The Frame and Scale of the Climate/Energy Challenge: Issues and Implications

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 18 Dec 2007 17:00:00 GMT

“Does the current framing and scaling of the climate/energy issue adequately capture the challenge posed? If not, what might be a more appropriate frame and scale?”

  • Dr. James G. Anderson, Philip S. Weld Professor, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University
  • Dr. Daniel Schrag, Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences and the Director of the Harvard University Center for the Environment, Harvard University

The issues of global energy demand and climate response are, at one level, complex and contentious. However, they are joined by simple but important considerations. While the flow of energy is important to the global economic infrastructure, the flow of energy within the Earth’s climate system reveals simple but compelling conclusions. These will be explored in this briefing.


Dr. James B. Anderson joined the faculty of Harvard University in 1978 as the Robert P. Burden Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry. In 1982 he was appointed the Philip S. Weld Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry. Professor Anderson served as Chairman of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard from July 1998 through June 2001. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a frequent contributor to National Research Council activities. He is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is a recipient of two United Nations Environment Programme Ozone Awards (1997, 2005); the National Academy of Sciences Arthur L. Day Prize and Lectureship; the E. O. Lawrence Award in Environmental Science and Technology; the American Chemical Society’s Gustavus John Esselen Award for Chemistry in the Public Interest; and the University of Washington’s Arts and Sciences Distinguished Alumnus Achievement Award. In addition, he received the United Nations Earth Day International Award; Harvard University’s 1989 Ledley Prize for Most Valuable Contribution to Science by a Member of the Faculty; and the American Chemical Society’s National Award for Creative Advances in Environmental Science and Technology.

Dr. Anderson’s research group addresses three domains at the interface of chemistry and Earth Sciences: (1) mechanistic links between chemistry, radiation, and dynamics in the atmosphere that control climate (2) chemical catalysis sustained by free radical chain reactions that dictate the macroscopic rate of chemical transformation in Earth’s stratosphere and troposphere; and (3) chemical reactivity viewed from the microscopic perspective of electron structure, molecular orbitals and reactivities of radical-radical and radical-molecule systems. Research addressing Earth’s climate focuses on establishing the primary mechanisms that couple chemistry, dynamics, and radiation in the climate system, the establishment of a high-accuracy record of climate change using interferometry from low Earth orbit, and strategies for testing long-term climate forecasts using absolute spectrally resolved radiance in the infrared.

Dr. Daniel Schrag is Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University and the Director of the Harvard University Center for the Environment. Dr. Schrag studies climate and climate change over the broadest range of Earth history. He has examined changes in ocean circulation over the last several decades, with particular attention to El Niño and the tropical Pacific. He has also worked on theories for Pleistocene ice-age cycles including a better determination of ocean temperatures during the Last Glacial Maximum, 20,000 years ago. He also helped develop the Snowball Earth hypothesis, proposing that a series of global glaciations occurred between 750 and 580 million years ago that may have led to the evolution of multicellular animals. He is currently working with economists and engineers on technological approaches to mitigating future climate change. Among various honors, Dr. Schrag was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2000. Dr. Schrag came to Harvard in 1997 after teaching at Princeton, and studying at Berkeley and Yale.