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Plenary 2 - Climate Change Consequences (afternoon),
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Merits of renewable energy debated
The importance of hydropower as a renewable energy source for mankind was re-emphasised yesterday to participants of the second plenary of the RSE symposium.
Dr John Briscoe, Professor of Practice of Environmental Engineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and School of Public Health, claimed that the percentage of global energy derived from the force of moving water has not been fully exploited in developing countries.
The former Senior Water Advisor at the World Bank blamed failures in international aid for this lack of progress and predicted that hydroelectricity will not be included as part of a new Clean Development Mechanism to be agreed at the Copenhagen Climate Conference.
He informed delegates that China and Africa still have large amounts of potential in this area of low-carbon energy, which he believes has more immediate benefits to humanity than both solar and wind power.
"Water is at the heart of dealing with climate change in both mitigation and adaptation", he said.
This viewpoint was countered by the contribution of Larry Li, Professor of Mathematical and Theoretical Ecology at the University of California Riverside, who claimed that the balance of ecosystems is drastically altered when generating renewable energy.
Controversially, he claimed that alternative energy sources can only provide ten per cent of the world's needs and that wind farms increase deforestation by altering the flow of moisture away from forests.
"Science must fully investigate what the creation of energy sources do to the entire ecosystem", he said.
A varied afternoon session - held just metres away from the continuous flow of the Old Man River - also explored the link between religion and science, as well as hurricanes and tornados.
The collection of theologians, scientists and environmentalists witnessed a video prepared for the meeting by the Russian physicists Dr Victor Gorshkov and Dr Anastassia Makarieva.
In this presentation, the professors of the Petersburg Institute presented a widely-held position; that increased deforestation will have a major effect on the circulation of moisture - leading to higher frequencies of tornados and hurricanes.
These weather extremes can be reduced by preventing condensation from gathering in small areas, which is a service that the forest canopy already provides, the video showed delegates.
The plenary, which was chaired by Dr Jerome Delli Priscoli, senior advisor to the US Army Corps Engineers, also featured Professor Hans-Peter Duerr of the Max-Planck Institute for Physics and Astrophysics.
Educating guests of the 'green patriarch' on the subject of Wirklichkeit - loosely defined as creative potentiality, the particle physicist - who studied under the father of the hydrogen bomb Edward Teller - explained that "the future is open".
"Sustainability only succeeds on the basis of genuine values, ethics and morality," he said. "We have to learn to think in a different way."
By Liam Hodkinson