OSTP Director John Holdren was a keynote speaker yesterday at the National Academy of Engineering’s “Grand Challenges for the 21st Century” Summit held in Chicago. The Summit focused on the topics of clean water; carbon, energy, and climate; urban sustainability; and global health—four of the 14 “Grand Challenges” recently identified by the Academy as requiring immediate attention by scientists, engineers, and policy makers.
The Academy selected keynote speakers for their expertise and ability “to provide a deep understanding of the current situation and … an analysis of the problems and potential solutions.” Dr. Holdren keynoted the session on challenges relating to carbon, energy, and climate. His PowerPoint presentation is available here (pdf).
From the session abstract:
Humans have long confronted the pollution created by the use of energy. The current challenge is not only the visible soot from wood and coal fires, or smog from poorly combusted gasoline and diesel, which affects human health in direct and obvious ways, but also invisible greenhouse gases, which do not directly affect human health but will impact our environment significantly.
Carbon emission contributes to global warming and climate changes affecting our water supply and quality. The impact of increasing atmospheric carbon is widely recognized, but diminution of human emissions of carbon will either require a difficult decrease in our use of fossil fuels or significant scientific and technological breakthroughs.
The increase in atmospheric carbon represents a generational challenge of global importance.