"Energy efficiency is the key to our future, there are no awards of this kind in the world, yet work in renewable energy technologies is extremely important," said Michael Nobel, the great-grandnephew of Nobel Prize founder Alfred Nobel.
In an interview with the Taipei Times yesterday, Michael Nobel shared his views on climate change, the Nobel Charitable Trust and feasible solutions to the energy crisis.
Nobel, who chaired the Nobel Family Society for 15 years until 2006, spoke about the Nobel Charitable Trust, which he and his cousins Philip, Peter and Gustaf Nobel established last year to reward young researchers or politicians in the fields of the environment and renewable energy.
“In the past 100 years or so, humans are rapidly consuming coal and oil … at the current consumption level, oil and coal will completely run out in 40 and 165 years respectively — we have got to find a working alternative,” he said.
Climate change is the most recent item on Nobel’s long list of social activism, which includes a non-violence project and a peace education program through music in schools. His work has won him the UNESCO Medal for Outstanding Contributions to the Cultural Dialogue between Nations and other awards.
However, Nobel feels climate change is “the most pressing and large-scale problem that the whole world is facing.”
“For the first time in human history, the world population is more city than rural concentrated — in 2028, the world will have an 8 billion population, 5 billion of which will live in cities, which means that more electricity will be needed for all of us to survive,” he said.
The rapid depletion of oil and coal and rising global temperatures has been caused by massive carbon emissions produced by human activities, Nobel said.
Citing the 2007 Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on climate change, Nobel said the ecosystem would soon collapse if energy consumption habits worldwide did not change soon.
“It is nonsense to say that we are ‘killing the Earth,’” he said. “The Earth is made of rocks and doesn’t even notice that we exist — rather, we are hurting the environment that we can survive in.”
The challenge facing the world now was that carbon emissions must peak within the next 10 years or it would face further catastrophic global temperature increases, he said, citing the IPCC report.
“According to the latest reports, only a handful of nations, including the UK and Germany, are reducing their emissions enough to meet the goals set by the Kyoto Protocol,” he said.
However, all is not lost as solutions are available, he said.
“The beauty of mankind is that we always come up with a solution in the end with research,” he said.
One possible solution was conserving unnecessary waste of energy, he said.
“It is ridiculous to see neon lights blasting at 2am in Manhattan — inexpensive computerized controls, such as ones produced by Taiwanese company CQi, can foster ‘intelligent environments’ and turn off systems not in use, including lights, air-conditioners and such,” he said.
Energies devoted to commodity transportation should also be re-prioritized, limiting import and export to non-replaceable items, he said.
“For example, it is idiotic for Taiwanese people to drink bottled water imported from France, since you have perfectly drinkable water here,” he said.