Saul Griffith -- award-winning engineer, entrepreneur and National Inventors Hall of Fame member -- spent more than a year number crunching to arrive at an accurate model of an individual's contribution to climate change, and how to solve what is clearly humanity's greatest challenge.

Griffith partnered with the genius media firm Synthesis Studios to create one of the most impressive slide shows I've ever seen called Scarcity & Abundance. Saul presented the lecture both at PopTech and the Greener Gadgets conference, where I got a chance to see it. 

If you're done hearing about melting icebergs and drowning polar bears and want to learn about its real causes and potential solutions, I highly recommend sitting through the full 25 minutes (above). I guarantee you will be one of the smartest people at the table when you're done.

I took out a couple of the most important slides from the show in case you don't have time. First is the current project of energy use in a "business as usual" scenario 25 years from now (2033) when we would use 18 TW (terawatts) per year:

In order to stay below 450 PPM parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere, we will need to take advantage of the abundant carbon-free renewable sources available to us:

But how can we get there in time? Griffith says factoring in energy efficiency, which would knock us down to 15 TW, we would need 3TW nuclear, .5 TS in biofuels, 2 TW of geothermal, 2 TW of wind, 2 TW of solar PV, and 2 TW of solar thermal:

That sounds reasonable until you realize just how fast that conversion would have to take place based on where we are today. Every year for the next 25 years we would have to build....

  • 100 m2 of solar PV panels per second 
  • 50 m2 of solar mirrors per second
  • 1 huge wind turbine every 5 minutes
  • 1 nuclear 3G planet per week (we have eight planned for next decade in the U.S.)
  • 1 300 MW steam turbine every day
  • 1 olympic swimming pool of algae every hour (size of Wyoming)

In other words. It will be very, very difficult. Listen to hear Griffith's clever ideas about how to solve this seemingly unsolvable problem.

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