PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — As world leaders join together at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, to try to formulate a plan to battle global warming, two books by the president of the University of Maine at Presque Isle are adding to the discussion.
Don Zillman, who has been president of the university since 2006, was invited to contribute a blog post for the Oxford University Press Web site summarizing the key predictions of a book he co-edited, “Beyond the Carbon Economy: Energy Law in Transition.” The “Countdown to Copenhagen” post appeared Dec. 3.
“It is very exciting to be a part of the conversation that is going on around the world about climate change,” he said Tuesday. “This is a very important topic that deserves the attention it is getting.”
The book, published by Oxford University Press in 2008 and co-edited by Zillman, Catherine Redgwell, Yinka O. Omorogbe and Lila K. Barrera-Hernandez, predicts worldwide consequences if businesses, government leaders and individuals do not look beyond carbon for energy.
The Copenhagen summit began Dec. 7 and ends Friday.
Zillman’s blog post weighs how predictions in the book have held up two years after its publication. He said the authors are comfortable with the projections made in the book.
He says in his blog article that the consortium of 33 authors from 20 nations who put “Beyond the Carbon Economy” together were law professors, practicing lawyers and participants in public policy in the fields of energy, natural resources and sustainability. He thinks that diversity is significant.
“I believe that some of the things that we are finding out, particularly from Copenhagen, are that it is going to take more than one person or one group of people or even one nation to solve this,” he said. “You need people from a variety of cross-disciplines. It is not just going to be important political figures who find the an-swer.”
Zillman noted that the authors of the book pointed out that 80 percent of the world’s energy for all purposes came from the three familiar hydrocarbon fuels: coal, petroleum and natural gas. They stressed that compelling reasons demanded that businesses, government leaders and individuals around the world should immediately begin to look beyond carbon.
The five key factors compelling that need, according to the blog article, are climate change and other environmental harm from fossil fuels; concerns over energy security; the enormous increase in world demand for energy; the potential decline in supply of the fossil fuels; and the energy needs of the one-third of the world’s population who are without modern energy services.
Nations such as China and India, the authors said, were seeing that a “substantial proportion of their population expect personal motorized transport, fossil fuel heated residences and workplaces and steady access to electricity.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, China’s population was 1.3 billion in 2006 and is expected to top out at slightly less than 1.4 billion in 2026. Data released as part of the Census Bureau’s population estimates and projections for 227 countries and areas this week indicated that India’s population is projected to surpass China’s in 2025.
Zillman said he believes China is taking steps to address global warming, but also said population growth worldwide could affect climate change if drastic steps are not taken. He believes China is interested in political action on climate change.
Zillman said Tuesday that he believes the demand for fossil fuels has decreased over the past year, mainly due to the economic downturn.
“The economy has played a huge role in this,” he said. “We saw gas go to $4 a gallon and people were thinking it was going to go to $5 or $6, so people started to cut back. We have a worldwide recession on our hands, but things are looking up. This is not a positive way to impact climate change, because it is likely only a tem-porary one. When the economy gets better, people likely will go back to using their cars more and turning up their thermostats.”
The science of climate change is continuing to advance, Zillman said. He added that a political consensus about the need for climate change action has strengthened.
“President Barack Obama has pursued an aggressive agenda to respond to climate change,” he said. “I think positive steps have been taken and are being taken. Have we made as much progress as we should have? It is hard to say, but this is not something that we can take care of immediately. It will take time.”
Zillman’s book “Energy Security: Managing Risk in a Dynamic Legal and Regulatory Environment,” which he co-edited with Barry Barton, Catherine Redgwell and Anita Ronne, also was recently selected for inclusion in Oxford Scholarship Online.
Oxford Scholarship Online is a cross-searchable electronic library of academic titles. The full text of the book will be included, starting in 2010, in the law module of the electronic library with abstracts available free and full texts with a subscription to OSO.
“It’s wonderful that these books are being made available to a wider audience through online sources, and it is exciting to see ‘Beyond the Carbon Economy’ add to the conversation of the proceedings happening now in Copenhagen,” Zillman said. “The book discusses multiple aspects of the global energy situation and suggests directions in which the post-carbon world should be moving.
“It will be interesting to see what comes out of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in terms of transitioning beyond a carbon-based economy,” he said.
Zillman’s blog article is available at http://blog.oup.com/2009/12/copenhagen-zillman.