What is the most important problem that one can work on? That is a question that we all should ask ourselves from time to time.
A compelling answer to that question is "energy." Without inexpensive, nonpolluting, carbon-neutral energy, many other things that we may think are important--health, longevity, environment, prosperity, freedom from conflict--are likely to remain elusive for many, and indeed become inaccessible for an increasing number.
Of course the energy problem is not simply a question of supply: we must also address demand. But as Pacala and Socolow argue, any complete solution must be multifaceted.
Sustained improvements in demand and supply will require significant advances in science and engineering. It so happens that I work at a Department of Energy laboratory, which is devoted to producing those advances. The joke used to be that the "E" in DOE stood for "everything." But the E in DOE, and thus the DOE laboratories, seems likely to become increasingly important.