Frohlich Lecture Series in Physics

Fröhlich Lecture Series in Physics 2019/20 - Professor Bill David FRS

2:00pm - 3:00pm / Wednesday 23rd October 2019 / Venue: Muspratt Lecture Theatre Chadwick Building
Type: Seminar / Category: Research
  • Admission: N/A
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“Back of an envelope calculations: a physicist’s take on renewable energy and climate change”

Professor Bill David FRS
University of Oxford

Refreshments will be served at 13.45

The Fröhlich Lectures are presentations by research leaders which are intended to be accessible to a general audience at the advanced undergraduate level.

One of the most exciting and fun things about being a physicist is coming across a simple diagram or a succinct equation that distils a basic truth or reveals a deeper insight. This is true across science and the issues of climate change and global warming are no exceptions. Indeed, the earliest 'back of the envelope' global warming calculation dates back more than a century to 1896 when Svante Arrhenius correctly predicted, using Stefan's law, the impact of CO2 emissions on global warming.

Simple equations can also lead to insights that are at variance with current received wisdom. For example, dividing the projected 2028 global production of lithium batteries by the energy stored in a Nissan Leaf leads to a disturbing conclusion about the future of electric vehicles. And taking BP's statistics for the global consumption of coal, oil and gas begs the question about the fate of much of anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

This talk will discuss a number of ideas around renewable energy and global warming in terms of simple equations and concepts. Global warming is indeed real and more established than most models suggest. Perhaps alarmingly, however, many of the popular approaches to tackle the attendant challenges fall in the face of some basic algebra.