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Can we solve the problem of global warming?
Root: The answer to that is yes. The trouble is the time period within which we are going to be able to do that. Right now, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has put forward various scenarios, various stories that could happen in the future, and one of them is saying that if we have a very cooperative world where technology is traded very easily, then by 2050 we will indeed be able to decrease the amount of greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere. If we continue on business as usual, that's not going to happen for about a 100 years or so. So it really depends upon what we as people do and we can't--we can't--do that, and each one of us can do something. That will make a huge difference.
Too much has been talked about. What should be the action time?
Root: Right now. We have to actually start doing things as soon as we possibly can because what's happening is that we are putting enough greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that it is going to affect generations--many, many generations down the line. There is a new report out by Royal Society, which is a bunch of scientists in England, and they are saying that what we are doing right now is going to affect 500 generations from now. That is a very, very long time. People need to understand that what we are doing now is affecting people in the future.
Three things to combat climate change
Stanford scientist has three wishes.
Are you satisfied with the research being done in environment sciences?
Root: Well, I am not sure I would even agree with that. Some of the developed countries have done quite a bit, and if you look at what our government is wanting us to look at and see how much money we put into the filthy research for global warming in America, it looks like a very large number. But if you break it down into what is actually being funded, very little of it is coming to various scientists. So, it's a bit of smoke and mirrors.
How do you see the contribution of developing countries in addressing this problem?
Root: Right now what we are saying is that it is the U.S. and other developed countries that have caused most of this problem. The developing countries have caused very little. As for the developing countries, they should not go through the Victorian revolution as the U.S. and the rest of the developed world has done. They should leapfrog over into the future. They can have cell phones instead of wires, make cars that are more efficient; they don't need to go through having coal-fired power plants; they can do natural gas, solar, wind, all sorts of different things, but they need help. They can't do it on their own.
What would be the three things you would like to see happen immediately?
First, I would like for us to stop having so much greed. Because if we have less greed, we will have more cooperation, and that will help us to get a better planet. Second, I think if we stop tribalism, that will also make a big difference instead of saying "that's their fault; we don't need to worry about them." A power plant in Beijing is the same as a power plant in Boston. It puts the particles into the air and the gases into the air, and it's affecting all of us. The third one, I think what I would like is for people not to be afraid of trying to solve a very large problem. This can be solved by breaking it into small pieces, and we can do that. We just have to do that.
What should be the focus of researchers to help stop global warming?
Root: We need to be spending a lot more money on energy possibilities, on wind, on solar, on geothermal. We are spending so much on nuclear and on coal in subsidies; take those subsidies and put them into the research for these others. It will make a huge difference.
What have you done yourself?
Root: Well, my husband and I have just done a big remodel of our house, and we did it green. We have put in energy-efficient windows, insulation, a special roof, a timer on our heater so that it isn't on all the time, and we have only florescent light bulbs in our home. Now, if we weren't going to do a remodel, we wouldn't have done them. They would've cost us too much. But when you are doing remodel...do it. The other thing we do is we drive a hybrid, and I love driving the hybrid. I live close enough to my work that I walk. It's these little things that make a big difference.
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