8 March, 2007

Prof. Chris Rapley CBE was invited to speak at the second annual Oxford Earthwatch lecture, ‘Shrinking ice and absent leadership; How they are connected and What to Do’ on 7th March 2007.

Since the beginning of the industrial revolution humans have released about 680 gigatons of carbon from the ground into the atmosphere as a by-product of our use of fossil fuels. The energy generated has liberated mankind from a subsistence lifestyle and has fuelled (literally) all the wonders of modern life. But the evidence that the by-product is causing significant climate change is now unequivocal. The scale and nature of the consequences presents a serious threat to the wellbeing of future generations.

Not least, in a warmer world, ice melts, and the changing world coastline will displace millions and disrupt much critical infrastructure. Adaptation to the existing committed changes will be painful, but not so hard as the need to convert from fossil fuels as our energy source, since virtually every aspect of contemporary society in the developed world depends on access to cheap, transportable, high density energy. There is hope that a combination of changed behaviour and new technology can solve the problem. But it is apparent that new forms of leadership will be required if we are to succeed.

The Powerpoint presentation is available as a PDF. (2.7mB)