Heard on Campus: Club of Rome co-president on achieving climate drawdown

September 18, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Speaking at the first international conference on the science of drawdown held at Penn State this week, Club of Rome Co-President Sandrine Dixson-Declève shared a message of both optimism and clear-eyed realism about the need to make major changes and investments to address climate change over the next decade.

“We have a 10-year window, as we’ve been saying at the Club of Rome. … If we do not actually meet a great deal of our targets already in the next 10 years, we will be committing collective suicide,” Dixson-Declève said at “Research to Action: the Science of Drawdown,” but encouraged the gathered crowd of climate researchers that this goal was indeed feasible and achievable.

Universities and research institutions, like Penn State, have a key role to play in implementing the science of climate change solutions, especially in the near term, she said.

“This is something you need to think about when you’re thinking about research as well,” Dixson-Declève said. “We can no longer think about very long-term horizons; We have to think about both short-term and long-term horizons.”

As co-president of the Club of Rome, an international nonprofit organization whose membership includes numerous diplomats and former heads of state, Dixson-Declève works with advocates, researchers, industry leaders and policymakers to implement solutions related to climate change. She cautioned that innovation, including in the realm of technology and climate solutions, must be paired with accompanying innovation in public policy to have maximum impact.

“We cannot just think about the technologies that are available, but also the process of ensuring the uptake of those technologies, of actually bringing industry together with policymakers to put in place the right enabling structures,” Dixson-Declève said. “We have a tendency to focus on technology innovation without thinking about process for policy innovation.”

Dixson-Declève spoke at a panel titled “System Transformations in a Climate Emergency,” where she was joined by Chad Frischmann, vice president and research director of Project Drawdown; Michelle Wyman, executive director of the National Council for Science and the Environment; Martin Siegert, professor and co-director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and Environment at Imperial College London; and Penn State Chief Sustainability Officer Paul Shrivastava, who spoke about how Penn State is incorporating sustainability at every level of its planning process.

Dixson-Declève closed her remarks by noting the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration, especially in areas not typically associated with climate solutions research.

“These are very deep, human concerns, and as we move into a time of greater populism, if we don’t unlock some of the sociological and psychological impacts we are having right now on these discussions, then I don’t think we are going to get very far,” she said. “We have to give as much time and space to the soft sciences as the hard sciences.”

Last Updated September 19, 2019