In Washington, D.C., on Monday, University President Drew G. Faust again emphasized the role she believes universities should play in combating climate change—finding solutions through research and teaching.
Speaking at a U.S. Department of State forum, Faust invoked her consistent climate change argument at the forum, pointing to research and teaching as the key means by which universities can develop solutions to global warming. She invoked the seriousness of climate change as a “business issue, a policy issue, and a public health issue” that requires professionals across disciplines like engineering, economics, and finance to address it effectively.
“Universities, perhaps more than any other institution, have the remarkable power to convene individuals and institutions around issues that transcend boundaries—boundaries that have shaped, and in some ways limited, our ways of thinking,” Faust said.
Specific research at Harvard, Faust said, has created sustainable innovations with implications beyond Cambridge, including developing energy-saving batteries to experimenting with bionic leaves that can convert solar energy into hydrogen.
The event, part of a two-day conference in Washington, D.C., also featured Secretary of State John F. Kerry, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, and several CEOs of energy companies, as well as higher education leader John J. Degioia, the president of Georgetown.
During her whirlwind two-day trip to the capital this week, Faust also met with Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and other government officials to lobby for increased federal research funding, which has dwindled over the past several years. She also appeared on a panel discussing humanities education at the American Association of Universities.
Despite her speech in Washington, not everyone on Harvard’s campus is convinced of Faust’s commitment to combating climate change. Student environmental activists from Divest Harvard have repeatedly criticized Faust for her refusal to divest Harvard’s endowment from the fossil fuel industry—one they say is undercutting the work of climate science. The group has staged a weeklong blockade of Massachusetts Hall in addition to sit-ins at the building, which houses Faust’s office.
Meanwhile, Faust has recently ramped up initiatives aimed at climate research and teaching. Earlier this month, Harvard granted $3.75 million to fund a project that will investigate climate change in China. The University also launched a fund that awarded $800,000 in February to finance climate research projects.
—Staff writer Theodore R. Delwiche can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @trdelwic.—Staff writer Mariel A. Klein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter@mariel_klein.
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