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60-Second Earth

Energy Choices Predict Future Climate

Physics Nobel laureate and U.S. energy secretary, Steven Chu, offers his thoughts on the paired challenge of climate change and clean energy in Cancun. David Biello reports

U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu offered two predictions during his visit to Cancun last week for the recently concluded climate negotiations.

"The price of oil will be higher in the coming decades...the second prediction is that we will live in a carbon-constrained world." 

Why? Because it is now more clear than ever what's behind climate change. "We've got our fingerprints all over. It's humans. Digging up fossil fuels, burning it and releasing it in the atmosphere." 

Paired with higher oil prices, that means "the first thing we need to do is use energy more wisely." At the same time, to secure both the nation and its future economic prosperity, the U.S. government must continue to invest in energy innovation via programs like ARPA-e or the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis in California. They try to mimic plants in turning CO2, water and light into chemical energy, only better. 

If we don't, we'll be storing up trouble for the future. "The damage we've already done now won't be known for another 100 years. If we wait another hundred years we'll have done even more damage which won't be known for a hundred years."

—David Biello

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