complete analyses of difficult questions, add technical realism to energy policy, and avoid simplistic views, which helps Congress figure out which technologies will have the greatest benefit at the least cost. Recent controversies over the energy-saving potential of biofuels or of changes in daylight saving time are good examples of the need for reliable information, Bingaman observed. “I would feel much more comfortable knowing that we were basing policy decisions about energy and climate on the best information available.” Policymakers also can use the information in these reports to push for more aggressive action by the federal government.
Another essential need is to communicate the urgency of the situation to the public. “Not enough of us spend enough time talking to the public,” said John Holdren. “I suggested in my AAAS presidential address last year that everybody in the science and technology community who cares about the future of the world should be tithing 10 percent of his or her time to interacting with the public in the policy process on these issues, and a lot of that is just giving talks. Wherever I go and give talks about these issues, the reaction is: ‘I didn’t know that. I had no idea how big this problem was. What are the opportunities for addressing it?’ If all of us just got out there and talked to the public more and talked to policymakers more, we would get some of this done.”
Dan Reicher emphasized that a focus on solutions is often more productive than a focus on problems. “The public has, to some extent, become numb about the problems,” he said. People realize that the challenge is immense, but they do not realize how straightforward and cost-effective many of the solutions are. For example, many people can be motivated to take action, Reicher said, by providing them with information about the energy used in their homes and businesses and laying out a plan for no-cost, low-cost, and medium-cost initiatives.
However, it is also important to emphasize that the problems will not be easy to solve, several speakers said. “We always have to communicate that we can do it, but it’s not going to be easy, … and it’s going to cost,” said Steven Specker. Also, all options need to be considered. “We need everything,” said Specker. “Each country, each state, each community may decide to deploy or not deploy certain technologies, but as technologists, our message has to be that we need to be working on everything.”
In an uncertain world, no single approach is guaranteed to work. Some currently promising technologies will not work, and others will arise that are not currently anticipated. “As many people have observed, there is no single magic bullet,” said Harold Shapiro.