This week’s roundup will provide to you with plenty of conversation starters for your weekend parties, with the latest news on the often-controversial topic of geoengineering – the altering of Earth’s systems to mitigate or reverse the effects of climate change.
Today the New York Times reported on a growing trend in housing construction: the decision to use lighter-hued materials as opposed to darker, traditional counterparts such as slate and asphalt. The article focuses on the economic benefits families and businesses can enjoy if they follow Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s advice and make this switch. In many cases, using light-colored roofing materials or simply painting roofs white can increase building reflectivity, thereby cooling the structure and reducing the residential or corporate investor’s energy costs. The economic basis for the white-roof transition is fairly sound, though results vary by region and depend on other factors such as average exposure to sunlight.
However, when considering approaches to greenhouse gas reduction, it is important to consider just not the aspect of energy savings, but that when aggregated, seas of white-shingled roofs may actually have the potential to alter the Earth’s albedo, a measure of the planet’s overall reflectivity, and, thus, impact the climate in ways that we do not quite understand.
Reading Old Magazines this week will be short and sweet: a brief tale of two seemingly unremarkable Time magazine articles that appear to have had undue influence on two members (including the chairman) of the Senate Foreign
On Tuesday, July 21st, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee called a hearing on the national security implications of climate change. Arguably, it should have been the Senate Armed Services Committee, but the SFRC was right for so many reasons. Start with the fact that the Chairman and the Ranking Member have been leading the way on energy security and climate change for the nation for some time.
First and foremost, this hearing legitimized the notion that climate change is a national security issue, and that the national security community needs to look at climate change as a concern with planning, policy, force structure, and budgeting implications. It was a bipartisan hearing, both in the senators in attendance and in the witnesses.
The star witness was former five-term senator, the Honorable John Warner, who is honorable, indeed. He could do anything he wanted to with his life right now, including just hang out with his grandchildren, but he has chosen to make raising awareness of climate change his mission. Two of the other panelists were retired flag-rank military officers – between them, about 70 years of experience in the U.S. navy. They passionately and persuasively talked about the national security challenges of climate change.
The fourth panelist was…me. I’ve attended many hearings, prepared others for hearings, but never been in the witness chair myself – it’s a slightly
“Surely it has to frustrate you coming from where you come from that this country is not embarking on a massive project and working with China and India to do the same – nuclear countries already – to build many, many nuclear facilities to combat this [climate change] issue that you’re so concerned about,” said Senator Bob Corker at the July 20, 2009, hearing "Climate Change and Global Security: Challenges, Threats and Diplomatic Opportunities," before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. From my vantage point within the security community, it is not terribly frustrating. Because for all the benefits that come with diversifying the energy portfolio by increasing nuclear power, the inextricable security challenges too often get missed or ignored.
What was missing from Senator Corker’s remarks was an indication of the potential security concerns with nuclear power projects popping up all over the world. Nuclear non-proliferation has been an intractable issue for more than a half century, an issue we’re reminded of day in and day out by Iran and North Korea. But with nuclear energy reentering the global debate as a pseudo-panacea for the world’s energy woes, the threat of proliferation may become more urgent.