Taipei Times: In your speech, you used the ‘Titanic’ crashing into an iceberg as a metaphor for the problem of climate change. Can you give an estimate as to when the crash would happen?
Steven Chu (朱棣文): It’s a gradual crash. We have already seen a substantial change in climate, sea level rising, the melting of glaciers all over the world … The heat is bleaching coral at a faster rate, the number of forest fires has increased, so you can go down the list of things that are related to increases in heat and melting of polar caps … The Tibetan plateau and the Himalayas actually feed water to many of the major river basins around the world, like the Ganji River, the Yellow River … [Polar caps are] melting at a rate more than 1m in thickness a year now, but because it stretches over millions and millions of square miles [kilometers], it means a lot of water. I’ve heard stories where in India the Ganji water level has risen, it always goes up and down but the average level has risen to the point where it displaces people who live around the water, and they’ve become refugees.
This is predicted to accelerate. Pine forests in the US and Canada are dying. When the forests die we’re very exposed to floods because the mountainsides no longer have trees, and if it rains then there’s a lot of erosion.
In California and many places around the world, the moisture’s kept in the mountains by trees and snow and if you don’t have snow or trees, what happens during the wet season is you have floods, and instead of a continuous supply of water you would get floods and droughts. We’ve begun to see these effects in the last decade, and the predictions are it’s going to get much, much worse.
TT: So what are our options?
Chu: We want it to be bad, but not awful. In order to keep it at just “bad,” we have to immediately start decreasing the amount of energy we use. That doesn’t necessarily mean that everybody doesn’t heat their homes or turn on air conditioning.
For example, the lighting in this building doesn’t really have to be as bright as it is.
TT: How can we use energy more efficiently?
Chu: It turns out that most people don’t understand how to build buildings. The reason I say that is because there is a major US company called United Technologies, they make air conditioning, building control systems, elevators, helicopters, jet engines … They’re a very high-tech company.
In one of their buildings — a high-rise building maybe 50 stories high — the architect changed the window and did things in such a way that it became impossible to cool the upper 15 stories of the building below 85 degrees [Fahrenheit, 29.4ºC]. So they had to do a lot of re-engineering, but the design architects and the structural engineers weren’t really talking to one another and didn’t fully understand the airflow patterns. Usually people keep the airflow pattern very simple, there’s an inlet and an outlet and you just force the airflow to happen, but forcing it could also be fighting against natural convection and the natural design of the building, making it much more energy-intensive.
TT: Are energy-efficient buildings more expensive to build than regular ones?
Chu: Energy-efficient buildings will pay for themselves. For example, if you have a building with a flat roof, and you make the roof white, such as using white pebbles instead of dark ones, depending on the shape of the building, you can be reducing 10 [percent] to 20 percent of the air conditioning load.
There’s a recently published paper from people in our laboratory that says, if you take only the city buildings that have flat-topped roofs and make them light-colored, and make the roads light-colored by using cement, the amount of carbon dioxide decreased is equivalent to taking all the cars in the world [carbon emission] and turning them off for 10 years.
Rooftops don’t cost much money, and it saves on air conditioning, as well as reflects the light back from where it came from. These are things which we should be doing today. It’s actually pure ignorance.
The architects fought against this for a while, because they felt that nobody should tell them what color their roofs should be, even though you can’t see the roof, by the way. Having a white roof will not dramatically alter your lifestyle. If you have white roofs and lighter colored pavement, you will notice the cities becoming cooler. Cities are much hotter than in the countryside during the summer, because they’re absorbing all this energy and also generating energy from air conditioning. So we should be doing this a few years from now.
DOING ENOUGH? The HPA budgets NT$1.3 billion to prevent the health hazards of tobacco, but has no separate budget to fight teen drinking, a doctor said The government should step up alcohol education and prevention efforts, and allocate more of the budget to it, doctors said on Friday, citing the high consumption of alcohol among Taiwanese adolescents. One out of four 12-to-17-year-olds has consumed alcohol, said Yen Tsung-hai (顏宗海), director of Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital’s Department of Clinical Toxicology. The Health Promotion Administration (HPA) budgets NT$1.3 billion (US$43.9 million) annually to prevent the health hazards of tobacco, but it has not allocated a separate budget for preventing teenage drinking or excessive alcohol use, Yen said. “There is no so-called ‘safe drinking level’ for minors,” because any amount consumed
The Fancy Frontier manga and anime expo held in Taipei over the weekend has sparked controversy, after a participant allegedly contravened the Act on Offenses Against Sexual Morality (妨害風化罪) by publicly exposing her private parts during a photo shoot. The two-day event opened at the Expo Dome at the Taipei Expo Park on Saturday, attracting numerous comic and anime creators, cosplayers, photographers and fans. Allegedly, a female cosplayer who was not wearing any underwear lifted up her skirt and revealed her private parts at an outdoor photography area near the venue. Event organizers said yesterday that to prevent indecent exposure, they have since
DREAMING OF TRAVEL: About 7,000 people applied for the experience, with about 60 chosen for the first flight yesterday, which includes boarding an airplane Starved of the travel experience during COVID-19? Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) has the solution — a fake itinerary where you check in, go through passport control and security, and even board the aircraft. You just never leave. The airport yesterday began offering travelers the chance to do just that, with about 60 people eager to get going, albeit to nowhere. About 7,000 people applied to take part, with the winners chosen by random. More fake flight experiences are to take place in the coming weeks. “I really want to leave the country, but because of the pandemic, lots of flights cannot fly,”
YOUNGEST PATIENT: Cases of botulism have been only sporadically reported over the past few years, with two in 2015, six in 2016 and none in the past three years The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday reported the nation’s first case of infant botulism this year, a four-month-old boy in northern Taiwan, as well as five new cases of Japanese encephalitis confirmed last week. The boy was introduced to homemade solid food in the middle of last month, but began to experience constipation and loss of appetite on June 23, CDC Epidemic Intelligence Center Deputy Director Guo Hung-wei (郭宏偉) said, adding that he was taken to the hospital when he developed a fever and shortness of breath on June 25. In the hospital, the boy also experienced a rapid heartbeat, limb