Dr. David McCollum, a UT alumnus, gave a lecture Wednesday in the Baker Center on the Global Energy Assessment, a project aimed at providing universal energy and planning for a sustainable future.
The GEA project was initiated in 2006 and took six years, €6 million euros and more than 500 people to complete. According to David Greene, who works jointly as a senior fellow at UT and a corporate fellow at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the GEA is "the most com- prehensive study to date" regarding world- wide energy use.
The project was managed by the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), a think tank based in Laxenburg, Austria where McCollum is currently a research scholar. The 25-chap- ter assessment is sectioned off into four clusters. The first section outlines the energy challenges that society currently faces. McCollum said that the four major challenges are a lack of access to energy, climate change, air pollution and energy security.
The second cluster involves the knowl- edge and technology now at our disposal, including renewable sources like wind and solar energy, nuclear energy and fledgling technologies such as carbon capture and storage.
Next, the assessment provides poten- tial scenarios of transformational change.
At IIASA, McCollum carries out sce- nario analyses that calculate the global consequences of various factors such as consumer behavior, the swiftness of politi- cal action and the geophysical elements of Earth and its climate.
The final cluster offers policy guidelines that would help incentivize energy change in countries around the world. The United Nations has already set the standard for other policymakers with its "Sustainable Energy for All," a campaign that draws largely from the information collected in the GEA.
Throughout McCollum's lecture, he stressed that "there is no time to waste if society is serious about mitigating climate change." IIASA claims that we need to phase out the use of oil completely, be reli- ant on renewable sources for 50 percent of our energy by 2050 and eventually reduce carbon dioxide emissions to zero.
These goals may seem out of reach for the average citizen, but McCollum said they are "relevant to anyone who votes." In 10 to 20 years, the younger generation of students will be in mid-level manage- ment positions, own companies and be policymakers. His advice to UT students is to stay informed of the issues.
"Try to add to the global conversa- tion in some small way," he said to the small audience gathered in the Toyota Auditorium.
Greene remembers reading about cli- mate change as a student at Columbia University in 1968. At that point, he recalled there was no real understanding of what the consequences would be.
Today, the "Millennial Generation" of people born from 1980 to 2000 are more informed about energy use and climate change. According to a study conducted by Frank N. Magid Associates, 79 percent of millennials agree that it is "my responsibility to improve the environment."
Victoria DiStefano, a UT graduate student studying energy science and engineering with the UT Bredesen Center, attended the lecture. She named several simple actions to improve the future of energy, such as taking public transportation whenever possible, reducing meat consumption with "meatless days" and being careful of excessive water usage.
It may be true that the Millennial Generation has the privilege of being the most informed about energy use, but Greene's lecture suggested that only through decisive action can it be the generation that does that privilege justice.