Carnegie President Talks Climate, Energy, Economy at Broad Branch Road

The Carnegie Broad Branch Road campus hosts Neighborhood Lectures in the fall and spring, welcoming friends and neighbors and providing an opportunity to get up close and personal with Carnegie scientists.
Friday, March 29, 2019 

Eric Isaacs, 11th president of the Carnegie Institution for Science, presented a lecture titled, "Addressing Climate Change with Science-Based Energy Solutions," at Carnegie's Broad Branch Road Campus (BBR) on March 28 as part of the Spring 2019 Neighborhood Lecture Series hosted by the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism and the Geophysical Laboratory.

Isaacs, who joined Carnegie from the University of Chicago in July 2018, discussed the challenges of meeting future global energy demands, also highlighting climate science research by Carnegie’s Department of Global Ecology. “Energy is one of the most important topics in my mind,” he said to an auditorium full of fellow scientists, BBR friends and neighbors, and other Carnegie employees. “The inextricable link between energy, climate, and water—these are some of the big problems we are facing.”

Isaacs spent five years as Director of Argonne National Laboratory, one of the nation’s largest science and engineering research centers. He earned a reputation as a nationally recognized institutional strategist and advocate for scientific research and its importance in driving the U.S. economy.

As president of Carnegie, Isaacs oversees the research and business functions across six research sites on the East and West Coasts. Photo: Roberto Molar Candanosa, DTM

During his talk, Isaacs emphasized the urgency for a comprehensive and innovative strategy to develop a sustainable energy economy. “We still have most of our energy generated from fossil fuels, and it’s not going to change overnight,” he said. “We have a real problem, but there is the possibility of a strategy.”

One of the most important things to remember about alternative solutions such as solar and wind energy, Isaacs said, is the variability of these natural resources. This variability drives the need for energy storage and advanced large-scale battery technologies. “Unless we solve the energy storage problem, you are not going to solve the problem of being able to introduce solar and wind [power] into a community,” he said.

Isaacs concluded his lecture by highlighting the need for policy-based energy solutions and the benefits of facing global warming with a new sustainable energy economy. “These technologies: whether it’s solar, whether its’s wind—we really have to worry about cost,” he said. “But we also need to think carefully about economic investment, because it will be an investment for a future that has changed.”

—Roberto Molar Candanosa