Well-Known Chemist Shifts Focus To Sustainability
May 13, 2011
In honor of the 30th year of the Barnett Lectureship, the Barnett Institute at Northeastern University invited a guest speaker who is an expert in one of the hottest topics today – Sustainability.
“Sustainability is the major problem of our century and chemistry is the major key to addressing the major problems of sustainability,” said Prof. Richard Zare, Marguerite Blake Wilbur Professor in Natural Science at Stanford University.
“Prof. Richard Zare is one of the leading chemists of his generation,” said Barnett Institute Director Dr. Barry Karger. “We are proud to have his as our 30th lecturer.”
Zare has given lectures at numerous universities, authored and co-authored over 800 publications and more than 50 patents, and published four books.
In 2007, Zare, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, was elected to a four-year term as advisor to the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation. He has served as the Chair of the President's National Medal of Science Selection Committee 1997-2000, chaired the National Research Council's Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Applications, 1992-1995, and was Chair of the National Science Board the last two years of his 1992-1998 service.
He has won many awards, including the Presidential Medal of Science, the Priestly Medal (the highest award of the American Chemical Society), the Israeli Wolf Prize and has just received the King Faisal Prize in Saudi Arabia.
Zare’s lecture focused on sustainability and the global energy challenge we now face. “With the population growing and the standard of living increasing, the world’s energy needs are projected to double in about 50 years… but where will it come from is the real challenge of sustainability.”
According to Zare, human emissions are leading to increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and much more, and according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change the (IPCC) warming is “very likely” due to human emissions of greenhouse gases.
One strategy Zare suggests to reduce global warming is to control population growth.
The population has ballooned in the past few decades – from 3 billion in 1960 to 7 billion in 2011. By 2050, the world’s population is expected to reach over 9 billion people.
Zare suggests an interesting method to slow down the population growth – controlling the birth rate by using non-coercive methods, such as education and equal economic opportunities for women.
Statistics from the UN show that 40 percent of pregnancies worldwide are unintended. According to Zare, helping women avoid unintended pregnancies would have a huge impact on the earth’s population.
Zare’s lecture is one of the many cutting-edge and innovative presentations featured over the years by the Barnett Institute.
Dr. Karger has hand-picked speakers like Zare to not only educate students, faculty and guests at Northeastern University, but to give them the tools to help them think differently. “It was really fantastic having him here,” Dr. Karger said. “He’s very distinguished and serious about science.”