Did you know that Thomas Edison was a pioneer in renewable energy? He experimented with wind turbines and even developed an electric car run on rechargeable batteries. In fact, the year he died, he noted, "I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that."
It's been more than eight decades since his 1931 quote, noted Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in her recent lecture, "From Climate Conflict to Climate Action: Capturing the Greatest Opportunities of Our Generation."
"We are finally catching up to Edison," Figueres said.
Managing and overcoming conflict is central to finding solutions to global climate global climate change and, as UN climate chief, Christiana Figueres is charged with resolving conflict and bringing together governments, scientists, businesses, and the public to collectively address climate change challenges.
Figueres identified three conflicts that have been or are currently being resolved.
First, she said that until recently, we had a lively debate about the veracity of the science. She told the audience on April 24 that skepticism and doubt have turned to a realization that "all countries are now vulnerable and we must do something about it."
Second, we are overcoming the conflict about fuels as we come to rely less on fossil fuels and replace them with green, clean alternatives like water, wind, sun, and electricity.
Finally, Figueres professed that we are resolving the debate on responsibility.
"While the historical responsibility… is incontrovertible, we can stop pointing fingers and start taking action," she said.
As she talked about reducing emissions, promoting green energy, and creating economic growth that is not tied to finite natural resources, she called for global collaboration.
"Stopping climate change is a shared global responsibility. Success will only come if we collaborate and cooperate. It may seem a daunting task set against impossible odds," she acknowledged. "However, we have the technologies and the capital. We now need to set them to the task. I am confident we can, and will, rise to the challenge and seize the greatest opportunity of our generation."
Dean Ira A. Jackson of the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies was proud and pleased to host this environmental policy expert, noting, "Secretary Figueres is arguably one of the most important persons in the world on one of the most important topics of the world: global warming."
The annual Slomoff Lectureship is made possible by gifts from alumnus Benjamin Slomoff. Now in his 100th year and still working to resolve disputes in the California court system, Slomoff earned a master's degree in conflict resolution in 1997 and has been a regular supporter of the Graduate Programs in Conflict Resolution.
Students and faculty from Harvard, Boston University, Tufts University, and University of New Hampshire joined members of the UMass Boston community for this lecture. Many more, including Slomoff himself, watched it via streamed video and submitted questions on Twitter.