Book Chapter

Acting in Time on Energy Policy: Foreword

  • David T. Ellwood
| May 2009

"The question of whether we can "act in time" on energy and climate change poses one of the most profound challenges facing the world today. No human activity, other than the wide-scale use of nuclear weapons, has greater potential to reshape and harm our planet and our species than the rapidly expanding generation of greenhouse gases. What is so frustrating about the issue is that even though the dangers are widely accepted in the scientific community, and even though failing to act in time could set off a chain of events that would be all but irreversible, action to date has been weak at best.

"Acting in time" has been a theme of a larger research project housed at the Harvard Kennedy School. It focuses precisely on the question of why nations, institutions, and individuals so often seem unwilling or unable to act in time, even when problems are easily seen coming and even when acting sooner rather than later will be far less costly in the long run.

The project was stimulated in part by Hurricane Katrina and the devastation of New Orleans. This event is typically described as an enormous failure in response. And so it was. It took days and even weeks to even begin providing real aid. But the greater tragedy of Hurricane Katrina was that everyone knew it would happen...."

For more information on this publication: Please contact Energy Technology Innovation Policy
For Academic Citation: Ellwood, David T.. “Acting in Time on Energy Policy: Foreword.” In Acting in Time on Energy Policy. May 2009.

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