What to do?
His answer is to stop burning coal. He reached this conclusion using simple arithmetics:
- we already emitted 300 billion metric tones of carbon from pollution and deforestation
- the Earth is merciful with us if we stop at 700 billion metric tones of carbon pollution (the level that could trigger the 2 degree Celsius catastrophic warming)
- the difference of 400 billion metric tones is equivalent with the remaining oil and gas reservoirs.
So, if we stop burning coal, we are safe. While the solution is simple, it is hard to believe, I think, that it is practical since we all know that the world's energy demands are increasing. Besides the alternative sources of energy David mentioned a technology that cleans the coal. The Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle technology (IGCC) reduces significantly the coal pollution.
Other initiatives, like ecomagination, are targeting the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
I learned also during the lecture that economics principles could be used to control gas emissions: cap and trade (one example I've given some time ago), do multiple small changes rather a sudden big one, transform into internal the external cost.
The Kyoto Treaty is using such principles to control the greenhouse gas emissions.
Ecomagination in the news
Wind energy at GE
Another wind energy link
Solar energy researched at GE
Cleaner Coal video clip