Alumnus John Carlton-Foss, Ph.D. ’81 on the threat of global warming

The impacts of energy use continue to threaten our society, forcing social transformation. Despite ignorance and denial, the facts of Global warming and demand for energy are crowding their way into our reality. The current concentrations of carbon in the atmosphere are higher than they were during the Pliocene Era, 2-5 million years ago. The global temperatures then were 7 to 10 degrees Centigrade higher than the present ones.

In 2008, the cost of energy rose so dramatically before falling again that the financial shortfall threatened to overwhelm the most vulnerable in our culture, reminding all of us of our vulnerability. Many came to recognize adequate availability of fuel as a strategic asset. Demand and supply argue that the world economy must voluntarily cut back on its demand or the price will continue to rise until people are forced to cut back. Hidden in financial urgency, are the emerging symptoms of global warming, and the likelihood that the government will have to mandate cutbacks.

In fact, if things do not change, energy usage and price will rise when the economy comes out of severe recession. We can do something about it. One thing would be the successful implementation of such programs as Cap and Trade which creates a market for atmospheric carbon, and technical innovations focused on sustainable energy development. Every solution involves enlightened personal choice and discipline. All people must find ways to reduce consumption dramatically while maintaining the sustainable parts of quality in their lives. Many of us have been working on this for decades, work it is again time to share.

Also important in the long term solution to the Global warming issue is managing significant stakeholders who push for actions which increase carbon into the atmosphere. Believe me. I work with some of them. They understand, but they need to be helped to make the transition. We need to foster a social and organizational transformation. If it is to be voluntary, it must have close to 100% market penetration. It must happen very rapidly, within ten to twenty years. Not easy. Self-contained breathing apparatuses (saving the lives of fire-fighters) required 60 years for 50% adoption. The PC revolution required about 25 years but is still not at 100%.

Social science, personal transformation, and marketing science can play significant roles in this transformation. Let’s talk about it. I am also very technically skilled, and open to technical discussion. I also blog about energy at, about older people at I participate sometimes in the Harvard and MIT alum discussion groups and would hope to do a certain amount of cross-fertilization among these groups.