Why Fatih Birol Never Bought a Car

Question: On a personal level, what does sustainability mean to you and how has your perspective changed over time? 

Fatih Birol: I always thought that using more efficient energy sources, pushing the clean energy technologies such as renewable energies are important. I have been thinking that all the time and try to do this in my work here at IEA, but I also took some personal decisions, which may be a bit unusual for the people who are watching this in the United States. I have refused to buy a car for the reasons of sustainability. And I am 51 and since today I have never bought a car, because I believe using cars is one of the main reasons that we pollute the world, increase CO2 emissions and this is also an issue for oil security. 

Question: How has your outlook evolved in the past few years regarding the human ability to change behavior? 

Fatih Birol: In fact we are making this outlook since a few years and at least in the last four or five years we try to make it clear to everybody that the sustainability is a key issue and "business as usual," not changing the current energy policies, is not an option anymore. The current policies will lead us to a catastrophic result in terms of oil supply, in terms of climate change, and third one, which I didn’t mention up until now, the affect of the energy on poverty, namely today 1.5 billion people, at least 20% of the global population they have no access to electricity and it is not a minor issue. In sub-Saharan Africa, in South Asia they cannot use electricity as they do not have it. A mother cannot, or a father cannot keep the medication for his or her child in the refrigerator, and this is a major problem. So looking at these three issues we have been highlighting this in the last three or four years and I have felt from time to time frustrated that the governments did not get the message strong enough. But in the last one year or two I have seen that we have seen some impact and some governments are changing their policies, these governments both in the developed countries and in developing countries which makes me a bit more hopeful than in the past. 

Question: What is your biggest fear when it comes to the future of our planet? 

Fatih Birol: I think my biggest fear is having another global war which might have been a result of sharing the primary commodities in the world. 

Question: How do you picture our world in 25 years, particularly when it comes to business sustainability? 

Fatih Birol: I would like to see a world which is much more fair than today. Less geopolitical tensions, and more importantly, using much more cleaner energy in a sustainable way. And that in that world we will have solved our climate change problem.

Recorded on March 1, 2010

The International Energy Agency chief economist’s biggest fear: that sharing the world's primary commodities could spark another global war.

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It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.

But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.

John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."

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Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.

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