C. K. Chou
Associate Director of Energy and Environment
Is Key to Understanding Climate Change
IN March 2001, President
George W. Bush chose to delay support of the Kyoto Protocol, which
recommends that industrialized nations reduce their emissions of
carbon dioxide. The Kyoto Protocol is a product of the 1997 United
Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Although the protocol
addresses environmental issues, implementing it will affect the
nations industries and economy. The President reasoned that
the contribution of human-made carbon dioxide to climate change
is not yet understood well enough to form the basis for a national
More recently, the administration
sent a report to the United Nations indicating that human activity
may be affecting global climate change. As a leader in research
on climate change, Livermore plays an important role in developing
needed understanding of the complex causes behind our changing climate.
A recent organizational change
at Livermore has simplified the framework for that research. The
Energy and the Environmental and Earth Sciences directorates have
been combined into a single Energy and Environment Directorate,
allowing Laboratory research to more easily link environmental factors
to technologies related to energy production and use.
this new directorate, research focuses on three interrelated issues:
energy technologies (which may release carbon), management of human-made
carbon (which may reduce carbons effects on climate), and
global climatecarbon modeling. Understanding the complex interactions
between Earths system and human activities in the biosphere
requires that all three issues be examined as an integrated package.
The article entitled The
Outlook Is for Warming, with Measurable Local Effects is an
example of this integrated approach. In examining the climate record
to detect climate change, Livermore scientists separated, for the
first time, the effects of volcanic eruptions and El Niño
from the effects of human activity. Concurrently, they evaluated
the practical effects of the interplay of human activities and the
regional environment to reveal that while climate phenomena may
be global, the effects can vary from location to location.
Over the next century, fossil
fuel will remain the primary avenue for energy production and use.
Energy emissions, especially carbon dioxide, will be the impetus
behind a more comprehensive focus on the management of excess carbon.
At Livermore, our climate modeling capabilities will be used to
evaluate the effects of emission-producing energy technologies;
carbon processes in the biosphere; aerosols, weather, and air quality;
and water resources and their management.
An important technology option
being examined at Livermore and elsewhere for managing excess carbon
is carbon sequestration, which would collect emitted carbon and
pump it into the ocean or into rock formations to be stored for
thousands of years. Understanding the science behind carbon sequestration
will bring us one step closer to being able to manage our climate.
As a national laboratory,
Livermore does not make policy. Instead, it provides the scientific
understanding that enables policy makers to make informed decisions.
By integrating our disciplines and program activities, we are better
able to clarify complex scientific issues. Presenting an integrated
scientific position for those who do make policy helps to solve
challenges of enduring national and global importance.