Humans and the clean-energy debate: Lectures to address carbon emissions, solutions

Feb. 18, 2011

by Renee Meiller

In his 2011 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called for a clean-energy standard, increased funding for clean-energy technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the ambitious goal of generating 80 percent of the country's electricity from clean-energy sources by 2035.

Yet, those clean-energy technologies are still widely up for debate, and the path for reducing carbon emissions is by no means clear.

Sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Energy Institute and the WAGE Governing Global Energy Collaborative, lectures from February through late-April will generate discussion about climate change, energy innovation, and global environmental policy.

On Thursday, Feb. 24, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, founders of the liberal think-tank the Breakthrough Institute, will present the lecture, "Why Left and Right Can Agree on Energy Innovation." With the conservative American Enterprise Institute and the non-partisan Brookings Institution, the two are urging partisans to abandon long-held views on carbon caps and federal involvement in energy research. Rather, Shellenberger and Nordhaus argue that now is the time for bipartisan action on energy innovation.

This lecture will be held from 7-8:30 p.m. in the Howard Auditorium of the Fluno Center, 610 University Ave., on the UW-Madison campus. Registration is suggested; click here.

Additionally, the lecture series, "Carbon, Energy, the Economy and Population: The Four Main Levers of Carbon Emissions," centers on the Kaya identity, a method developed by Japanese energy economist Yoichi Kaya for determining human impact on climate based on carbon dioxide emissions. Each lecture in the series of four provides an in-depth examination of one lever, or factor, that contributes to carbon emissions.

On Thursday, March 10, in his talk, "Economic Energy Intensity: Complexities, Implications and Controversies," economics professor Chris Green of McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, will talk about energy technologies, global energy demand, and whether large improvements in energy efficiency are enough to stabilize emissions.

On Tuesday, April 5, in his talk, "Managing Without Growth: Slower by Design, not Disaster," environmental studies professor Peter Victor of York University, Toronto, Ontario, will address the environmental impacts of economic growth: Is it possible to have full employment, eradicate poverty, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and maintain fiscal balance without economic growth?

On Thursday, April 28, in his talk, "Population Growth and Climate Change," statistics professor Paul Murtaugh of Oregon State University will examine the population "carbon legacy" and the extent to which having children can contribute to the long-term carbon impact in countries around the world.

These lectures are free and open to the public. All lectures in this series begin at 4:15 p.m. in Room 1106 of the Mechanical Engineering Building, 1513 University Ave., on the UW-Madison campus.

Other sponsor organizations include the UW-Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, UW Energy Institute, Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative, the Wisconsin Public Utility Institute, and the European Union Center for Excellence.