Conservation and Global Change: The Role of Biology and Resource Management


Dr. Thomas Lovejoy: Well, thank you for the opportunity to be here with you. I've got too many slides. I'm going to rip through them. Some pieces of this, I'm sure, will be familiar, but maybe not the totality or what the scale of the issues may be that we need to take on. In June, when the nations of the world return to Rio de Janeiro to look at global environmental issues, in the minds of many was this diagram, planetary boundaries being exceeded. In my view the nitrogen cycle is probably pretty accurate. The climate change one is probably underestimated because of the impact it has for the biology of the planet.
And the lower left there, the biodiversity one, is inevitably greater than all the others because biological diversity essentially integrates all environmental problems. There is no problem that doesn't affect living systems that's an environmental problem.
In 1896, when Arrhenius wrote his famous greenhouse gas paper, it was also the same decade that the New York subways were designed. What he was really trying to do was answer a question of why is the earth a habitable temperature for humans and other forms of life? You can make the point that the entire human enterprise is based on the assumption of a stable climate.
But in any case, what he was not aware of was the actual history of the temperature of the earth in the previous couple hundred thousand years. In particular, the last 10,000 years, a period of unusual climatic stability. Much of the history of civilization is in that 10,000 year period, and also for the point of this talk, for that same 10,000 years all ecosystems were adapting to a stable climate.
That, of course, is now changing. We're seeing signals in response to the climate change in the solid and liquid phases of water, particularly the Arctic Ocean. This is not a new story. 2012 is about the lowest point yet. I'm just going to go by it.
The timing of ice formation in the fall is later. The break up is earlier in the spring on lakes. Glaciers are in retreat in most parts of the world. I'm sure images of Glacier National Park are often floated around here at the Interior Department. In the tropics, where there are glaciers on top of high mountains, like Kilimanjaro, all tropical glaciers are retreating at a rate that they will be gone within 15 years.
There's rising sea level now, not just because of the thermal expansion of water but also because of the addition of melt water of ice based on land. And on the eastern shore of Maryland, the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge through a combination of natural subsidence of the land and rising sea level is on its way to becoming a marine refuge.
We all know about the possibility, increasing probability I would say of more intense tropical storms. There's no question about the increased frequency of wildfire in the American West. This department has to be preoccupied by it on a yearly basis.
We're seeing a lot of changes in biology. Some of the first kinds of changes observed were earlier flowering times. Here, lilacs in New England. Not just plants changing their annual cycles, but animals changing their annual cycles. Tree swallows migrating earlier, nesting earlier, laying eggs earlier.
More important, we're seeing species change where they actually occur. The Edith's Checkerspot butterfly, one of the best studied species of butterflies in the world in fact, has clearly been moving northward and upward in altitude in response to climate change.
Near Yosemite, snow no longer falls down to 2,200 feet above sea level, only to about 3,500 feet. In that band, the absence of snow in the winter is actually leading to die back in the Ponderosa Pine. The Joshua trees are moving out of Joshua Tree National Park.
We're seeing similar kinds of changes in aquatic systems. Plankton distribution and fish distributions are changing in the oceans. In the Chesapeake Bay, where the eelgrass community is so important in terms of diversity and productivity and blue crabs and the like, it turns out that eelgrass are very sensitive to increases in temperature. As a consequence, the southern boundary of eelgrass communities has been moving northward year after year.
On the north coast of Alaska the Black Guillemot has its nesting colonies. The adults now have further and further to fly to get to the edge of the ice to get the Arctic cod, their main food supply for themselves and for raising their young. At least one of these colonies has failed because the distance has simply become too great.
This completely incomprehensible slide which I would actually deduct points if one of my students did it is actually to make the point that what I've just been describing to you is no longer a matter of just individual examples and anecdotes. It is now statistically robust that nature is on the move just about anywhere you look in the world.
The really important is not so much those observations and what they might mean, but what does it look like looking ahead?
One way that's done is by looking at climate envelopes for particular species and projecting where that climate will be available in the future. For double pre industrial CO2 levels, the Sugar Maple and anything that anybody cares to enjoy about Sugar Maple will require essentially no longer being able to see it in the Northeast, but require you to go to Canada.
This slide here is to make the point that we're actually talking about a lot more than just temperature change. We're also talking about changes in moisture regimes. If one thinks simple mindedly about it, the two most important physical parameters for any terrestrial organism is temperature and moisture. For any aquatic organism, it's temperature and pH. All of those are changing.
They tend to combine with the other kinds of stresses that humanity puts on the environment, so land use problems and population problems in the Lake Chad region combined with prolonged drought probably tied to climate change has actually reduced the size of Lake Chad to five percent of its original extent.
These are important issues for fresh water species, particularly cold water species like trout. And as a class, organisms that live at high altitudes are particularly in trouble, because at a certain point as they move upward trying to track their required climatic conditions, they will have no further upward to go.
Also as a class, island species are in trouble, not just low lying islands like the ones in which the Key deer occur, which essentially or most immediately threatened by sea level rise, but even on islands of significant size and altitude, because the climate change will be affecting the species, they're unable to track them and ultimately will be very vulnerable and many will [inaudible 00:09:56] out. Of course, as a class, all ice related species, like the Polar bear are among the first to be in trouble.
Going beyond all that, there are serious complications that begin to take place as one has more and more climate change. The first of these is basically the way humanity has fragmented natural habitat almost anywhere in the world. And we know, of course, that climate change is not new in the history of life on earth.
We know glaciers came and went with no apparent loss of significant biodiversity, but the major difference is today, when species try to track their climatic conditions, they'll be doing it in landscapes that look like this, which started with continuous woodland in the upper left in 1831 in this township in Wisconsin. And end up something like the 1950 collection of fragments in the lower right. This basically just creates an obstacle course to species as they're trying to disperse and track their conditions.
This is the one complication which it is relatively easy to do something about, at least in principal, by simply putting natural connections back into the landscape. Natural connections that very often are worthwhile to do for other reasons, like riparian vegetation and what that does in terms of preventing loss of soil and maintaining water quality in watercourses.
The other three complications are tougher to deal with. The second is that we know that natural communities and ecosystems do not move as a unit. It's the individual species that move, each in their own direction and at their own rate. What we're looking at here is the movement of three mammal species, two tree species and one insect species in Europe after the retreat of the last glacier in Europe. You can see there's basically no common pattern.
With much more climate change than we're experiencing right now, but maybe not that much more, the issue will be that essentially the species will be responding individually, and the ecosystems we know will disassemble. The surviving species will reassemble into some of kind of ecosystem which is really hard to envision in advance.
Despite the fact that computer models for climate are all linear and gradual, we know that the climate system in fact does not behave that way. We know historically there have been time when the great global conveyor belt which is the major way heat energy is transmitted around the globe has actually shut down.
But the point is not so much the abrupt changes that might be down the line in the climate system, although they will be deeply serious if we get to that point. The issue is we're already beginning to see abrupt change in ecosystems.
In North America, none is more obvious to me than what's happening the coniferous forests of western North America. You know the story well. This will just sort of take you through a time sequence from about 1959 to 2002 in British Columbia. At the beginning, you can barely see the little red specks which are the bark beetle outbreaks.
But as time goes on and the winters are milder and more beetles survive the winter, and the summers are longer and make it possible in some instances to get an additional generation, it becomes overwhelming and the balance is tipped in favor of the beetles.
That's the one that we have most obviously here in North America, but there are other important ones elsewhere in the world, and I'll mention a couple. And a lot of these are just going to be surprises when they happen.
The major one in the oceans involves tropical coral reefs, which all look like this when I was in graduate school. A wonderful Technicolor highly diverse, highly productive, incredibly important for the 12 percent of humanity whose well being depends on tropical coral reefs. And basically they turn out to be one of the major ecosystem types most sensitive to elevated temperature.
What happens in those instances is the basic partnership between the coral animal and the algae breaks down, and the animal ejects the algae, and you get what are called "bleaching events," which first occurred in 1983, and now occur with increasing frequency every year. It becomes hard on the given current trajectory to have a very sanguine outlook for the future of tropical coral reefs.
We're also seeing changes at an even greater scale, which I call "system change." One of these involves the way moisture circulates around the world but particularly coming off the tropical Atlantic and into the Amazon basin, where the water is basically recycled because of the immense amounts of moisture that are transpired by the trees of the forest and evaporate off the complex surfaces, so the Amazon literally makes half of its own rainfall.
Some of the computer models from the Hadley Centre have actually predicted that will break down in terms of the feed of moisture into the Amazon. There have been sort of ominously two major drought events. One in 2005 and an even greater one in 2010, perhaps a preview of what the models have been predicting about die back in the southern and eastern Amazon.
Just like the Lake Chad situation, there are other things people are doing to the forests that have negative synergies, so deforestation and fire added to climate change suggests, at least in one preliminary study, that a 20 percent deforestation you would have a tipping point and get into die back in that part of the Amazon.
Probably the biggest system change of all, of course, is ocean acidification, something pretty much overlooked until 2005. The ocean's are now a tenth of a pH unit more acid than in pre industrial times. It sounds small, but of course, that is an exponential function, so they're literally if you look at it in non pH units, it's 30 percent more acid than in pre industrial times.
That, of course, has enormous implications for tens of thousands of species which build shells and skeletons from calcium carbonate. Basically the colder the water and the more acid, the harder it is for these organisms to mobilize calcium carbonate, which means that the deep water coral reefs, cold water coral reefs in the fjords, off of Chile or off of Norway, are particularly vulnerable.
It's also effects species that most people don't even know exist, like these little sea butterflies, these tiny little snails. Teeny little snails with a foot that a snail usually moves along the ground with, modified in this case to be two wings to flap and keep it up in the water column. These are the base of the food chains in the North Atlantic and the North Pacific. There are already signs that these sea butterflies are being affected by ocean solidification.
Basically, it seems safe to sum this up, that we're edging towards a lot of critical thresholds in the global system. Thresholds that we don't really understand and it would be a sensible course to try and avoid crossing those thresholds. Having looked at all of this by now, I've come to the conclusion that the two degrees that is being negotiated as the target in the climate convention, is actually too high.
The 450 parts per million is really bad from the point of view of what it will do to the ice systems of the planet and sea level wise. It also will have major implications for ecosystems. Basically, I'm trying to build the case these days that two degrees is too much. That you can't just keep thinking about it as some physical system, that it's a biophysical system.
We do know the last time the planet was two degrees warmer, that the oceans were maybe four to six, maybe eight meters higher. In a sense, what more do you need to know about that. Nobody knows how fast that will happen, but the endpoint is pretty clear if you look back in geological science and geological time.
This basically makes the point that if you really want to have tropical coral reefs you have to be thinking more about one and a half degrees, or 350 parts per million, which is what Jim Hanson has been talking about for some time, but me, through biological glasses and sea level glasses, I am completely in agreement with.
The problem of course, is that if we wanted to stop at two degrees, global emissions have to peak in 2016. What do you do when you get to this point? I mean, just adjourn to the nearest bar permanently? [laughter] What is there that we might be able to do about this?
This cartoon figure I call Dr. Planet and he's made the diagnosis, right? Now he's trying to prescribe for his global patient what needs to be done. Item number one, which relates immediately to the mission of this department, is to revise conservation strategies. It's putting natural connections back into the environment, trying to reduce the other synergies to avoid negative synergies.
To look at the projections of what will happen to Glacier National Park, for example, not just the disappearance of the ice, but the movement of the vegetation belts so that you're actually managing something that is no longer sort of in some kind of dynamic equilibrium. To use Starker Leopold's phrase, "A vignette of primitive America, but actually of something which is on the move."
That was very much behind the thinking that went into the revisiting of the Leopold report. I have a certain amount of bias, being part of that, but I think it's actually a very realistic report in terms of thinking about the challenges that global change bring to natural resource management. There's a huge energy agenda here, which I'm not an expert on and I'm not going to go into.
What I want to spend the remaining minutes here talking about is actually the least known part of the climate challenge. It's the part in which the destruction and degradation of ecosystems over three centuries or more has contributed a significant amount of the excess CO2 in the atmosphere. In other words, came from modern day biological communities as opposed to ancient ones like the fossil fuels.
Basically every year, this is the way the climate CO2 cycle works, with huge demand for fossil fuels, about 20 percent of that but changing year by year from the destruction of tropical forests and other ecosystems ending up in about 50 percent of the atmosphere and half and half between the oceans and the land. The question is, is there some way to manage this basic equation?
One might even actually reverse one of those arrows. The issue in front of us is that's how the carbon equation works annually. A lot of CO2 up in the atmosphere and it stays there a long time, and it doesn't raise the temperature instantly. There's a period of time for the radiant energy to actually accumulate once you reach a certain level of greenhouse gases.
The proposal here is to actually think about lowering atmospheric CO2 through ecosystem restoration. It's not enough, I don't believe, given the rate we're burning fossil fuels, so there needs to be a separate investment in identifying non biological ways to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere. It's certainly doable, there's nothing in physics that says you can't do that, it's just really expensive given what we are capable of today.
I'm going to concentrate on the restoration of ecosystems and to sort of make the point of what the biological systems of the planet can do. Here is what happened in the geological past. Twice there have been screamingly high levels of CO2 in the atmosphere brought down to pre industrial levels by the biology of the planet.
That's not just the green plants on land, which was the first time it happened, or the modern flowering plants the second time, doing it more efficiently. It's also the biodiversity and the action of soil formation. So this little biodiversity symphony that achieved those miraculous results, problem was it took tens of millions of years and we don't have that to play with.
What I've been looking at, and I actually have a graduate student I think is going to at some point produce a 'for instance' map of what you could do, looking at ways to pull about 50 parts per million out of the atmosphere or take a half a degree out of climate change increase. That will involve sort of looking at, in a simple minded way, which is the realistic numbers here are 280, which is the parts per million, the pre industrial. The 350, so called safe, and the 390 one, this one's done we're now closer to 400.
[inaudible 00:27:43] is the U.N. term for Reducing emissions from deforestation and the like. The larger green here, may be overstated, is the amount of CO2 that could be pulled out from the atmosphere through ecosystem restoration on a planetary scale. That involves reforestation and managing forests with an eye to their carbon, but not forgetting about the biodiversity. It's restoring degraded grasslands and grazing lands, and getting the ancillary benefit of better grazing.
It's also about modifying agro ecosystems so they accumulate carbon instead of leaking carbon. All together there is a potential here, I believe, to actually reduce the impact of climate change by about half a degree. It has obvious implications for how you manage all those different kinds of systems, it also has the potential for citizen participation. Something a little like Victory Gardens in the Second World War.
It could be a way, actually, to reawaken in the larger population, a sense of nature of which we are a part. I call this my terminal Quixotic dream, namely to re green the emerald planet and make the living planet more habitable by using the living systems themselves. Thank you very much.
Moderator: Let's start with questions in the room, I'll come and if you don't mind, raise your hands. I'll come to you and say your name and where you're from.
Tom: Well, I always jump in, listen to me. So Tom, you're President of the United States in the current political climate. Then you have all those constraints that go with it, but there's one thing that you can do, and you're pretty sure you can do it along the lines of biodiversity and climate change, making the big changes that need to happen. What would that thing be?
Dr. Lovejoy: It would actually be two things coupled. One is sort of really recognizing that two degrees is actually too much. The whole negotiating system is broken because it keeps talking as though there's no end to this stuff. That's no use at all unless you can get at two degrees. One part of doing that would be to a put up, or set in incentives for the population at large. That would deal with re greening kinds of things in the ecosystem sense. Also, I would say instruction to the federal government to actually use the extraordinary real estate they have to make a serious contribution. I know some of this is already going on in the department, because I took that funny little graph to the transition team four years ago, but it's not being publicly stated. Anyway, the amount of real estate you have is huge, that includes D.O.D.
Audience Member: [inaudible 00:31:36] . Do you have any idea how much land you're talking about to actually take the half degree out of the equation?
Dr. Lovejoy: I did the calculation once because it had to be a number which was not going to be threatened by the increased population and agricultural things that need to be tended to around the world. I don't have it in my head but you can do it without having terrible clashes but those other big priorities.
Audience Member: And then my other question is if you'd coupled this or spoken to some of the people that are warning about the huge impacts on agricultural and food security because if those duel, that might work very well together in terms of an overall land strategy.
Dr. Lovejoy: Yeah, I've had some of those conversations. I haven't had a lot. The other thing I should add here is that when I first started putting this together the idea of there being an important number in this kind of calculus in terms of marine coastal systems, it was really hard to get any number at all. But increasingly it seems there's an additional significant amount that can be done in the way that we manage coastal ecosystems, so called blue carbon.
Moderator: We have a question from the Internet.
Audience Member: This is a question about how you actually put these restored areas back together. Do you see a strategy where reforesting ecosystems will require targeting the new higher temperature tolerant species for the reforestation efforts?
Dr. Lovejoy: The issue here is that the more climate change there is, the more the systems will be operating differently from what we know. Yes, we have to be realistic about all of that but I think the most important message is in fact that if you keep it below a certain level, it's much easier to manage as opposed to going out into some unknown frontier.
Gabby: Gabby [inaudible 00:34:17] with the Fish and Wildlife Service. You're talking about restoring. As we restore lands, as we restore ecosystems, we can't protect it all. We can't save all the species even though E. O. Wilson continues to talk about we have to save it all. In lieu of budgets shrinking, what advice will you give us in looking into the future as we restore, how do we look at species? How do we project and how do we protect in lieu of climate change?
Dr. Lovejoy: That is such a tough question. [laughs] I don't have a good answer for you except you have to be realistic. [coughs] And I think the real issue is being realistic but pushing the envelope in the right direction, as opposed to being realistic and just rolling over and letting it happen. There's a psychological gradient there that's really very important.
Gabby: In the surveys, we're growing a process where we're providing a guidance to our team in the field to look into surrogate species, a species where we will peak certain species that by protecting them, the protection will cascade into many others.
Dr. Lovejoy: Sure.
Gabby: How do you feel about the term "surrogate species?" It comes from Tim Carroll. But it's an approach that we think might help us do better conservation.
Dr. Lovejoy: I don't know that I'm wild about the term "surrogate," because it'll mean something technically, but the public may have difficulty understanding what that word means. But in a way that's not a completely new approach. I mean, that's what umbrella species were supposed to be. Choose the most appealing one, right? And let it bring along all the things that are hard for people to understand. There's one other thing, since we're on this. I think that most of us in the game to try and protect biological diversity actually miss a strong piece of the argument, which is basically, the biodiversity of the planet is an enormous living library for the life sciences. And on any day, some species which seems relatively esoteric, like a slime mold on the bank of the Zambezi River, may turn out to reveal something that, and this is a true case, turns out to be important in cancer treatment.
And it's really hard to sit down with the current knowledge of the species of the world and say which are most likely to produce interesting things for medicine, for example. Whoever would have thought that a bacterium in a Yellowstone hot spring would actually be responsible for generating something on the order of a trillion dollars of human benefit, which never gets counted anywhere?
Moderator: Next.
Rita Beer: Rita Beer, with the National Park Service. What do you think about the role or impact invasive species are having with potential recovery and climate change, particularly in reference to what's happening in western range lands with the replacement of perennial with native grasses and the changes in fire frequencies?
Dr. Lovejoy: So I'm not deeply expert on that. It just seems to me that with more climate change it becomes adds to the advantage that a lot of these invasive species has so it becomes yet another reason to try and keep this all within manageable bounds.
Audience Member: Another question from the Internet. This one going back to the viability of the U.N. REDD program. Do you think the REDD program will be effective despite including monoculturals and lands of just 15 percent tree cover in its definition of forest?
Man 1: So my own feeling about REDD is whatever the details, until something happens to really bring it to scale, it's not going to make that big a difference except in certain places. And really looking at how carbon relates to the economy and ways in which one could rearrange tax revenues so that we're taxing carbon would suddenly change the game for things like REDD. And, yes, having said all of that, the details are really important, and to the extent that which forests are looked at solely from a carbon perspective, it's really sort of like looking at a computer chip just as silicon. So we've got to be really careful in all of this that we don't set up incentives that actually have negative effects on biological diversity just because some particular eucalyptus, or whatever, grows really fast.
Linus: My names Linus, I am calling from the [inaudible 00:40:56] office. Could you talk a bit more about using the sea in either...I mean we're increasingly looking towards the sea for additional resources and innovation. Do you think on net it will be helpful for doing things on land or will it lead to a whole new can of worms? Because a lot of the stuff you talked about was basically land based, reforming farming agriculture on land, reforming trees on land. Do you think maybe something like kelp growing or mariculture will help alleviate a lot of the stress or will it get create a new can of worms that on net will be worse?
Dr. Lovejoy: Well, on so many of things it's all in the details, and my sense is that mariculture has a really importance place, but there is no sort of silver bullet for any of this. It's going to have to be a mosaic of different kinds of things that somewhere somebody is tracking to know that it adds up to what is a proper direction.
Audience Member: You have another question from the Internet. This is a follow up to the question about planting higher temperature tolerant species. If we do target new temperature tolerant species, we might not see benefits for decades until they are larger. I assume grown up. What climate targets should agencies shoot for, and if we miss, would these efforts come to naught? And in other words, if we spend a decade and plant the wrong species we might lose decades in which we could have otherwise made progress. How do we insure our choices maximize the benefits we're going for?
Dr. Lovejoy: So I can only give a sort of a general response to that kind of a question. You really just have to really look at the details and try and figure out where the unknowns are and what the risks might be involved in some of those unknowns. I know that's not a really great answer, but I don't know enough about the particular tree options in a particular place. But if you have some areas which need to be actually production forests, and so you get something that's a little closer to a monoculture, then I think there's every reason in the world to be really smart about the temperature sensitivities of the trees you're trying to grow.
Audience Member: I have a question. Before you were made president of the United States and asked how would you do this, I'm going to hit you as the scientist you are. We've involved in climate studies from physicists game to biologists, having demographers, and economists as we try to maximize return on investment. How would you orchestrate this so that we truly get something that is efficient and not a cacophony of special interest?
Dr. Lovejoy: So I think the challenge you propose really makes such a huge argument for interdisciplinary approaches know, we were talking earlier about an integrated plan for the Arctic. I mean I look at the Amazon on a regular and there is no integrated plan, and until there is an integrated plan it's going to get closer and closer to that tipping point. So you have to really have most of the parties at the table, most of the expertise at the table.
Audience Member: Another question from the Internet. This one's a follow up to your slide with the emerald planet and the awakening that you'd mentioned. Going back to your statement about victory gardens and engaging people to act with the common sense of purpose and duty, is there some key overarching message that we're missing that would rally a common consciousness around the urgency of this situation and the need for immediate action at global and local scales?
Dr. Lovejoy: So I don't know that I would actually wordsmith the rallying cry word by word, but I think at the heart of all of this has got to be the recognition this planet does not work just as a physical system. It works as a linked biological and physical situation, and it's pretty complex in the way that it does that. And to ignore that is basically, to our own peril. So let's get people back into contact with the natural world, understanding that it's not just something nice in the neighborhood park or the nearby national park, but it's also actually making the planet function.
So I had really interesting experience briefing the executive vice president of the Inter American Development Bank, Julie Katzman, who's just...I mean she's amazing. But she said to me, "I don't know anything about biodiversity. What should I read about it?" And for somebody who has that many things to pay attention to, I couldn't think of anything.
So I said, "Well, I do have a sort of a Biodiversity 101 PowerPoint. You can come over sometime, and I'll walk you through it." And when she saw the graph of increasing CO2 measured on top of Mauna Loa, and it goes up like that, and she realized that when it goes down, which is about six billion tons of carbon in the atmosphere, that's springtime in the northern hemisphere, I mean her eyes just got wide, right?
I mean that's the kind of thing that most people should actually know, and then they would feel very differently about what's going on with the living planet.
Audience Member: Another question from the Internet. This one's a bit of a definitional question. What do you think about the view of biodiversity as a result of a global economic system that is unsustainable?
Dr. Lovejoy: Could you ask that again so I really understand it?
Audience Member: Sure. I can read it word for word. What do you think about the larger view of biodiversity loss that posits that is a systematic result of a global economic system that is unsustainable?
Dr. Lovejoy: OK, so, I mean there are lots of flaws in our economic systems, and we call that "externalities," right? But we happen to live in the middle of externalities and depend on them. And so I don't think you'll ever have an economic system, which is inclusive enough to take care of everything perfectly, but it certainly can be a lot better. So I think some of the efforts that have been made like the economics of ecosystems and biodiversity, the TEEB, is very useful. Some of the national accounting exercises that are going on at the moment, some of the attention being paid by major corporations to environmental profit and loss could be quite revolutionary in how they change the way the economic system works with less downside for the environment. Yes.
Audience Member: Hi. Most of the world is very poor. What do we offer them besides fossil fuels to get them out of that?
Dr. Lovejoy: So most of the world is very poor, and the rest of the world lives extremely well, and perhaps better than we actually need to. So I think one of the things that has to go on is a redefinition of the quality of life. And I'm old enough to remember parents whose lives were marked by the Depression and by rationing in the second world war. There was a fundamental frugality in which they approached life which is lost in our throw away society. So having said that, I also believe there's no solution to a lot of these environmental problems until there is a reasonable quality of life for people in Amazon cities, for example, or the poor. The question was asked in terms of fossil fuel. I think the real answer to that is energy. It doesn't have to come from fossil fuel but energy clearly is part of advancing the lot of the billions of poor people today.
Audience Member: In what form? You're suggesting nuclear power?
Dr. Lovejoy: There is actually a lot of stuff going in distributed solar and others kinds of systems out there. It's not at scale yet but it's happening in a lot of places. Let me also go on to say I'm perfectly happy with the future from the perspective I've been talking about if fossil fuels are being burned but the CO2 doesn't go into the atmosphere. That's the issue. It's not fossil fuels per se, it's the gas waste product.
Moderator: Thank you very much and thank you all for coming. See you next year. [applause]

Speaker: Thomas Lovejoy, Chair, H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment and Professor of Environmental Science and Policy , George Mason University

Please click here for Dr. Lovejoy's Biography.