Climate Change and Energy Needs: Finding a Path to Sustainability

To prevent an increase in global average temperatures that would pose unacceptable risks to life on Earth, we must rapidly and significantly reduce emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

If meeting this challenge weren’t difficult enough, we must do it while also satisfying growing global demand for energy: primary energy use is projected to increase 60% by 2050 due to population growth and rising living standards. Achieving our energy goals will require nothing short of the transformation of the global energy system within this century. While much of this transformation will depend upon policies that incentivize the deployment of existing low-carbon energy sources, technological innovation must also play a key role in the energy transition by lowering the cost and improving the reliability of renewables and other low-carbon solutions. This seminar will focus primarily on the need for continued energy innovation and will highlight promising technological developments from MIT and elsewhere in solar and nuclear energy, battery storage, and the power grid, among other areas. The seminar will explain why fusion, the same nuclear reaction from which the Sun draws its energy, may not be as far off as you think, and why driving an electric car might not reduce your carbon footprint — yet.

Maria T. Zuber, Ph.D., is Chair of the National Science Board–the first woman to hold the position–and the Vice President for Research and E.A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Maria Zuber’s research focuses on the structure and tectonics of solid solar system objects. She specializes in using gravity and laser altimetry measurements to determine interior structure and evolution and has been involved in more than half a dozen NASA planetary missions aimed at mapping the Moon, Mars, Mercury, as well as several asteroids. She was principal investigator for the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) and as such became the first woman to lead a NASA spacecraft mission. She received her Ph.D. in geophysics from Brown University.

This program is also part of our Women in STEM Initiative.