This course is offered through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Colorado State University. You must be a member of Osher to enroll in this course.
Earth’s climate changes when energy inputs and outputs become imbalanced. As atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) increases, the rate of emission of heat from the Earth’s system decreases as well. So, the temperature must increase to re-establish balance with solar heating.
The role of CO2 in controlling Earth’s cooling rate has been well understood for over 150 years; and the absorption spectrum is extremely well measured. Unfortunately, Colorado is especially vulnerable to climate change because of our semiarid climate. Warmer air increases evaporative demand. With 3 million extra people expected to move to the Front Range urban corridor in the next 35 years. The additional evaporative demand will drive a major shift in water allocation away from agriculture. Forests are impacted by increased evaporation, longer growing seasons, and more frequent hot days.
World population is only expected to increase by 30% in this century, but energy demand is expected to increase by 300%, so our descendants will need to produce vastly additional energy than we do now. If this increase is done by burning coal, CO2 will more than double in this Century, compared to only a 40% rise up to the present. Solutions to this rising problem can range from improved energy efficiency (negative costs), to carbon capture, and sequestration (high costs). The total cost of a new non-carbon energy system is estimated to be about the same as retrofitting the world with indoor plumbing 100 years ago, and is certain to be much less than the costs of continuing carbon-based development.
Noncredit courses do not produce academic credit nor appear on a Colorado State University academic transcript.