I am delighted to have been asked to introduce Issue 4 of A Global Village which includes a focus on the unprecedented and interlinked challenges of climate change and providing clean, secure and affordable energy services.
In a world where some 20 percent of the global population still lacks access to electricity, and where climate impacts are likely to fall hardest on the poor and most vulnerable, it is all too easy to feel discouraged by the apparent lack of progress and urgency in tackling these issues at a political level in the developed economies. The task of doing so has of course been hugely complicated by the financial crisis over the last few years and the more recent and tragic events in Japan.
Fatih Birol made clear in his recent talk at Imperial College (see interview on page 58) the huge challenge that the world faces in providing the energy required in developed and, increasingly, in developing countries and at the same time limiting our integrated carbon dioxide emissions to an amount that is consistent with a change in global temperature near 2°C. It is certainly hard to see how a credible global mitigation strategy can completely cast aside a major technology such as nuclear power without having a clear idea of how it would be replaced and at what human and financial cost. However, the damage to the reactors at Fukushima has rightly revived questions about the risks of nuclear power. It has also generated heavy demands on Imperial College nuclear expertise to interpret and advise on its implications. Important energy supply decisions have to be made relatively quickly, but they must be made in a considered manner.
One of the great pleasures in taking up my role as Director of the Grantham Institute at Imperial was to see the vast range of the work going on here and the amazing quality of the people, both researchers and students. The ability and enthusiasm of the Imperial College student body for making a better tomorrow shines though in so many areas. A Global Village, which builds much needed linkages between the fundamental science and engineering at Imperial College and the real-world policy challenges of development, health, energy and climate, is a wonderful example of this talent, commitment and energy.
The A Global Village team are to be congratulated on pulling together another high quality publication. This current issue includes thoughtful essays on the potential future role of biofuels (Andrew Purcell, page 54) and solar power (Alice Jensen, page 49), the geopolitics of gas pipelines in a crisis-stricken part of the world (Akhmed Tillayev, page 46) and a piece that examines the hugely important issue of electricity market reform and electricity networks in the UK (Nick Hughes, page 41), which as a member of the UK Climate Change Committee I will read with particular interest.