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Question: What is the scariest energy-related risk we’re currently running?

Charles Ebinger: 
The scariest risk I think that we are running, is if we are wrong about how much time we have to deal with CO2.  Or, if we had a precipitant event that kind of, dire warners of climate you know we say but we'll have the tipping point.  Well, you know we could have the tipping point.  And if we have something like a big hunk of the Greenland ice shelf fall off for example or accelerated release of methane from the tundra in the Arctic, because of course that's straight CO2 emissions. 

And methane remember is much more dangerous than CO2 in terms of its contribution to climate change.  So if we're wrong and the earth really were to accelerate faster than the IPPC says, you know, what if we can't find, not only that we can't live at 450 parts per million BTUs, what if we find we can't live at 350 or 300?  That would be my scariest scenario because then I think, on the other hand that might be what we need to galvanize the world that business as usual cannot continue and maybe everybody would come together. 

My other great fear would be that we, it's far less catastrophic in the long run for the globe, but my other concern would be if we had a catastrophic war in the Middle East and there was a major disruption to petroleum supplies because that would send the price of oil up probably if it were to happen you know while we're still in a global recession, probably send us into depression.  We wouldn't then have the resources we need to make the conversion to the renewable energy future and that would also have very severe implications.

Do you believe there’s a high risk of such a war?

Charles Ebinger:  The only way I rank that a high risk is if we were to have an Israeli attack on Iran; or an Iranian attack on Israel seems less likely.  But I think in that case, everybody would immediately become polarized.  The United States would be in a very difficult position with our historic Israeli ally on the one hand, but probably the entire Arab world united against us, if not formally, at least de facto for their own political survival. nd that would be a very, very serious situation and one that I am increasingly worried about, might occur.  Because I think largely because of the intransigence of the Iranians on their nuclear program, I do not believe they are negotiating in good faith.  And I do believe, whether you agree with it or not, I do believe that Israel sees Iranian... a nuclear armed Iran as an exostential threat and given the current complexion of the Israeli government on the more hard line right wing side of the spectrum, I would not rule it out.

Recorded on April 28th, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen

More from the Big Idea for Wednesday, November 23 2011


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