US climate experts join Galway institute board
A FORMER senior official in Barack Obama’s administration and a Harvard Medical School physician have joined NUI Galway’s Ryan Institute advisory board on climate and environmental issues.
The Ryan Institute, headed by director Prof Colin Brown, has over 300 people working on environmental, marine and energy research. He said the new advisory group would reflect the views of “leading thinkers” in these specialisations.
Former US energy under-secretary Dr Kristina Johnson and Harvard paediatrician Dr Aaron Bernstein – who examines how climate change affects human health – will join European Science Foundation senior official Dr Niall McDonough on the new body, which meets today in Galway.
Other new appointees to the board include IBM Smarter cities technology centre director Dr Lisa Amini and NUIG strategic management lecturer and director Dr James Cunningham.
All five will participate in a public symposium tomorrow, following the formal opening of the institute by EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.
The board will meet once a year to advise on strategic direction and to develop links with similar institutes in Europe and North America, he said.
Dr Johnson was energy under-secretary in Washington, DC until the end of 2010, and holds a doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University. She did a post-doctoral fellowship at Trinity before becoming professor at University of Colorado Boulder.
Dr Bernstein and Nobel Peace prize winner Eric Chivian wrote Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity, which has received plaudits from former US vice-president Al Gore, UN secretary general Kofi Annan and former Norwegian prime minister Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland.
Previewing his keynote speech tomorrow, Dr Bernstein said he wished to address “the greatest accounting problem ever known” which relates not to the value of money but the “value of nature”.
“The depletion of natural capital makes clear that we have as yet been unable to balance the biospheric books even if our survival depends on it,” he says.
He says that NUIG Ryan Institute has “many worthy goals” and “it is noteworthy that despite the financial turmoil that besets Ireland, the institute has moved ahead”. Entrance to the public conference is free. See conference.ie