Because the universe is beautiful enough without having to lie about it

Looking Ahead to 2009 – Part 3

December 30th, 2008 Posted in Climate Change, Conspiracy Theories, General, General Science

Environmental issues came to the front of everyone’s mind in 2008 – right up until the credit crunch began to bite. And it may well turn out that the credit crunch was just the catalyst required to get people really thinking about energy savings, efficiency and the osts and benefits of alternative energy sources.

2009 will, of course, see the commencement of a new Presidency in the United Stated of America – and for the first time in eight years there will be a man of integrity, wisdom and intelligence in the White House. The Bush years have seriously damaged America in many ways – not least of all their standing in the eyes of the world and their environmental and scientific record. Obama has already named an extreley impressive array of knowledgeable science advisers, including Nobel Laureate Steven Chu as his Energy adviser. We can (and should) hope that this enormous political shift will signal the beginning of a move away from money-dominated big-business controlling American politics towards a more sensible, sustainable and stable future.

Global warming is bound to dominate the discussions in 2009, and it seems likely that other countries will begin to follow Britain’s lead to alter their energy policies to yet more stringent goals. Development of novel new technologies seems to be continuing at an exciting rate with new solar technologies developing increasingly more efficient solutions. My personal suspicion is that we will move a substantial proportion of electricity generation towards sunnier climates, which will, over the time span of twenty to thirty years, produce an interesting political shift away from the frozen north towards the sunny equatorial regions. The Arab states, now relying on their dwindling supplies of oil for cash, might in the future begin to export solar power, and perhaps house giant compute farms instead.

Then of course, there’s Britain’s continued plans to build the world’s largest offshore wind farms. Those should proceed in 2009, though the earliest date for opening is still 2010. It should provide 25% of London’s power by renewable means.

Moving on, there’s plenty more environmental issues to be debated in 2009. The main one that I’mconcerned about is that of overfishing. The ocean’s fish stocks are growing smaller every year, and are being fished at a catastrophic, unsustainable rate. Scientists propose sustainable fishing rates, but of course the governments are free to ignore them – and they generally do. The quota system is unhelpful because it means that any catches not on the boat’s quota are thrown away and wasted. Unfortunately, quotas need to be reduced very severely, which means that lots of fishermen will lose their livelihood. In the long term, the profession will die away naturally as the supply reduces, but that’s not short-term enough to save the fish stocks. Unfortunately, the time taken for economic measures to work is way slower than is needed, so governments need to be forced not only to set up sustainable quotas, but also to set aside ‘no-fish’ habitats where commercial fishing is totally banned, giving fish a chance to regenerate their numbers. In thelong run, this will allow stocks to increase, and larger, sustainable quotas to be set up.  2009 will be the year in which governments, in Europe at least, have to make this decision, or face watching the fish stocks die out.

So what else is on the list? Well I’m sure 2009 will see continued protests against GM food, though I think it’s likely that it might be the year in which the real environental problems trump the imaginary ones. GM foods allow us to grow more food per hectare, which means that we need to cut down fewer forests to make space for arable land. Which means we can let the equatorial rainforests recover.  Which means we can help prevent global warming. Hooray!  Now we just need to explain that to the hippies…

That’s all for today. Tomorrow, in the final post of this series, I’ll explore what 2009 holds in store for technology. What’s the next iPod? What will happen in the world of computer technology? What are the trends to watch over the next year? Join me tomorow to find out.

Be Sociable, Share!

Post a Comment

To protect against spammers, please enter the letters you see below

Please don’t bother posting "you’re wrong, you jerk" comments, unless you can back them up with valid scientific research papers.