Interdisciplinary Honors Seminars

Climate Crisis: Shiny Toys to the Rescue?

Course # 01:090:297:H3
Index# 06047
T/H 2:00PM-3:20PM
Sunil Somalwar

Will NOT Count Toward Physics & Astronomy Major or Minor


Be it solar panels or biofuels, everybody has their own favorite solutions for fixing the climate which are invariably based on new technologies that are "almost here". But greenhouse emissions need to be reduced substantially now! How can we get the quickest and biggest bang for our buck in reducing emissions? With new “supply-side” technologies to provide more energy, or by targeting grimy fossil-fuel power plants which run our society? What is greener: an electric car speeding down on the turnpike, or the power plant in the stinking refinery complex next to the turnpike near Newark airport?   

In this seminar, we will first get past the level of most media energy pundits by understanding the difference between a kilowatt and a kilowatt-hour. Then we will cut through the groupthink and analytically evaluate pluses and minuses of various energy solutions and policy proposals. We will also figure out why the most efficient transport from New Brunswick to Washington DC is also the cheapest (it is not Amtrak), why Europeans guzzle only half as much energy as we do in the US (it is not because the US is a large country), and why hitching our wagon to specific climate solutions is hazardous to the climate. 


About Sunil Somalwar 

Prof. Sunil Somalwar does particle physics experiments at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland to understand what our universe looked like a mere 10-100 picoseconds after its big-bang origin. Since that elegant universe somehow led to the present-day environmental mess, he also peddles without license ideas in economics and policy science for extracting ourselves from this mess. He has taught some of the earliest undergraduate climate/energy classes at Rutgers and is a recipient of several awards for his educational and scientific contributions. He is an active environmentalist, and a co-founder of "Saving Wild Tigers".