【從地球和人類發展看臺灣的永續能源選擇─李遠哲前院長專訪】 英文海報節錄版 （本翻譯版未經審訂，僅供參考） The Sustainable Energy for Taiwan, from the Earth and Human Development Point of View- An interview with Professor Yuan-Tseh Lee (Poster English Version) （This English translation is made for reference only; it is NOT officially reviewed.） [The impact of 2°C warming] For 4.6 billion years ever since the Earth was formed, the sun never stops shinning on it, all materials cycle and lives grow. Until the Industrial Revolution, humans started to exploit fossil fuels and stepped into the era of large-scale industrial and commercial production. Natural environment was widely damaged because of our arrogance. Only about 250 years since then, we found ourselves heading towards a no-through road: people start to worry fossil fuels will soon run out one day, but in fact © APANAC before that day, we shall face awkward life-threatening predicaments: exploding human population and consumptions, earth-shattering pollutions, and environmental variations. Nuclear War has been a fear for everyone since half century ago, and we are now facing two more upcoming crises, global-warming and biodiversity-disappearing. For the coming half century ahead, it is likely that the extreme climate brought by global warming will break through a “critical point” and enter an age of so-called "out-of-control fault". At this time, CO2 and CH4 will be coughed up off all oceans. Once CH4 is released from the Siberian tundra, global temperature will shoot up abruptly, no man Global effort is making to control the increase of global annual and only few living creatures can survive. average temperature to below the 2°C critical point, that is, to This is the scene that we humans may meet control the concentration of greenhouse gas to lower than 450 right within this century. So, what is it ppm. But even so, there is only 50% chance to achieve this goal. © www.port.ac.uk marked on the boundary stone of this critical point? -- 2°C! IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) had an evaluation in 2007 reporting that the average global temperature is 0.7°C warmer than it was before the Industrial Revolution. Lives on the Earth will be heavily frustrated once the warming is beyond the threshold of 2°C, therefore striving to avoid this happening has become the world’s goal (NB#1), which nevertheless has become a fantasy. And if we don’t try harder, we are expecting a 4~5°C warming by the end of this century.
Many people don’t fully understand the meaning of 2°C. They think “JUST 2°C!” -- the variation of temperature from dawn to nightfall is more than this scale, not mentioning the variation across four seasons. Those who live in the up North even look forward to this 2°C warming to bring them more comfortable climate. Unfortunately these are not true. 2°C is the temperature warming scale of global annual average. The Earth is a living system, very similar to human body in some way. 36.5°C is the average human body temperature; a 2°C warming in body is called “having fever”; 4°C warming without any Comparing with BC, global population has been growing rapidly after the Industrial cooling handling and your Revolution. Our earth can still provide human beings a comfortable living in 1950s, but after merely half a century, the population explosion has life will be in danger. If the environment brought consequences such as resource depletion, starvation and worldwide average “body temperature” environmental damage. © The U.S. Census Bureau of the Earth increases 2°C, seawater of all oceans will evaporate enormously into air, up into clouds, where huge energy tanks form. Once the energy is released, it transforms into what we see as typhoon, or many other forms of climate changes, and finally the extreme weather. For example, long drought following by violent rainfall then deluge. “Can the Earth bear all what human activities bring to it?” this is very important for us to keep in mind when bringing the issue of “sustainable development” into discussion, emphasized Professor Lee. [Sustainable development and sustainable energy] Brundtland stated in report of “Our Common Future” in the 1987 WCED (World Commission on Environment and Development) about the concept of sustainable development: "…the development is that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Regarding this, Professor Lee raised two questions: meet WHOSE needs? WHAT is development? Are the needs the needs of the West? Without a car, people in Los Angeles cannot reach most places to buy and do many things, so car is one of the basic needs in their life. Food is in shortage in many area of Africa, so food is the local needs in Africa. The needs of people around the world differ so much; “whose
The sun provides our earth enormous energy, of which one-hour supply can meet human needs for one year. Photosynthesis of plants, animals, forest, soil, microorganisms are all resources nurtured by the sun. © Peter Hannam/ brisbanetimes.com.au
needs are we to meet?” is a big key matter, whereas no global consensus has ever reached so far. Is the development the development of the West way? The model of the West development is to “produce more so people can consume more”. But is this endless consumption feasible? The increasing human population and consumption have exceeded what the sun can bear to recycle and have started to damage the Earth ecosystems. To our mother earth, today’s human development has reached to a level of “overexploitation”. Professor Lee hopes everyone to think deeply while discussing sustainable development: Indeed what purposes do we humans apply science and technology to develop economics? When we reach our purposes, we should try all the best not to destroy the ecosystems so that we can keep ourselves surviving on this earth. People now say that we should try to build “low-carbon” society, in other words, to not use fossil fuels which generate lots of CO2. The renewable energy and new energy that we keep talking about also means “back to the sun”. Our sun provides this mother earth enormous energy, of which one-hour supply can meet human needs for one-year. Solar, wind, geothermal, and ocean current powers all come from the sun. Some ocean energy like tidal power to do with earth or moon gravity is also a heritage from the sun. Photosynthesis of plants, animals, forest, soil, microorganisms are all resources nurtured by the sun. If we can make good use of these, our needs for living and life will be fulfilled very well, given that human population is under control of course. All in all, if we want a sustainable development, the use of resources and energy should ensure our coexisting with the nature. [Where would the energy come from for Taiwan half decade after?] In general, Taiwan is an “energy-importing” nation, 98% of our energy is imported. In addition, Taiwan is densely populated, its population density is 20 times to the United States, and about 200 times to Canada or Australia, therefore the sunlight per capita we can enjoy is very limited. All the same, we still have to try making the best of solar energy, although this energy cannot solely support our national development given Taiwan’s geography condition. In fact, if we keep today’s high-consumption lifestyles, it would be lucky enough to satisfy 10%~20% of our energy demands even if we add in wind power, hydroelectricpower and geothermal, biofuels and other renewable energy. Even though we can meet this 20%, another 80% is still depending on imports. With the rapid decrease in global energy resources, the cost of energy import will become more and more expensive, provided which, how are we going to acquire these 80%? Currently almost all Taiwan’s energy sources come from the imported fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are an un-reusable but high-efficient energy source, so the global markets of petroleum and coal are large. Each country buys their coals according to their needs, so does Taiwan. If one day humans do not use fossil fuels anymore, Taiwan will actually not be much affected. How come? It is because most of our energy still relies on importing; the only differences are which type of energy and where from. About this, our government needs to plan carefully ahead. Our scientists also need to study harder to develop new energy that suit Taiwan. Do not count solely on foreign countries. The fate of our own nation and society should be taken full control by ourselves. [Example Taiwan’s developing sustainable energy] Professor Lee exemplified several of Taiwan’s developing sustainable energy and provided some comments with greater scope:
Solar photovoltaics: Currently solar panels are costly, but with the progress of science and technology, green building and energy-saving lifestyle would be presented in various ways. Energy-saving materials will also continue developing. Once the technology is matured and goes mass production, the cost would be reduced. During the transitional period, if our government can provide positive support and incentives, the research and development of solar panels can continue, and people will be able to afford this energy. Therefore we should not underestimate the future economic values of solar energy because of its current high cost. From pure technical point of view, it is possible for Taiwan to lower the cost of solar energy in the coming several 10 years, as long as the government is acting at positive standpoint to support such development. In addition, an alternative way of acquiring solar energy is to develop the storage and transport of this energy through international cooperation. Professor Lee will meet with some key scientists from Asian-Pacific region this year to discuss future solutions for this area, including the energy issue. Australia is expected to show their potential power of making solar energy from their vast land full of abundant sunshine. They should be able to convert the excess into high-voltage direct current and export to many Asian countries where solar energy is needed.
Hydrogen economy: Hydrogen molecules do not exist on the Earth in the form of natural gas. Most of the hydrogen stays in water after combining with oxygen; therefore we are not using it as primary energy. Instead, we released it from water by applying other types of primary energy such as wind power, solar energy, or decomposed it by microbes. The released free hydrogen can then be used as fuel to produce electricity through chemical reactions. The hydrogen energy we store is not the electricity it produces but the hydrogen itself after chemical decomposition. In other word, if Taiwan needs to import hydrogen energy, we are not actually importing the electricity but the hydrogen. However, it is difficult to transport gas like hydrogen, and so liquid hydrogen is a better form for transportation. To do so, liquid hydrogen has to be kept in very low temperature for delivery, which involves many technical details and the costs are correspondingly high. Therefore, if Taiwan is to import this energy, we need to plan ahead the best solutions for these issues.
Biomass fuels: It is reasonable for the US and Brazil to develop biomass fuels because they both own big lands and less dense populations. But for Asia countries where population density is very high, it is not such a good idea to depend heavily on this energy type. For example, Taiwan is densely populated on relative small land and received limited sunshine per capita. Under this circumstance, developing biomass fuels in Taiwan will bring significant impact on local agriculture production and food self-supply. Therefore when trying to develop this type of energy here, it is better that we focus on the exploit of agricultural discards as the biomass resources.
Nuclear power: Current nuclear power development in Taiwan is not ideal. In order to avoid the expansion of nuclear weapons, the design of todayâ€™s nuclear reactor allows only less than 5% potential power of the real nuclear fuel substance, uranium-235 to be exploited, leaving the remaining 95% the nuclear waste after reaction. The reactor keeps producing so many nuclear wastes that we have so far no way to handle. In the end, all the problems are extended to our next generations to deal with. Nuclear power plant is not ideal not only because of the way the reactor is designed and operated, but its safety is unsatisfactory either. There are now many innovative ideas and
quite a few research teams seeking for solutions to nuclear wastes and nuclear safety problems. Professor Frank Shu’s MSBR (molten-salt breeder reactor) is one among them. MSBR was tried many years ago by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US, but the development did not continue due to a number of insurmountable technical problems. After reassessment, Frank’s Academy team thinks they can design it better. There are several features for their new MSBR that they are planning: in the system molten salt coolants are applied and nuclear fuels are dissolved into special molten salt --no water in the system so no hydrogen will be generated to cause any explosion, no need to locate the reactor near ocean or river sides so no risk of affecting marine ecosystem and no risk of tsunami attack after earthquakes; stable isotope Th-232 is used to convert to nuclear fuel U-233 that can be consumed quite completely in the chain fission reaction so to increase the effectiveness of reaction and reduce nuclear wastes; radioactive fission products from MSBR have short half-lives of 30 years and can be packed into dry casks and stored underground for another 300 years to become rare mineral substances with great economic values in future; high-level nuclear wastes from traditional LWRs such as Pu-239 can be recycled into useful nuclear fuels in the MSCR (molten-salt converter reactor) and consumed so that the nuclear waste problems of LWRs may be resolved (please refer the details to Frank’s column in 2013Q2). If all these ideas can be achieved, it may provide solutions to some of the problems of current LWRs. Professor Lee agrees with this, but he does not regard that Taiwan's current industrial technology can achieve this research alone. He strongly recommends that we must seek for cooperation with countries in Europe and America where with advanced science and technology in nuclear power development if we don’t want to miss opportunities for this project to achieve great goals. Professor Lee believes that in a stable land it is possible to deliver good security to nuclear power plants by well-designed monitoring systems. However, he stressed, for Taiwan, earthquakes are an important variable that can make situations much more complicated and turn down everything. Taiwan’s LWRs has long been denounced having many problems associating with operations and management, not to mention this island being situated on seismic zones. “Do I believe in Taiwan’s nuclear safety? If you are asking me, I would say Not Really!” said Professor Lee. For Taiwan he does not think nuclear energy is a sustainable energy, and it is not an appropriate energy option either. But it is worthwhile to encourage researches to find better solution to current nuclear power problems, such as optimizing the effectiveness of nuclear power reactors, or reducing nuclear wastes and pollutions, on the other hand, nuclear power can still offer great contributions to the world if global nations can sit down to discuss the collaborations of developing new generation nuclear reactors. If everyone agrees to build nuclear power plants only in stable lands rather than inappropriate area such as where by the sea or on earthquake belts, then countries with suitable conditions to build nuclear power stations can export their nuclear energy to where unsuitable to develop nuclear energy. 5.
Carbon neutral, carbon recycling─carbon capture and storage (carbon capture and sequestration; abbreviated CCS): In addition to developing low-carbon energy, an alternative option for "low carbon” is to recycle or neutralize carbons exhausting from human activities. “Torrefaction” is one of the options besides planting trees or using renewable energy with low carbon emission. Our sun provides energy for the greens to grow, and we burn plants into charcoal through torrefaction. Torrefaction as a whole is “endothermic reaction”, during which a part of the absorbed energy is released into air during the combustion and another part is used for carbon neutral. The released heat can 5/10
be recycled using heat exchangers but the heat is actually relatively little. The key benefit of torrefaction is that through it the energy and carbon can be captured and retained. Lee mentioned an example of torrefaction from his childhood experience. At the time people escaped the war into mountain area, Taiwan acacia (acacia confuse) were chopped off to make blackened charcoals, which then were burned to use for cooking and boiling hot waters. People burn charcoals rather than firewood, so very little smoke. Carbon farms in Australia and South America and the “supertorrefaction” by Frank’s Academy team are all trying to grow fast-grown plants and then torrefying them into charcoals. The main purpose of doing this is for carbon sequestration rather than making biomass or renewable energy, which benefits the environment not just locally but globally. Therefore, don’t burn out the forests; keep them as the bases of photosynthesis and carbon sequestration. The recovered carbon can be further grounded into powder and sprinkle back to earth to optimize soil qualities. If Taiwan cannot avoid using fossil fuels within this half century, we should at least try to reduce carbon dioxide produced by coal power. The current approach is CCS, burying the gas into underground. Professor Lee said, “We should strive towards developing researches for this, but our government works rather slow for supporting it. For example, stratum studies are essential for carbon sequestration, it is one million US dollars for each hole punched into ground. This is by no means a thing affordable by any academic scholar or any university professor, but needs large-scale planning by the government and international collaborations together to make it happen.” Last year in the “2012 Taiwan Symposium on Carbon Dioxide Capture, Storage and Utilization”, Dr Li-Fu Lin invited scientists from Australia, Japan, Malaysia, and China to brainstorm how to resolve Asian energy issues for future. “Asia countries should learn from the European Union, which are very organized." Professor Lee stressed, if we cannot cross the boundaries of sovereign national interests and turn these to 'global' collaborations with mutual support, then nothing can be solved. [Global collaborations to solve the problems of sustainable development] Britain before World War II used to describe their own Empire as “the sun never sets”, because the Empire has colonies all over the world for the sun to always shine on. By contrast, each single country has its own weather and time-zone condition, the supply of sunlight or wind power can be unstable. Whereas, if all nations work together as one “community”, the problems of use natural renewable energy can easily be solved. Same to this for Taiwan, to develop future sustainable energy, we should find ways to cooperate with other countries to establish “energy networks”. Today there are still international barriers and conflicts of individual interest between countries. Therefore, by means of connecting among more and more global organizations and communities, we hope to lower international boundaries and move towards globalization. This is the road we ought to finish by the end of this century. With the increasing human activities and communications, problems we are facing today are often “global” issues. Ozone depletion, greenhouse effect, spread of the epidemic, poverty and hunger, forest conservation, biodiversity loss and other issues are all ongoing across borders. There is contradiction between “International collaboration" and "international competition". If everyone continues focusing on their concerns of self-interest and cannot work together as a global community to deal with problems, we can resolve no issues. Perhaps no need to await another 50 years, we will soon find out that our earth has been degraded to the extent that no
man can ever survive in. By then we shall know we are our own enemy. We are heading to a dead-end for this but still don’t see it. Professor Lee has been trying to promote the idea of “breaking boundaries, walking to the global world”. Scientific communities should not do their own, but remove international barriers with sovereign national interests, and work for the "whole earth" for the future of humanity and development. He emphasized that scientists should work together with scholars in the area of humanities and social science who concern with global environment. Scientific communities should not do their own, but work for the "whole By means of the interdisciplinary earth" for the future of humanity and development. This is the road we cooperation, we are to assess the ought to touch down by the end of this century. © Henry Mühlpfordt impacts and influences on human society that science brings, and to identify ways to address and resolve the problems. Science development should move from “international” scale towards “global” scale, so that human society can continue developing sustainably. Unfortunately, for this there is still no consensus in many countries. In the 2012 Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, a lot of scholars and civil societies are in favor of drawing up a greenhouse gas international standard protocol to reduce carbons. The academia that has global visions can only make suggestions behind the sidelines. Whereas, politicians that not necessarily have the consensus of global perspectives are the actual one in control of the game-- policy decisions. This is the existing major contradiction now a day. So, to get things working, researchers have to find ways to influence the policy decisions. Conflicts among the national, international and global interests, “we the elderly were not able to resolve, younger generations need to find your ways”, said Professor Lee in earnest. “We at our time did not manage to connect globally, but younger generation is not the same”. This is the first time in human history that the world is connected together through an internet. What we cannot make in the past, now it is all possible. That is, the current generation already owns the potential to break international boundaries and make a global link. Professor Lee has stressed repeatedly that the future has no hope without breaking the boundaries to the world. Sovereign states cannot work together to achieve anything, but the global links can. [Carbon reduction+enewable energy≠sustainable development] The GDP that the nature outputs to humans is much higher than the GDP from our own input. For example, one-third of the food we eat reply on the pollination by bees and butterflies. It is no doubt that we can bring greenhouse gases under control if all energy we need comes from the sun. We may find a way out for carbon reduction and sustainable energy issues by means of scientific research and development and global policy cooperation. Nevertheless if we keep consuming resources endlessly, the day when all the forests and the green lands are replaced by concrete, and when ecosystems are destroyed and biodiversity is disappeared, is the day we human beings vanish from the Earth. Humans cannot live alone; therefore, some old ways of thinking must change! 7/10
The GDP that the nature outputs to humans is much higher than the GDP from our own input. If we keep consuming resources endlessly, the day when all the forests and the green lands are replaced by concrete, and when ecosystems are destroyed and biodiversity is disappeared, is the day we human beings vanish from the earth. Left image © Nature Blog Network; Right image © WallpaperWeb
First of all, so far as the world's development went, the exploding of human population and consumptions has forced humans to face our future. We inevitably have to try “live better, for less” for the sake of the sustainable development of our human society. This is not to ask everyone back to live in primitive ways, but to urge people not to allow science perish nature while we are applying it. Living with the nature is not mutually contradictory with the development of science, technology, and economics. On the very contrary, science should work as a bridge to communicate between human development and nature. Reducing energy consumption and improving energy efficiency are the direction that human society should follow in the future. “How to live the best life with the minimal resource?” Industry can open their gates for various advanced development with this logic. For instance, 20 years ago, refrigerator consumed 1000 watts per hour, and now about 130 watts of electronic power. The automobile industry has been moving towards a new era to develop electric vehicles. The construction industry designs and builds their houses following the principle of “allowing people the most comfortable living with the least daily energy consumption”. Secondly, it is wrong to believe “high quality of life = high consumption, or high consumption of life”. High quality of life can be a perfect combination of nature and humanity life. Reading, playing musical instruments, cultural, music and sports activities within community settlements, hiking, home gatherings, seeing art exhibitions, etc. These are all the activities with limited energy consumption, but can lift the quality of our life. Furthermore, social structure, manufacture and production, as well as consumption habits must also change, which is especially important for the densely populated Taiwan. Industry must be restructured. The manufacturing and merchant products should be durable and the warranty and lifespan should not be shortened for commercial interests. The industry should not promote public consumption by means of pushing little improved innovation every now and then and all the time. WE SHOULD THINK OF WAYS TO CREATE HIGHER VALUES BY USING FEWER RESOURCES. Consumers should not consider popular grass always greener and always chase after fashion. We actually can live better life with less material consumptions. Social structure needs change too, by allowing people to have everything of their daily life reached within easy distances by walking, riding, or MRT. For this, in Taiwan, the establishment of widespread networks of multi-functional convenience stores has set a very successful
example. We should be aware that it is a no through road if we continue our way of mass production and mass consumption for daily life and for economic development. [Enough time for a change?] The crisis of extreme climate that humans are to face may be happening in 30~50 years of time. Before that day, we need not only be able to reverse our existing values coming from “long-term indoctrination", but need also a real and solid change of behavior in daily life. Professor Lee said “we may face no hope for future if the changes cannot be achieved in 10 years.” In Taiwan, there are policy plans for the development of energy, society and sustainability. However, these plans are more as paper works. Professor Lee thinks the Taiwanese rulers didn’t make enough effort to try to make the plans implemented. There used to be a Sustainable Development Committee directly hosted by the Executive Yuan to be responsible for these tasks, but this unit has now been downgraded to a chamber group in an Office section under a subordinate Bureau of the Executive Yuan. In addition, Taiwanese people do not seem to sense the vital need of "need to change". They didn’t realize the fact of relationship between the greenhouse effect and the natural disasters happening in these recent years. This is partly because that Taiwanese people are always passive to the engagement in the affairs of public domain. Many people have the traditional Confucius idea as “self Qijia rule the world”, based on which they give all priority to the interests of their own and their small circle, then consider their family welfare, then the nation, and finally the issues for the peace of the world. To tell the truth, there are indeed quite some civil progresses, more and more people consider extreme climate and sustainable development important matters, but it hasn’t coagulated into a pressure that significant enough to push the government to handle the issues. Whether the new nuclear power plant-IV should continue or cease? This public issue is now put forward for debate. Professor Lee sees this good thing to Taiwan, by which he hopes Taiwanese people begin to care more about public issues. “Leaving debts to offspring” is currently the most serious problems happening in Taiwan. Professor Lee said, “I always tell young people to grasp their own future, not to believe people, who are no longer living on this planet 50 years later.” Do not just think following the idea or past experience of the elders, or being manipulated by media propaganda. Young people should take the initiative to reflective thinking, shorten the gap between "the reality and the ideal", and find the best way for their own future well. [Final words: live better..for less] To sum up, there are two subjects to get implemented for Taiwan’s sustainable development. The first is reducing energy consumption, reducing carbons, and developing renewable sustainable energy. At the same time, social development also needs to keep up with the pace. We need to act public advocacy “living a better life with minimal resources”, starting from Taiwan and influencing the Asian and then the world. Second, we have to look ahead and think about the future of “where and how the energy comes from?” This involves the policy not only of energy but also of the national development as a whole, and even
As the world's development went, the exploding of human population and consumptions has forced us to face our future. We inevitably have to try “live better, for less” for the sake of the sustainable development of our human society. © ASIAA
involves the global world that everyone needs to work together to achieve. At the end of the interview, Professor Lee final addressed his wish to young people, “I could not help you with my little influence to urge the government or world to take action, but I hope all young people to be awaken and think about what you really want for your future and act to grasp it”. (Data & Writing /Joyce Chen, Interviewers/Joyce Chen and Chun-Hui Yang) NB#1. Currently the world tries to control green gas level to the level under 450 ppm, but even so, we only have 50% chance not to let the warming exceeding 2°C.
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Published on Aug 12, 2013