“We don’t have 100 years”, warns director of Lisbon University’s Faculty of Sciences
Director of the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Lisbon Luís Carriço, advocates a major investment in research into how to fight climate change, starting immediately in order to achieve results by 2030.
In an interview with the Lusa news agency, Luís Carriço advocates a major investment from society as a whole, from governments but also from companies, to fund research so that climate change doesn’t lead humanity down a blind alley.
“And it has to be consistent research. We don’t have 100 years. It has to be in the short term,” as happened with the vaccines against Covid-19, “and the results have to happen now, in this decade,” he said.
On the occasion of the International Day against Climate Change, created by the United Nations (UN) and to be celebrated today, Lusa asked Luís Carriço about the role of science in combating, adapting to and mitigating climate change, with the official highlighting the importance of the energy transition and artificial intelligence (AI).
Emphasising from the outset the role of the University in the fight against climate change, without ever speaking in pessimistic terms, Luís Carriço says that climate change already exists and is unquestionable and points to the commitment to clean energies.
“The energy transition is one of the areas that can help avoid a situation of no return,” he said.
Luís Carriço, a professor in the Department of Computer Science and a researcher, doesn’t think it’s possible to put an immediate end to fossil fuels.
He believes that caution is needed so as not to create a complete disruption of the economy and society, and instead advocates accelerating the use of renewable energies, those that exist and those that science will discover in the future, and believes that both Portugal and the European Union will meet the targets that have been announced.
Portugal is committed to achieving 80% renewable energy in electricity production by 2026 and 100% by 2030.
Luís Carriço has no doubt that there will be an increasing demand for energy, but he also has no doubt that this energy must be renewable.
“There are great scientific developments in this area, new ideas,” he said, explaining that one of the hypotheses for the future is to use the batteries in electric cars, which are becoming increasingly numerous, to store the solar energy produced during the day.
It is, he says, a question of network management. In this case, AI can help, just as it can help in the creation of more accurate climate models or even intervene in the creation of new types of fuel to find alternatives in energy.
“There’s a lot of research in this area,” he said, adding that carbon neutrality involves energy, but the European Union can’t be satisfied if it alone meets its targets.
And what else can science do? Luís Carriço replies that, first of all, it can help us understand because nothing can be done if we don’t understand, and there is still a lot to understand about climate change.
“Today, we have models that allow us to understand and predict what is happening and what will happen to us in the coming years. Science plays a fundamental role in understanding and creating models,” he added.
And then there’s also the role of participating in adapting to a phenomenon that is happening and then avoiding climate disruption situations that become irreversible.
“In adaptation, science also has to provide answers, and it does,” he says, giving the example that we need to understand how ecosystems will function in a context of climate change, how they restore themselves, whether they do so or whether they need human intervention.
The truth, he concludes, is that climate change is “a crucial issue for humanity”, and the fight must be united and global, and the mobilisation must be large and urgent, as it was with Covid-19.