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.
LOOPHOLES: The people behind biased media content produced by a Chinese network, likely without sending staff to Taiwan, remain anonymous, a source said Beijing’s latest attempt at psychological warfare through heavily biased online media is aimed at sowing discord and polarizing Taiwanese society, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said. The council’s comment came in response to Chinese network Southeast Television, which late last month began broadcasting an online program featuring commentary by Taiwanese unification supporters that authorities suspect was filmed illegally in Taiwan. To circumvent cross-strait regulations, the broadcaster collaborated with online service provider Baidu to air the series titles Diverse Voices From the Taiwan Strait (台海百家說). Only Taiwanese are shown on camera, without revealing the host, interviewer or production team. In one video, political commentator and
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A group of overseas Taiwanese in Norway are taking a case on their national identity to the European Court of Human Rights — with plans to file the case in the first half of next year — after Norway’s Supreme Court rejected their appeal to change their listed nationality from “China” to “Taiwan,” Joseph Liu, a Taiwanese lawyer living in Norway, told reporters on Monday. One of the initiators of the movement, “My Name, My Right,” Liu and his group plan to hire lawyers from the UK and France who know European law and have knowledge of Asia to represent them,
SUPPRESSION: Michael Tsai, a former defense minister, said that Beijing’s list of Taiwan independence advocates contravenes the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights The best way to respond to threats from China against Taiwan independence advocates is for the president to publicly reiterate Taiwan’s sovereignty, former minister of national defense Michael Tsai (蔡明憲) said on Sunday. Chinese media on Nov. 15 said that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was compiling “a list of stubborn Taiwanese separatists and will severely punish them in accordance with [China’s] Anti-Secession Law and hold them accountable for their actions for the rest of their lives.” Chinese media subsequently accused Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) of being a “first-rate war criminal,” because of his policy on mask exports. “The vast majority