Professor Discusses the Challenges of Policy-Making and Climate Change

Schrag at Lowell
Daniel P. Schrag, Director of the Harvard University Center for the Environment, met with members of the Harvard community Tuesday night as part of the Lowell Master’s Dinner series.

Students, resident scholars, and House Masters alike gathered Tuesday evening for a Lowell Masters’ Dinner to discuss climate change and policy-making with renowned environmental science and engineering professor, Daniel P. Schrag.

Schrag, who has researched environmental topics such as climate change and currently serves on President Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, began the discussion by explaining the complexity of climate change’s long timescale, and society’s current desire for immediate satisfaction in regards to climate change policies.

“Nothing we do in the next 30 years is going to materialize within the next 30 years,” Schrag told those gathered in Lowell’s small dining room.

He added that trying to deal with climate change poses the “worst collective action problem the world has ever seen,” since not one, but all, countries must commit to decreasing carbon use and emissions.

Part of the solution, Schrag argued, is to electrify as much technology as possible, including cars and trucks, in order to minimize carbon usage and emissions. However, Schrag said that this will be be a long transition, thus we will not see the benefits of our actions for many years.

When asked about the usefulness of international negotiations and agreements for promoting caps on fossil fuel emissions, Schrag responded that getting rid of the fossil fuel industries will be extremely difficult given the trillions of dollars of infrastructure already set in place. Instead, Schrag said that people will only stop using coal and other non-renewable sources when other forms of energy become cheaper and more accessible.

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