2 June 2021, by Christina Krätzig
Professor Esther Duflo was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2019. At the Global University Leaders Council Hamburg, she talked about the global climate crisis.
Nobel laureate Professor Esther Duflo discussed the climate crisis with researchers and interested members of the public from all over the world. The event marked the opening of a biennial meeting between international university leaders.
University president Univ.-Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Dieter Lenzen welcomed the French-American researcher to the live stream. In his own speech, Professor Lenzen introduced the goals of the Global University Leaders Council Hamburg. It is a platform for university leaders regularly to discuss social challenges and the role of higher-education institutions in overcoming them. This year’s topic was climate change.
Professor Esther Duflo started her lecture with a question: why is climate change such a difficult topic to overcome politically? She observed that the wealthy nations of the global North are net contributors to the problem, while the poorer countries of the global South suffer most from its consequences. It is due to this divide that the North has been lacking in its commitment to climate-related goals.
Professor Duflo, who researches and lectures in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, also emphasized that this may change. Approaches to solving the climate crisis need not be based on technical aspects alone: changing the behavior of populations makes a difference, too. And Duflo believes that this can be achieved.
During the panel discussion following the lecture, President of the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) Professor Peter‐André Alt and President of the International Association of Universities Professor Pam Fredman agreed that universities have a particularly important role to play in this process. They must be role models and start implementing the relevant measures on their own campuses. Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, emphasized that the perception of universities as institutions with outstanding climate goals can motivate students to take action against climate change.
Professor Detlef Stammer, head of the World Climate Research Program (WCRP) and spokesperson for the Cluster of Excellence Climate, Climatic Change, and Society (CLICCS) at Universität Hamburg, agreed with Professor Duflo’s urgent appeal for immediate action. Stammer underscored that global warming had already reached one degree Celsius since the start of the Industrial Revolution and that it would take much greater effort to slow down the impending rise in temperatures and lessen its impact.
The event was held in English and moderated by the former editor in chief of DER SPIEGEL / SPIEGEL ONLINE, Dr. Barbara Hans. She also asked the participants questions submitted by the audience.
You can watch a recording of the lecture and the panel discussion on the website of the Global University Leaders Council Hamburg.