Challenge of the century

© BRGM im@gé/Frédéric Simiens
© BRGM im@gé/Frédéric Simiens
© SSTL through ESA
© SSTL through ESA
©Qwentes/JVR
©Qwentes/JVR

WASHINGTON DC, 14 July 2008 (Agence France-Presse). Global warming may increase kidney stones. More Americans are likely to suffer from kidney stones in the coming years as a result of global warming, according to researchers at the University of Texas (...)

From dispatch to dispatch, feverish media coverage (perhaps a result of the temperature rise?) is turning global warming into an unavoidable social, economic and political issue. Admittedly people are apt to become heated rather quicker than the planet. Whether it is concomitant with or the result of human activity, the greenhouse effect is doubtless a case of not seeing the wood for the trees. Indeed, the much more global issue of human physical, energy and food security has become so momentous that countries may now be forced to think more in terms of cooperation than competition.

Research in all the geoscience-related disciplines will play a crucial role. Although the conquest of space was originally a means for sating our curiosity as well as achieving prestige and domination, it has finally found its true vocation in the form of satellite monitoring of food crises. Deep geothermy holds the prospect of clean and widely available energy. The techniques developed for exploiting hydrocarbons could enable us to bury part of our "CO2 problem".

Soils contain mineral resources about which we know little at present but which are crucial for human development, whatever direction that might take. And as methane hydrate emerges from the ice, it might be a case of playing with fire. All this expertise and technology can only be amassed as part of a broad-based international collaboration effort on which the future of the human race depends.


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