aerial view of many rows of solar panels

Climate change and paths to a sustainable future: Steven Chu

Professor Steven Chu, Nobel Prize laureate and former US Secretary of Energy during the Obama administration, discussed paths to a sustainable future at this in-person, public talk.

This event was held at Sydney Knowledge Hub on 24 July 2023.

Professor Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize laureate and former U.S. Secretary of Energy during the Obama administration, presented new data on climate change that indicates that the Earth’s climate is more sensitive than previously thought.

How we can transition from where we are heading to where we need to be within 50 years is one the most pressing set of issues that science, invention, and innovations need to address. Professor Chu discussed potential solutions that could provide a path to a sustainable and prosperous future.

This event was presented by the Sydney Environment Institute in partnership with the Net Zero Initiative and the United States Studies Centre.

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Keynote speaker

Professor Steven Chu

Steven Chu, Nobel Prize-winning scientist

Professor Steven Chu is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Physics, of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, and of Energy Science and Engineering at Stanford University.

From January 2009 to April 2013, Dr. Chu served as U.S. Secretary of Energy under President Barack Obama. As the first scientist Cabinet member in U.S. history, he recruited dozens scientists to join him at the Department of Energy.

His current research is in biophysics, molecular and cellular physiology, medical imaging, nanoparticle synthesis, battery research and carbon capture. He has received numerous awards including the 1997 Nobel Prize for laser cooling and optical trapping of atoms.

Opening & closing speakers

Emma Johnston, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research

Emma Johnston is Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and a Professor of Marine Ecology & Ecotoxicology in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences. She is a leading authority in marine ecology, a sustainability and diversity champion and a Chief Author of the Australian State of Environment Report 2021.

She has led major research projects for industry, government, the Australian Research Council and the Australian Antarctic Science Program and contributed to the development of international and national research strategies, priorities and plans. As the past President of Science & Technology Australia (STA), an elected position, she is a highly influential figure in the Australian higher education and research sector.

David Schlosberg, Director, Sydney Environment Institute

David Schlosberg is Professor of Environmental Politics and Director of the Sydney Environment Institute. His work focuses on environmental, ecological, and climate justice; environment and everyday life; and climate adaptation planning and policy. He has worked extensively with local and state governments on just adaptation and resilience planning, the social impacts of climate change, and community-based food systems and policy.

He is one of the Research Leads on Climate Justice and Problems of Scale, Creating Just Food and Energy Policy, Environmental Disasters and Just Governance, Building an Understanding of Best Practice Local Food Interventions, Community Engagement in Food Governance and Evaluating FoodLab Sydney.

Deanna D'Alessandro, Director, Net Zero Initiative

Deanna D’Alessandro is a chemist and Professor at the Schools of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Chemistry, at the University of Sydney. She is also Director of the Faculty of Engineering’s Net Zero Initiative. This team aims to help government, industry and communities manufacture, deploy and adopt cost-effective, low emissions technologies at scale.

Deanna has over 16 years’ professional experience in materials science. She is passionate about interdisciplinary efforts to address climate change through net zero and negative emissions technologies.

Meg McDonald, Non-Resident Fellow, United States Studies Centre

Meg McDonald is a non-resident fellow at the United States Studies Centre. McDonald has more than 30 years of experience in the public and private sectors in Australia and internationally. She served as a senior Australian diplomat in Geneva as Deputy Chief of Mission, the Australian Embassy in Washington DC and as Australia’s Ambassador for the Environment.

McDonald has worked as Chief Operating Officer of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, CEO of Low Carbon Australia Limited, on the Board of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and of the Co-operative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living, as well as a Trustee of The Nature Conservancy. She serves as a member of the NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer’s Expert Panel advising the NSW Government on innovative decarbonisation technologies to support the achievement of the NSW Net Zero Plan. 

Header image: Photo by Derek Sutton via Unsplash