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Looking at global climate solutions from multiple angles

Annual Climate Change Symposium brings together science, business, policy disciplines

EVANSTON - Highlighting the need for a collaborative, cross-disciplinary approach to solving climate change, Northwestern University’s annual Climate Change Symposium brings together academics, non-profit and think tank leaders, policy makers and business executives for two days of thoughtful dialogue on one of the most pressing issues of our time.

The symposium will take place Nov. 9 and 10 across three locations in Evanston, with symposium-wide programming at the Hilton Orrington Hotel, 1710 Orrington Street in downtown Evanston. Meanwhile, world leaders will be meeting in Bonn, Germany, for the 23rd Conference of Parties to hash out implementation of the Paris Climate Accord.

The symposium’s full program can be found here. Bios for symposium speakers are available here.

Sponsored by the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN) and Northwestern’sWeinberg College of Arts and Science’s department of Earth and planetary sciences, the symposium is free and open to the public. Registration is required

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This is a unique and critical time to address climate change.

Mike Wasielewski
Executive Director, ISEN

Despite a scientific consensus about the role humans play in driving climate change, the issue remains polarizing in the U.S. The symposium’s opening panel discussion, “Call to Action: Climate Communications, Cognitive Science, and Identity Politics” addresses that problem head on.

“This is a unique and critical time to address climate change,” said Mike Wasielewski, executive director of ISEN. “This past year, we have seen the White House propose withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, roll back mandates under the Clean Power Plan and drastically lower budgets for the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“In light of this, we have also seen city and state governments, business and universities, including Northwestern, step up to declare their commitment to achieving the Paris goals,” said Wasielewski, Clare Hamilton Hall Professor of Chemistry in Weinberg.

In China, on the other hand, the government is acting unilaterally to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions through the shuttering of coal plants and rapid renewable energy deployment. The first day of the symposium concludes with the closing plenary session, “Climate Activism in China,” with Ma Jun, founding director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs in Beijing.

In 2006, Jun was named China’s “Green Person of the Year” and one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world.

On Nov. 9, Eric Masanet, head of the Energy and Resource Systems Analysis Laboratory in Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering, will present key findings from his work at the International Energy Agency (IEA) in Paris the past two years. Masanet led IEA’s Energy Demand Technology Unit, and will highlight major points from the unit’s report in his talk, “How Low Can We Go? Energy Technology Pathways for Deep Decarbonization.”

Eric Masanet
Eric Masanet

The final day begins at 9 a.m. with back-to-back tracked breakout sessions and concludes at 12:45 p.m. following the closing plenary, “Drawdown: 100 Substantive Solutions to Global Warming,” with Chad Frischmann, vice president and research director at Project Drawdown.

Additional topics of discussion include corporate sustainability and renewable energy procurement, oceans and climate change, city and state climate action, carbon pricing and carbon capture and sequestration, among others.

Programming includes symposium-wide panel discussions and talks, as well as breakout sessions with top thinkers in the science, business and policy realms. Breakout sessions also will take place at Hardin Hall on Northwestern’s campus and The Women’s Club of Evanston, 1702 Chicago Ave.

The symposium is made possible by a generous $5.5 million gift to ISEN from Northwestern trustee and alumnus Jeff Ubben ’87 MBA and his wife, Laurie. Addressing a key University priority, the gift established the Ubben Program for Climate and Carbon Science to improve understanding of global climate system dynamics and evaluate low- and zero-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels.

Symposium speakers

The following is a list of symposium speakers and their topics not named above:

  • Wendy Abrams, founder, Cool Globes Inc.
    Topic: “Call to Action: Climate Communications, Cognitive Science, and Identity Politics” (panel discussion)
  • Andrew Barbeau, president, The Accelerate Group and senior clean energy consultant, Environmental Defense Fund
    Topic: "Illinois NextGrid: A Plan for the Future”
  • Greg Bertelsen, senior vice president, Climate Leadership Council
    Topic: "Carbon Tax, Redux: A Consensus Carbon Dividends Plan"
  • Hans Breiter, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine
    Topic: "Call to Action: Climate Communications, Cognitive Science, and Identity Politics" (panel discussion)
  • Rob DeConto, professor of geosciences, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
    Topic: “Force Multiplier: Sea-Level Riser and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet”
  • Tom Hodgman, senior director, product development, NatureVest/The Nature Conservatory
    Topic: “Financing Conservation Pays Climate Dividends"
  • Matthew Huber, professor of Earth and planetary sciences, Purdue University
    Topic: "How Hot is Too Hot? -- Heat Indices and Public Health Risk"
  • Malte Jansen, assistant professor of geophysical sciences, University of Chicago
    Topic: “The Ocean’s Role in the Climate System”
  • Jennifer Kay, assistant professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences, University of Colorado at Boulder
    Topic: "The Signal and the Noise: What Can We Learn from Climate Modeling?"
  • Nancy Loeb, director, Environmental Advocacy Center at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law
    Topic: "Law of the Seas: The Legal Governance of a Melting Arctic Pass"
  • Luisa Marcelino, research assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northwestern
    Topic: "Coral in the Coal Mine: What Are Oceans Telling Us?"
  • Janet McCabe, senior law fellow, Environmental Law and Policy Center
    Topic: "Endangered Species? Fruits of the Obama-Era Endangerment Finding"
  • Amy Morsch, director of sustainability and engagement, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES)
    Topic: "Cities and States Take the Spotlight: Case Studies in Sub-national Leadership”
  • Mark Porter, Business Renewables Center manager, Rocky Mountain Institute
    Topic: "Business Takes the Lead: A Rising Tide of Corporate Carbon-Free Procurement"
  • Kaitlin Raimi, assistant professor of public policy, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at University of Michigan
    Topic: "Call to Action: Climate Communications, Cognitive Science, and Identity Politics" (panel discussion)
  • Sean Simpson, chief scientific officer and co-founder, LanzaTech
    Topic: “Black Gold: Carbon Utilization Markets”
  • Varun Sivaram, Philip D. Reed Fellow for Science and Technology, Energy Security and Climate Change Program, Council on Foreign Relations
    Topic: "A Snapshot in International Climate Action"
  • Klaus Weber, associate professor of management and organizations, Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management
    Topic: "Corporate Climate Action Between Financial Reporting and Social Responsibility"