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The Warsaw Voice » Other » November 19, 2008
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From the Publisher
November 19, 2008   
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One of the defining moments in the history of mankind was when people realized that the world around them was vulnerable to destruction-and that it could be destroyed by their own hands. It turned out that nature, which once seemed to have unlimited possibilities for replenishing itself, could be irrevocably damaged by man-a small creature that has developed a terrifying capability for wreaking havoc in this world.

This grim message took a long time getting across to some people. Even today there are still heated debates among researchers over the greenhouse effect: whether it is really the prime cause of the melting of the world's ice cover, or whether we are dealing with natural, cyclical climate changes that are taking place without the involvement of man.

Differences of opinion and various doubts have not prevented the development of environmental movements and approaches that have influenced economists, politicians, lawmakers and diplomats. Millions of people around the world are aware of the existence of the Kyoto Protocol-and some also know that several thousand politicians and experts from around the world will get together in the western Polish city of Poznań to discuss climate change at a United Nations conference (COP 14) in early December.

Turning a blind eye to environmental threats is far more dangerous than crossing the street with closed eyes. In the latter case, we may make it to the other side in one piece if we are lucky; but even the biggest dose of luck will not protect us from polluted air or contaminated water, and the implications of global warming.

This issue of The Polish Science Voice is almost wholly dedicated to the work of Polish researchers and institutions striving to contribute to the international campaign against global warming. After huge effort Poland has embraced-and surpassed-the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol. Many groups are involved in environmental protection: scientists, businessmen and politicians as well as "ordinary" individuals. And, of course, huge amounts of money are being thrown at the problem from both domestic and international coffers.

Of special note in this context is the issue of carbon dioxide sequestration, a method for trapping and storing this greenhouse gas underground. Poland is one of the main places where researchers are working on this problem. This is especially significant because more than 95 percent of electricity produced in Poland comes from coal.

The story of the Turów power plant in the southwest of the country shows how a well-devised environmental strategy can make a difference-despite the costs involved. More than a decade ago this plant was one of the biggest polluters in Poland. It has overcome its bad reputation after investing a mind-boggling $1.5 billion in environmental protection.

In this issue of The Polish Science Voice we report extensively on renewable sources of energy, including wind power, hydroelectric power, solar power, biomass, and biogas. As usual, we look at these issues in the context of ties between research and business.
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