HESS Opinions: "Climate, hydrology, energy, water: recognizing uncertainty and seeking sustainability"
- 1Dept. of Water Resources and Environment, School of Civil Engineering, National Technical University of Athens, Greece
- 2Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering, MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA
Abstract. Since 1990 extensive funds have been spent on research in climate change. Although Earth Sciences, including climatology and hydrology, have benefited significantly, progress has proved incommensurate with the effort and funds, perhaps because these disciplines were perceived as "tools" subservient to the needs of the climate change enterprise rather than autonomous sciences. At the same time, research was misleadingly focused more on the "symptom", i.e. the emission of greenhouse gases, than on the "illness", i.e. the unsustainability of fossil fuel-based energy production. Unless energy saving and use of renewable resources become the norm, there is a real risk of severe socioeconomic crisis in the not-too-distant future. A framework for drastic paradigm change is needed, in which water plays a central role, due to its unique link to all forms of renewable energy, from production (hydro and wave power) to storage (for time-varying wind and solar sources), to biofuel production (irrigation). The extended role of water should be considered in parallel to its other uses, domestic, agricultural and industrial. Hydrology, the science of water on Earth, must move towards this new paradigm by radically rethinking its fundamentals, which are unjustifiably trapped in the 19th-century myths of deterministic theories and the zeal to eliminate uncertainty. Guidance is offered by modern statistical and quantum physics, which reveal the intrinsic character of uncertainty/entropy in nature, thus advancing towards a new understanding and modelling of physical processes, which is central to the effective use of renewable energy and water resources.