The prospect of long-term global climate change—as well as immediate threats to the natural environment—requires the transformation of the energy system on which we rely. Eighty percent of the world’s energy is currently derived from the combustion of fossil fuels. Meeting the anticipated growth in world energy demand—from population growth as well as rising living standards in emerging economies—through reliance on these resources alone would be difficult, costly, and environmentally damaging. Two of the greatest challenges of our time are to change the energy system and infrastructure that underlie our society and to spur the transition to clean, affordable, and renewable energy sources for the future.
Harvard University has both the capacity and the responsibility to address these challenges boldly and with conviction. In so doing, Harvard will be a catalyst for energy efficiency and the design and development of renewable fuels. Harvard’s science and engineering faculty are leading experts in developing sustainable energy solutions: they have revolutionized hydrogen generation from the sun, developed glass coatings to decrease energy use, and designed solar storage systems. And they are using the power of biology to generate energy from biomass and waste, exploring how to capture carbon, and working to determine if we can change atmospheric chemistry to forestall and even reverse climate change.
Shaping progress toward a sustainable future also depends crucially on the insight and effort of experts in public policy, law, business, economics, and other domains. The transition to a greener future requires not only the rigor and imagination of our scientists and engineers, but also the creativity and engagement of thinkers and doers who can help devise new and effective policy approaches and innovative institutional practices locally, nationally, and globally. Harvard faculty in these areas are already leaders in shaping policy at the highest levels and in developing options and potential solutions that engage not only policymakers but also businesses, nongovernmental organizations, and an array of other stakeholders with interests in the future of energy and the environment.
Harvard has the potential, and the will, to bring an unparalleled collaborative approach to confronting the challenges of climate change through research conducted across disciplines, drawing on the strengths and expertise of faculty across all of the University’s schools. Leading experts in science and technology, in policy and law, in business and economics and the wider social sciences, in public health and medicine, in design and urban planning, in religion and the humanities, and in other fields as well – all are joined by the recognition that climate change is a defining issue of our time, by the knowledge that it will be solved only through cooperative cross-disciplinary efforts, and by the drive to invest their own energies in making a powerful difference for the world.
Along with our faculty, a great many of our current students—undergraduate and graduate alike—are passionate about the challenges facing the environment and eager to contribute to confronting climate change. This generation—the future scientists and engineers, policy makers, business leaders, and others—is vigorously taking up the challenge to change the energy paradigm by designing solutions to serve growing populations around the world.
To help galvanize the expertise, passion, and commitment that pervade the Harvard community, President Drew Gilpin Faust has established The Harvard University Climate Change Solutions Fund.