David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University
Shale Gas: The Wrong Energy Choice for the 21st Century
Robert Howarth is an Earth systems scientist and ecosystem biologist. He earned a BA from Amherst College (1974) and a PhD jointly from MIT and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (1979). After several years as a staff scientist in Woods Hole, Howarth joined the faculty at Cornell University in 1985 and was appointed the David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology & Environmental Biology in 1993. In 2011, Howarth published the first comprehensive analysis of the greenhouse gas footprint of shale gas in Climatic Change Letters and an invited commentary on shale gas in Nature, cited in over 1,500 newspapers globally, winning Howarth an honorable mention as one of "50 People who Matter" in the annual Time Magazine Person of the Year issue for 2011. Howarth has published over 200 scientific papers, reports, and book chapters. His most recent book is the 4th edition of the text Essentials of Ecology (Begon, Howarth, and Townsend), scheduled for release in early 2014.
Abstract: Shale gas is widely promoted as a bridge fuel that allows society to continue to rely on fossil fuels while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, when emissions of methane as well as carbon dioxide are considered, shale gas has perhaps the largest greenhouse gas footprint of any fossil fuel. Without large reductions in emissions of both methane and carbon dioxide, the average temperature of the Earth will reach 1.5°C to 2°C above the 20th Century baseline within the next few decades, creating a risk of runaway feedbacks in the climate system leading to even more rapid warming and climate disruption. Given this risk, we simply must wean ourselves of all fossil fuels, but particularly shale gas, as quickly as possible. Building a future for the 21st Century that instead relies on wind, solar, and water power is not only possible, but cost effective now using existing commercially available technologies.
Friday April 25, 2014, Wang Center Theater, 7:30 pm