Context: Energy and Climate
The physical sciences hold the key to solving a problem of immense importance to this and subsequent generation — the challenge of producing the energy required to meet the rapidly escalating demands of a global society that will approach a population of 10 billion by 2050 with a rapidly increasing standard of living in developing countries. The global consequences of the choices made to supply the rapid increase in primary energy demand are reflected directly in the Earth’s climate structure. constraints on how this primary power is generated and distributed emerges directly from an analysis of the feedbacks and associated irreversibility within the climate structure of the Earth that in turn set the time scale for corrective action. A solution to the problem set by the collision between global energy demand and the constraints on policy choices is a challenge that demands answers based upon scientific and technical advances initiated now, but extending over decades into the future. This in turn establishes an imperative for the development of new observational strategies that are linked directly to innovative modeling approaches that directly address the most potent feedbacks in the climate structure. Because it is the feedbacks in the climate structure that set the time scale for irreversible change, our research strategy is to attack the quantitative understanding of these feedbacks with a series of new observational methods as summarized in the adjoining figure.