Our Scariest Energy Risk

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

If we’re being even a little optimistic about future CO2 levels, warns the energy and risk analyst Charles Ebinger, then we’re in trouble.

Related Articles
Keep reading Show less

Five foods that increase your psychological well-being

These five main food groups are important for your brain's health and likely to boost the production of feel-good chemicals.

Mind & Brain

We all know eating “healthy” food is good for our physical health and can decrease our risk of developing diabetes, cancer, obesity and heart disease. What is not as well known is that eating healthy food is also good for our mental health and can decrease our risk of depression and anxiety.

Keep reading Show less

For the 99%, the lines are getting blurry

Infographics show the classes and anxieties in the supposedly classless U.S. economy.

What is the middle class now, anyway? (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs

For those of us who follow politics, we’re used to commentators referring to the President’s low approval rating as a surprise given the U.S.'s “booming” economy. This seeming disconnect, however, should really prompt us to reconsider the measurements by which we assess the health of an economy. With a robust U.S. stock market and GDP and low unemployment figures, it’s easy to see why some think all is well. But looking at real U.S. wages, which have remained stagnant—and have, thus, in effect gone down given rising costs from inflation—a very different picture emerges. For the 1%, the economy is booming. For the rest of us, it’s hard to even know where we stand. A recent study by Porch (a home-improvement company) of blue-collar vs. white-collar workers shows how traditional categories are becoming less distinct—the study references "new-collar" workers, who require technical certifications but not college degrees. And a set of recent infographics from CreditLoan capturing the thoughts of America’s middle class as defined by the Pew Research Center shows how confused we are.

Keep reading Show less