Rethinking Academia to Address Climate Change

Interdisciplinary focus will be required to solve the climate crisis, deans say.

December 16, 2022

| by Stanford GSB Staff

“Climate change is a wicked problem. What happens in energy affects water; what happens in water affects food; what happens in food affects biodiversity.… It is a very complex issue which you cannot neatly break down into simple things.”

Dean Arun Majumdar of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability shared his vision for the collaboration between Stanford GSB and the new school. “This is the time that we have to reimagine academia.”

A talk offered to returning alumni ranged from a detailed description of the school’s goals to frank assessments of what will be necessary to arrest climate change featured Dean Majumdar, Stanford GSB Dean Jonathan Levin, and venture capitalist and philanthropist John Doerr, who along with his wife, Ann, donated $1.1 billion to establish the new school.

Doerr discussed his recent book Speed and Scale, which provides an action plan with measurable objectives and key results, to solve the climate crisis. The book, while useful for people interested in softening their own carbon footprint, is not aimed at changing individual behavior. “You have to do more than be personally virtuous,” Doerr said. “It’s not going to matter that you bought an electric vehicle and put solar panels on your house. We have to move others to collective, immediate, urgent action.”

Likewise, Majumdar said, one of the goals of the school is to create “a global network of partners, to co-create solutions, and help implement them at scale.”

Both Majumdar and Levin emphasized the importance of finding solutions that not only address environmental concerns, but also account for the economic and social implications for people in the developing world, where the impact associated with climate change will be most pronounced. “We cannot leave people behind,” Majumdar said.

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