Reported by Isabel Webb, BBSRC-Funded CSaP Policy Intern (September 2014 - December 2014)
In November 2014, Professor Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize winner and former US Secretary of Energy under President Obama, visited the University of Cambridge to deliver the 2014 Dr S T Lee Public Policy Lecture on energy and climate change.
Chaired by the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Steven Chu discussed an epidemiological approach to assessing the risks of climate change, and provided a perspective on how to mitigate the risks with science, technology and policy, so that sustainable energy would become the low cost option.
In his talk, Steven compared the 25-year delay between people taking up tobacco smoking and dying from cancer with the half-century it could take before we see the damage caused to our environment through greenhouse gas emissions and burning fossil fuels.
View Steven Chu's lecture here:
Professor Chu focused on the potential for renewables such as wind and solar power, and stressed the need for innovation to drive down costs and improve electricity production and distribution. He was particularly optimistic about the future of batteries which have vastly improved in the past few years, becoming more efficient and cost-effective. He believed that improved battery technology could be "as disruptive to electricity generation and distribution as the cell phone and the internet were to communications".
However, although there had been a surge in new ideas and new technologies in the last decade that hadn’t been seen in the previous three decades, utility companies were moving at “glacial speed” in adopting these developments.
Professor Chu concluded by saying that renewable energy must become the cheapest solution if we are to stop pumping oil. “It’s all about money”, he said. “If renewable energy doesn’t become the new low-cost solution, as long as there is oil in the ground, we will continue to pump it.”
S T Lee Lectures
The Dr S T Lee Public Policy lectures were established in 2003 thanks to a benefaction from Seng Tee Lee, Singaporean business executive, philanthropist and Honarary Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge. Each lecture considers aspects of scientific, medical or technological research and developments that are likely to have significant implications for public policy over the next decade.
Banner image from Benjamin Nolan on Flickr
10 November 2014, 5:30pm
Professor Steven Chu, former Energy Secretary under President Obama, will deliver the 2014 S T Lee Lecture on 10 November in Cambridge.