Tyler Volk


On his book CO2 Rising: The World’s Greatest Environmental Challenge

Cover Interview of December 05, 2008


The debates about the global environment, warming, fossil fuels, new energy systems, and global equity are coming on strong and I try and bring readers face to face with all these vital topics.  I hope that readers will gain an expanded vision into the future.  They will start thinking about and visualizing the world situation fifty years ahead.  They will become concerned about the future in a way that I truly believe they should be.  They will come to see the world system differently, more interconnected, and know how their local actions and lifestyles have global consequences.

A major part of the book’s most significant message, I offer, is its examination of relationships among wealth, energy use, and CO2 emissions.  CO2 emissions are tied to the present and most likely near-term trends in the global economy.  It is possible to show, therefore, why CO2 will continue to rise and at what rate, given world energy policy, and what the uncertainties are given what we know about the carbon cycle.  Slowing the rise will necessitate further development of sources of energy that do not emit CO2, such as carbon sequestration, solar, wind, nuclear, and others, all potential answers to the gamble about whether alternatives could be in place in time.  There are difficult issues that go beyond any debate, say, about a few wind turbines offshore of Cape Cod.  What would massive deployment look like for new kinds of energy?

I as well as many others believe that in the intensifying debates about the global environment, climate warming, fossil fuels, and new energy systems, we will eventually confront the issue of global equity on a per capita basis.  The emissions of CO2 waste spread globally no matter where those emissions originated.  So the economic “haves” are giving not only themselves the increased greenhouse effect.  They also are giving it to the “have-nots.”

Will the U.S.  in the year 2050, for example, still have per person emissions that are hundreds of percent points above the world averages, and thus continue to serve as the supreme example of wealth through CO2 emissions? Will the world even have an example of a complex, economically developed society that has low emissions? The economic machine will probably roll on pretty much like it has been, at least for the global total, as developing countries increase their emissions.  After 2050 the gamble that the developed portion of humanity is taking with the state of the world and its capabilities to deploy options becomes much more serious.  But what will the U.S.  and other heavy per capita emitters do? Can a new paradigm for economic wealth be set in place by 2050?

© 2008 Tyler Volk