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Arun Majumdar: Sustainability — the defining issue of the 21st century

An expert on sustainability looks out at our energy future and says that all hope is not lost — the means to reduce carbon emissions are within our reach.

A nuclear power plant and some solar panels

Global climate change threatens to fundamentally alter society as we know it … unless we can change our ways. | Unsplash/Science in HD

Quite literally, says Stanford’s Arun Majumdar, co-director of the Precourt Institute for Energy and one of today’s leading thinkers on sustainability, the story of technological advancement over the last 100 years is the story of the journey from “horse power to horsepower.”

That is to say, in that time we have gone from a largely pastoral, agrarian society to an urban, industrial society requiring exponentially more energy than ever before.

The reward has been tremendous leaps in productivity and standards of living across the world, but we have begun to pay a heavy price for that transformation. Global climate change threatens to fundamentally alter society as we know it … unless we can change our ways.

How to go about changing those ways is Majumdar’s specialization. In this insightful presentation and in-depth Q&A session, Majumdar expounds the increasingly promising responses to one of the most challenging times in human history. He says that as the price of renewable sources like solar and wind plummet and batteries become both more powerful and less expensive, and as cheap natural gas replaces coal, there is hope. But it will take much more than that to address climate change and sustainability — we need efficient buildings, long-duration energy storage, small-scale nuclear plants, low-emissions steel, concrete, food, and agriculture. These changes will remake of much of our economy.

Join Stanford Engineering and Arun Majumdar for a hopeful look at our sustainable future.