An ISERP Series: The History and Future of Planetary Threats
About the Speaker:
Former U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz is chief executive officer and co-chair of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a global security organization working to reduce nuclear and biological threats.
As the thirteenth U.S. Secretary of Energy, he advanced energy technology innovation, nuclear security, cutting-edge scientific research, and environmental stewardship (2013-2017). Moniz previously served in government as DOE Under Secretary (1997-2001) and Associate Director for Science in the Office of Science and Technology Policy (1995-1997).
He also served on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology faculty (1973-2013) and is Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems emeritus and Special Advisor to the MIT President. He also is a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Harvard Belfer Center and president and CEO of Energy Futures Initiative.
Moniz received a Bachelor of Science degree summa cum laude in physics from Boston College and a doctorate in theoretical physics from Stanford University.
Wilmot G. James is a Senior Research Scholar at the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP), College of Arts and Sciences, Columbia University. An academic by background with a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, he was previously a Member of Parliament (South Africa) and opposition spokesperson on health. Wilmot is the author and/or editor of 17 books that include the policy-oriented Vital Signs: Health Security in South Africa (2020), a set of essays on the public understanding of science titled Nature’s Gifts: Why we are the way we are (2010), a coedited book Biotechnology and Health: South Africa’s aspirations in health-related biotechnology (2007) and a co-edited collection of Nelson Mandela’s presidential speeches Nelson Mandela In His Own Words (2003), the latter having the distinction of containing forwards by Bill Clinton and Kofi Annan and given to the late Nelson Mandela on his 85th birthday.
Alex N. Halliday is the Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute. He joined the Earth Institute in April 2018, after spending more than a decade at the University of Oxford, during which time he was dean of science and engineering. With about 400 published research papers, Halliday has been a pioneer in developing mass spectrometry to measure small isotopic variations in everything from meteorites to seawater to living organisms, helping to shed light on the birth and early development of our solar system, the interior workings of the Earth, and the processes that affect Earth’s surface environment.
About the Series:
In this series, ISERP convenes meetings to examine modern-day catastrophic risks and hazards, whether natural, accident or deliberate, in the following domains: geological, biological, epidemic infectious disease, environmental, chemical, extreme weather, food security, radiological and nuclear, or combinations of these. By catastrophic we understand to mean classes of events that could lead to sudden, extraordinary, widespread disaster beyond the collective capacity of national and international organizations and the private sector to control, causing severe disruptions in normal social functioning, heavy tolls in terms of morbidity and mortality, and major economic losses; in sum, events that may well cause a change the direction of history. Nuclear falls into a class of its own, because it can result in the annihilation of life on planet earth and the end of history as we know it.