To what extent will renewable energy be a critical factor in reducing climate change?
It is becoming more generally accepted that human-induced climate change is already happening. People, particularly in those places where the climate is already at its most extreme, struggle with the impacts of global warming every day, and its observed effects are becoming increasingly and rapidly obvious to us all.
This will be the subject of this year's Lord Milford Science in Society Debate to be staged at Plas Gogerddan, Aberystwyth, this month. The debate is open to the general public and is held under the auspices of Aberystwyth University and the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research (IGER), soon to merge into IBERS, the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences. It will be chaired by Professor Chris Pollock*, the former Director at Plas Gogerddan, and will feature two eminent speakers whose views on climate change are well known.
One source of renewable energy which is believed to be able to make a contribution to the climate change issue is the substitution of fossil fuels with bioenergy in the form of solid biomass and liquid and gaseous biofuels. However some biofuels have recently come under criticism with respect to sustainability and land take, including competition with requirements for food. Research groups, including scientists at IGER, are working on perennial biomass crops and addressing potential problems of biofuels by looking at a range of alternative feedstocks and carrying out feasibility studies, taking into account economic, social and environmental issues.
George Monbiot, the 'take-no-prisoners' environmental champion of The Guardian, journalist and author, will enter the debate alongside Sir John Houghton, a climate scientist who has worked on climate change for several decades, first as head of the Met Office, and then as co-chair of the Scientific Assessment Working Group of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Monbiot, now residing in Machynlleth, will claim that preventing two degrees of global warming - the stated aim of the British government and the European Union - requires more or less the total cessation of greenhouse gas production, and possibly additional measures as well, such as capturing carbon dioxide from the air. He maintains that the government's targets are completely out of line with its aims, and even these targets are likely to be comprehensively missed as the government gives permission for new coal-burning power stations, roads and airports. Monbiot talks about the technical and political measures required to prevent runaway climate change.
Sir John Houghton, now residing in Aberdyfi and one of the world's top climatologists, says global warming leading to climate change is as great a threat to the world as "weapons of mass destruction". Sir John, who writes and lectures widely on the relationship between Christian faith and environmental concerns, and who was one of the founders of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, once accused Tony Blair of failing to stand up to George Bush on the issue of climate change and putting mankind in jeopardy.
A bottle of champagne will be awarded by Chris Pollock for the best contribution from the audience on the night.
Background and Information
A donation by Lord Milford has made these annual debates possible. The aim is to explore issues of agricultural science, practice and policy that have relevance to the research carried out at the Institute, with the intention of informing and entertaining an audience comprising academics, scientists, agriculturalists, land users and the general public. This is the second Milford Debate to be held at Plas Gogerddan. The motion of the first Debate (held in 2004) was 'reduced meat consumption is an essential requirement for sustainable agriculture' and was upheld by a vote of 3:1.
The debate is to take place on Tuesday 15th April at William Davies Hall, IGER, Plas Gogerddan, at 7pm. Entry to the event is free but is by ticket only. Tickets should be obtained in advance from Liz White (phone 09170 823090) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Chris Pollock is currently working part-time for the Welsh Assembly Government's First Minister in a one-year 'pathfinder position' to examine the role of scientific expertise and advice in the government of Wales. He is Chair of ACRE (the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment), a Fellow of the Royal Agriculture Society and of the Institute of Biology and was made a CBE for services to the environment in June 2002. He is an eminent speaker on sustainable agriculture and environmental issues.
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