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Ashtekar Frontiers of Science 2024

Exploring Scientific
Progress Over Time

“Finding the Good News on Climate and Energy"

Presented by Richard Alley
Evan Pugh University Professor of Geosciences

February 17, 2024
100 Thomas Building
11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.


Richard Alley.

We enjoy great benefits from energy use, mostly from fossil fuels now, but they cause highly damaging climate changes. Very strong evidence shows that we can use this knowledge to build a larger economy in a cleaner environment with more jobs, improved health, and greater national security more consistent with the Golden Rule. Students today are part of the first generation in human history that knows with confidence that they can build a sustainable energy system, powering everyone everywhere.

Richard Alley, Evan Pugh University Professor of Geosciences, studies the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets to help predict future climate and sea-level changes. He has been honored for research, teaching, and service, including election to the US National Academy of Sciences and The Royal Society. He participated in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (co-recipient, 2007 Nobel Peace Prize), and provided requested advice to high government officials from both major political parties. He has authored or coauthored over 400 scholarly publications. He was presenter for the PBS TV miniseries “Earth: The Operators’ Manual,” based on his book. His popular account of climate change and ice cores, “The Two-Mile Time Machine,” was Phi Beta Kappa’s science book of the year. He is happily married with two grown daughters, two stay-at-home cats, a bicycle, and a pair of soccer cleats. Alley earned a doctoral degree at the University of Wisconsin in 1987.

Charles Anderson.

Charlie Anderson, professor of biology and chair of the Eberly College of Science Sustainability Council, will join Alley at the end of his lecture for a moderated Q&A and will share information about the Sustainability Council's work in the college.

Plant cell walls contain networks of polysaccharides and proteins that interact with each other and change in composition and organization during cell growth and other developmental processes in plants. Anderson seeks to measure changes in wall architecture during growth, to understand how interactions between cell wall components influence wall structure and remodeling, and to identify and characterize new genes that influence cell wall dynamics. This research will inform efforts to use plant cell walls, which are an abundant and renewable resource, to provide sustainable food, materials, and energy. Anderson earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and a doctoral degree in cell and molecular biology at Stanford University. He was a postdoctoral researcher at University of California, Berkeley before joining the faculty at Penn State.