According to experts gathered on Thursday at the Yale Climate and Energy Institute’s fifth annual conference, the state of global energy in 2030 remains uncertain.
The conference honored Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007 Nobel laureate and founding director of YCEI, whose appointment at Yale will end this summer. The morning panelists discussed challenges and uncertainties of the future of energy, keeping in mind key nations and industries. The afternoon panelists discussed potential policies and technologies that might throw off projections of future energy use. This year’s conference was the first to be organized primarily by undergraduates, including Yale Energy Studies Scholars and students from fields ranging from biophysics to political science.
“What’s so exciting about having the undergraduate community involved in planning this is that it’s so relevant to every single one of us,” said Wendy De Wolf ’14, the lead undergraduate organizer. “And to have the opportunity to engage with energy experts from around the world is a wonderful opportunity for people studying here. I think that the fellows have been amazing and incredibly dedicated to putting together an impressive conference.”
Pachauri delivered the keynote address discussing the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. In the report, Pachauri described climate projections and the future of renewable energy. Pachauri also expressed gratitude for the opportunity to work at Yale.
At the end of Pachauri’s talk, University President Peter Salovey thanked Pachauri for his contributions both to Yale and the global discussion about climate change. Salovey presented Pachauri with a signed hockey stick, whose sloping blade mirrors the increase in global temperature.
Speakers at the conference included both Yale professors and representatives from energy corporations and government officials.
Dan Esty, a Yale professor at the Yale School for Forestry and Environmental Studies and Yale Law School and former commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, sat on a panel about the causes of energy uncertainty. Political scientist and economist Karen Hussey from Australian National University also sat on the panel.
“These scenarios [predicting future energy mixtures] come out every year,” she said. “It’s very useful to bring experts together to say let’s unpack that a little bit. For the students I think it’s tremendously valuable to have access to international perspectives. For us as invited speakers, I’ve found it enormously valuable to meet my colleagues, often who’ve been names on papers.”
Hussey called the undergraduate role in planning the conference “extraordinary.”
Student organizers Matt Goldklang ’16 and Jared Katzman ’16 emphasized the importance of putting young leaders and policy experts in conversation with each other.
“What’s most exciting is in the preparation of the conference, we made a specific effort to bring people that weren’t thinking the same things,” Katzman said. “Each one has their own specific expertise, and its really interesting that the these panels are going to put them in discussion with each other to see what new ideas can come out of it.”
Yale students in attendance said the conference was engaging and informative.
Deepa Subramanian, a postdoctoral student of chemical and environmental engineering said she appreciated the panelists’ diverse perspectives. Mitchel Waldon ’17 said the conference was insightful and exposed him to aspects of the energy conversation that he had not previously considered, such as the economic barriers that exist in implementing renewable technologies.
More than 200 students, faculty, and YCEI members attended the conference.