal energy, and their possible roles in a future sustainable energy scenario examined.


SECOND DAY - Energy: Environment and Health

The burning of fossil fuels really got underway with the industrial revolution, and has continued at an increasing pace to the present day. Carbon dioxide, released into the atmosphere by burning, is a major greenhouse gas, and is now known to be causing climate change on a massive scale. There will be changes in the atmosphere, the oceans and terrestrial ecosystems that will profoundly affect the lives and health of ordinary people, the world economy, and the well-being of the planet.
These far-reaching effects of past and future energy use have been discussed: the projected climate changes and their consequences have been examined, including their effects on biodiversity, individuals and humanity as a whole.

THIRD DAY - Energy: Ethics, Politics and Economics

The energy challenge is now known to be related in a fundamental way the global environmental challenge. Both have major ethical, political and economic implications. For both, a key concept is sustainability, whose ramifications and implications are emerging from research involving the physical and natural scientists on one hand and the social scientists on the other. The sustainability of development is being put under serious pressure by the burgeoning economic growth of the Asian economies and their billions of citizens. Strategies to address energy needs and environmental problems must be practical enough to form a basis for stable international agreements but cannot afford to neglect the ethical dimension, since decisions are being taken that will have major impacts on future generations.


The following sessions have been particulaly exciting:


A DIFFERENT POSITION on global warming has been reported.

Read some CONFERENCE ABSTRACTS.

At the end of the conference ,the Venise Energy Charter has been published . Venise Energy Charter.

THE HOPE OF BIOENERGY Twenty percent of transport fuel from sustainable sources by 2020 - a reachable objective with the aid of biofuels according to Michael Bevan, vice-president of the European Plant Science Organisation

Venice, September 20, 2007 - "Neither politicians nor pundits have woken up to the enormous potential of plants to help solve the problem of safe sustainable energy supplies." said Michael Bevan, biologist at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, and vice-president of the European Plant Science Organisation. Bevan was talking at the Third World Conference on the Future of Science, which opened today at Venice, and is concerned with The Energy Challenge. "The objective of getting 20% of European transport fuel from sources other than petroleum can be reached with the contribution of plants grown to produce biofuel."

Photosynthesis -use of the sun's energy to transform carbon dioxide into sugars and hence plant tissue (biomass), with the release of oxygen - is what plants, algae and some bacteria do. These organisms are therefore at the base of the food chain supporting nearly all life on Earth, including human life. The remains of photosynthetic organisms were gave rise to the coal and oil deposits we exploit today. Rapid use of these fossil fuel reserves, and the increasing pace of global industrialisation, have progressively disturbed the balance of the atmospheric gases established and maintained by photosynthesis. These changes are predicted to destabilise climates, leading to reduced food security and increased social dislocation.

"However," sustained Bevan, "plants themselves can help provide solutions to these problems. We are developing crop plants for biofuel production, using the exciting and rapidly developing technologies of modern molecular biology, including genetic manipulation, and high throughput functional genomics to identify new genes for biomass production and conversion, while at the same time looking for now sources of biodiversity for breeding programmes."


"The plants used to produce biofuels have so far been of limited efficiency," commented Chiara Tonelli, general secretary of the Conference, and lecturer in genetics at the Department of Biomolecular Science and Biotechnology at the University of Milan: "At present biomass provides less than 1% of transport fuel mainly because we use plant species ? like maize, wheat, rape and sugar cane ? to produce ethanol and biodiesel, but these species have been selected for thousands of years produce food, not fuel. We need to select plants with a reduced environmental footprint. We are studying Miscanthus, a perennial grass, as well as poplar trees and oak trees that require little maintenance and may be particularly apt as biofuel sources. There is also the promise that we may soon perfect an economic and efficient technology for degrading plant cellulose so as to produce ethanol from agricultural wastes like straw, and crass cuttings from city parks."

For more details visit: European Plant Science Organisation

EFFICIENT AND SUSTAINABLE USE OF ENERGY

CO2 emissions can be reduced by nearly 80% according to the latest World Energy Outlook. How? By using new production techniques, new materials and new energy-efficient technologies for transport and the home.

In most industrialised countries over a third of the energy consumed goes on transport, over a third on domestic heating and air conditioning, and less than a third on industrial production. However for comparable quality of life and industrialisation, pro-capita energy consumption varies considerably: 4-6 kW in western Europe and Asia, 10 kW in the USA. The difference is largely due to differences in use of energy-saving technologies.

'Several technologies to reduce energy consumption are well-developed and some are on the market. Zero non-renewable energy houses are available. Safe and comfortable automobiles that consume less than 5 litres per 100 km, emitting less than 12 kg of CO2 per 100 km are available. Yet we prefer using low efficiency technologies. The main reason is probably that the cost of energy is too low in many countries, although social and cultural factors also play a role."So explained Louis Schlapbach, head of the Swiss Federal Laboratory for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA)

'Scientific progress in the following areas will contribution to energy efficiency in the future.
Thermoelectricity or the transformation of low temperature heat into electricity. New materials and nanostructures promise to make this process more efficient. Friction reduction. Friction between tyre and road is essential; friction in engines wastes energy. New coatings and quasi-crystalline or complex alloys promise to significantly reduce engine friction with a potential saving of 100 medium-size power stations. Fuels from biomass. Hydrogen and its Storage. Hydrogen is a clean, zero-carbon-footprint fuel with potential and also problems for use as a transport fuel. Zero non-renewable energy buildings. New building techniques combined with good design and functionally-coated glass can reduce energy consumption to very low levels. Zero use of fossil fuels for heating/air conditioning should become the norm for new buildings. Magnetic energy is little used at present because of its low density, but prototype magnetic cooling devices already exist.

'Finally, the latest World Energy Outlook estimates that more efficient use of fuels, particularly in cars and truck can reduced CO2 emissions by 36%. More efficient use of electricity can reduce that footprint by an additional 30%. More efficient production methods can save a further 13%.

CLIMATE CHANGE: WHAT ARE THE HEALTH RISKS?

The worldwide increase in temperature, and the more ferocious heat waves that result, cause 5 million more disease episodes and 150,000 deaths more each year. For Western countries, however, the greatest threat to health still comes from 'unhealthy' lifestyles.

"Global warming has various direct and indirect effects", so emphasised Richard Klausner, sometime special advisor to the US president and until recently head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, "It is a direct cause of increased or worsened cardiovascular, respiratory and infectious diseases. The most striking indirect effect concerns insect-borne disease. The insect-borne disease that currently takes the highest toll on human life is malaria, and all indicators are that disease is spreading. But malaria is far from alone in the infectious disease category.
Human health depends on adequate nutrition. The effect of climate change, already apparent in the droughts of Africa are portends of things to come and illustrate the profound health consequences of agricultural failure. The horn of Africa and Sudan are early case studies in the impact of severe climate stress, which in part underlies the devastating wars which, in turn, have resulted in dramatic health crises. Extreme climatic events like hurricanes and cyclones become more violent as the mean temperature rises, with devastating effects on the health and welfare of people in the affected areas."

 

A DIFFERENT POSITION

The professor Lindzen has been the White House counsellor on climate issues. His figure has been associated with the Bush's position vs Kioto protocol. He has been contested during Venise conference by his colleagues and by journalists. Any way he has defended his position that is summarised as following:

The issue of global warming is typically subject to support that is based on simulation with numerous adjustable parameters. The question asked is essentially whether there is any way that models can be made to both project significant warming in the future while replicating at least the global mean surface temperature history of the past century or so. This procedure deviates importantly from conventional scientific approach which emphasizes testing hypotheses. The current approach seems designed not to test anything but rather to promote a particular type of scenario. According to the latest IPCC Scientific Assessment, one attributes recent warming to man's activities because models do not otherwise display such warming. This is almost identical to the argumentation used to support Intelligent Design. Moreover, the IPCC never states whether its iconic claim provides any support for the numerous alarming claims for the future. It also does not account for the interesting cessation of global warming during the last ten years or so.

The question addressed in the present paper is whether we can do better than this. There are, in fact, several reasonable approaches that have been taken which lead to the conclusion that the IPCC has exaggerated the role of anthropogenic greenhouse gases. We address the simplest of the possible approaches here. It is shown that the use of basic greenhouse theory coupled with carefully designed model runs (using models employed in the IPCC (*)assessment) and readily available standard observations leads to a concrete answer to the question of how much of recent warming is due to added greenhouse gases. The results are, in some ways, not so different from what the IPCC claimed. We find that no more than a third of the observed surface warming can be attributed to greenhouse forcing as opposed to the IPCC claim that most of the surface warming is due to man. However, the approach described, by isolating the greenhouse contribution, also permits one to estimate climate sensitivity, and suggests that the impact of greenhouse additions over the next century is unlikely to significantly impact climate.

(*)IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is the ONU organisation composed by scientistsand specialists with the aio of studying climate.

THE CONFERENCE ABSTRACTS posted on "TDF public forum"

The nature of energyCOLLOQUIO CON KATHLEEN KENNEDYFossil fuel based power generation
Nuclear Fission: Present and FutureLarge-Scale Introduction of RenewablesPlant Biomass for Biofuel Production
Is Solar Energy Conversion an Option?The Future of Geothermal EnergyThe Many Faces of Energy Efficiency
Global warming: testing versus promotingENERGY RESOURCES AND TECHNOLOGIESThe health of planet ocean in the Anthropocene
WORKING WITH PLANTS TO BUILD A SUSTAINABLE FUTUREFrom steam generator to smart gridClimate Change and Health
Climate Change: A Grand Challenge for Sustainability ScienceENERGY TRANSITIONS: EXPECTATIONS AND REALITIESClimate Policy in the Post-Kyoto World
The Culture and Politics of Energy in GermanyA world collaboration on fusion and ITERENERGY SUPPLY EQUATION

 

[06.LS.TDF.2007 - 07.12.2007]