Thursday, November 15, 2007

It's a Big Problem, MIT Enterprise Forum


I am not really sure I have the time for this, nor am I sure what I was expecting as I attended the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge's event entitled, How Innovative Businesses are Combating Global Warming. I was hoping to gain some insight into what businesses are doing to measure and manage their CO2 footprints, perhaps helping me along with the project I am working on with my ALP team at BGI. That was an incorrect hope, and if I had bothered to read the bios of the speakers attending the event, I probably woulds have picked that up. Here's who was there;

Keynote address: Ian Bowles - Secretary, Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs

Panelists:
So, first off, all the good policy news from the representative of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
  • Massachusetts is back in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) I never knew we were out!
  • There are new (pending) regulations for GHG assessments on large (whatever that is) real estate developments
  • The state is promoting the development of cellulosic ethanol production. Mr. Bowles took a mild swipe at corn based ethanol for its pathetic energy equation. It's a way to send $$$ to the corn-belt states and big agribusiness. Of course in Iowa, they'll swipe at the coasts.
  • Evergreen Solar is building a new plant in Devens, MA.
  • Great Point Energy is building a clean energy demonstration center at Dominion's Brayton Point generation station in Somerset,MA.
  • There was something innocuous said about encouraging the installation of 250 MW of PV in 10 years (there is currently 4 MW)
Enough of the fluff. Professor Schrag got up and proceeded to blast us with a miniature version of The Inconvenient Truth. We watched a video clip of the Arctic Ice sheet in its spring time seasonal changes from January to September 2007. Guess what? 2007 was a new low point in the overall ice volume. What does that mean? If all the ice is gone from the Arctic Ocean, Greenland's ice is very vulnerable...could lead to a 5m rise in sea level...when? I don't know. Then, we were regaled with various CO2 concentration graphing scenarios, including the graph of the CO2 analysis from the Vostok ice core, covering 400,000 years of CO2 concentrations. We're headed WAY OFF the scale of what came before us.

The amazing part of this was the collective psychic sigh, a palpable rise in the anxiety of the room. It was as if someone had fitted each of us with a vacuum that sucked hope and optimism out of the room, yet, as quickly as it was gone, as the topic moved on, we recovered and listened intently to the people at the front of the room. It was an intense moment. The problem is massive, and we are not off to a good start making any sort of dent in the continued rise of atmospheric CO2.

There was one point when I nearly leaped from my seat to announce that I am hearing no new thinking here. I believe I am paraphrasing Einstein when I say that we are attempting to solve our problems with the same kind of thinking that got us here...that cannot work.

In an effort at levity, Monty Python may help out.
Random "green" news snippets from around the web:

Barney's Goes Green for the Holidays
Hollywood Goes Green
Ecozone TV
Distributed Energy Resources - The New Internet? In fact, would it be accurate to say the distributed generation is more democratic than centralized generation?

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