Voices Of Innovation: Wallace Broecker

A professor at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and a leading researcher on the issue of global climate change.

Can we take action against global warming without seriously harming the economy?

A lot of people think we can take the steps needed at a cost of 1% to 2% of global gross domestic product. But it's not all negative. It would create new industries and bring a lot of construction work. And while time is short, it's not that short that we have to turn everything upside down and only spend money on this right now. When we stand way back and say, "If we could solve this problem for 30 cents more a gallon of gas," most people in the world would agree to that. It's not going to break us.

Are there innovative ideas for tackling the problem?

There's only one sure solution, and that's capturing CO2 and putting it away. [i.e., grabbing the carbon dioxide as it's produced when fossil fuels are burned, and storing it deep underground or turning it into rock.] It's not the only solution, but I think it's the ultimate solution.

What are the consequences if we don't try to combat global warming?

We still don't understand the mechanisms [of climate change], and it's scary that we can't tell what the future may bring.

It is a vast problem, and a dangerous experiment. Maybe Lindzen [Richard S. Lindzen, professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a noted skeptic of global warming] is right, and climate change will be a big bust. But to bet on that happening would be very dangerous.

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