Faust: Step up on climate change

Harvard gazette
October 20, 2015

At State Depart­ment forum, she says uni­ver­si­ties must play key role in devel­op­ing solu­tions to global problem

Octo­ber 20, 2015 | Editor’s Pick Pop­u­lar

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Speak­ing at a State Depart­ment forum on Tues­day, Har­vard Pres­i­dent Drew Faust said that uni­ver­si­ties can and must play a key role in devel­op­ing solu­tions to cli­mate change, cit­ing the research, teach­ing, and con­ven­ing strengths of research institutions.

Open­ing the two-​​day Cli­mate and Clean Energy Invest­ment Forum, Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry called con­fronting cli­mate change “per­haps the defin­ing issue of our gen­er­a­tion,” set­ting the stage for a series of dis­cus­sions among investors, cor­po­ra­tions, phil­an­thropies, uni­ver­si­ties, and pol­i­cy­mak­ers only weeks before the United Nations Con­fer­ence on Cli­mate Change, which kicks off in Paris on Nov. 30.

Faust set out some impor­tant ways in which uni­ver­si­ties will con­tribute to efforts to deal with cli­mate change, as part of a panel on “Inno­v­a­tive Mod­els for Cli­mate Solu­tions.” Cit­ing research efforts to develop new and more-​​efficient bat­ter­ies and to con­vert solar energy into hydro­gen with help from a bionic leaf, she high­lighted a focus on discovery.

Uni­ver­si­ties con­tribute an extra­or­di­nary depth and breadth of exper­tise, a com­mit­ment to dri­ving dis­cov­ery and inno­va­tion, and a con­vic­tion that the world can be changed by ideas and dis­cov­er­ies,” said Faust.

As con­ven­ers and col­lab­o­ra­tors, said Faust, uni­ver­si­ties also bring peo­ple together and spawn new ideas on the issue, “across national bor­ders, across dis­ci­plines, and across generations.”

She also rein­forced the cen­tral role of uni­ver­si­ties as edu­ca­tors, “prepar­ing new gen­er­a­tions of lead­ers to ask and answer the big ques­tions, bet­ter equipped to grap­ple with the com­plex dis­rup­tion of cli­mate change, and a world more inter­de­pen­dent than ever before as we seek solutions.”

At Har­vard, 243 courses are offered on energy, sus­tain­abil­ity, or the environment.

Harvard’s pres­i­dent appeared on the panel a week after the announce­ment of a new, mul­ti­year, $3.75 mil­lion grant to sup­port research efforts on cli­mate change and China’s issues with it. Har­vard also launched the University-​​wide Cli­mate Change Solu­tions Fund in 2014, and in Jan­u­ary 2015 issued its first seven awards.

Through­out her remarks, Faust noted the com­plex­ity of the issue, and the impor­tance of a mul­ti­fac­eted approach to tack­ling it.

Uni­ver­si­ties, per­haps more than any other insti­tu­tions, have the remark­able power to con­vene indi­vid­u­als and insti­tu­tions around issues that tran­scend bound­aries — bound­aries that have shaped, and in some ways lim­ited, our ways of think­ing,” she said. “Cli­mate change is a busi­ness issue, a pol­icy issue, and a pub­lic health issue. It is a chal­lenge for engi­neers and sci­en­tists, inno­va­tors and investors, for archi­tects, design­ers, econ­o­mists, and his­to­ri­ans. It is vast and con­se­quen­tial — and, in its stun­ning diver­sity, demands our best effort to work together in new ways.”

Join­ing Faust on the panel, mod­er­ated by Andrew Steer, pres­i­dent and CEO of the World Resources Insti­tute, were Nancy Pfund, man­ag­ing part­ner at DBL Investors; Glenn Prick­ett, chief exter­nal affairs offi­cer of The Nature Con­ser­vancy; Afsaneh Mashayekhi Beschloss, pres­i­dent and CEO of The Rock Creek Group; and Peter W. David­son, co-​​founder and CEO of Aligned Intermediary.

Pfund and Beschloss noted the impor­tance of antic­i­pat­ing and plan­ning for the effects of cli­mate change, espe­cially among investors and busi­nesses. Prick­ett high­lighted the role of nature itself as a solu­tion to cli­mate change.

To read the full arti­cle, visit the Har­vard gazette.