Harrisburg University Announces 2019 Distinguished Speaker Series on Climate Disruption and Sustainable Development

Harrisburg University of Science and Technology will host a series of six public lectures in 2019 – from January through May – featuring thought leaders who will speak on a variety of topics related to climate disruption and sustainable development.

The Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA) was released in November 2018.  It assesses the science of climate change and variability and its impacts across the United States, both now and through the end of this century. The Fourth NCA found that climate disruption presents grave present risks, and intensifying future risks, to communities – particularly indigenous communities, our economy, ecosystems, the environment and the natural world, public health, water quantity and quality, agriculture, and infrastructure.

Harrisburg University’s 2019 Distinguished Speaker Series on Climate Disruption and Sustainable Development, organized by HU’s Center for Environment, Energy, and Economy (E3), will present thought-provoking discussions on this vitally important topic.

Harrisburg University President Eric Darr said, “Harrisburg University is proud to present this series of in-depth discussions on the magnitude of the climate risk, approaches to mitigation, and available legal and policy tools. The series will culminate with three sessions on relevant cutting-edge research and technology development being conducted at Harrisburg University. We welcome our students, faculty, and the community to these important conversations.”

The events, which are free and open to the public, will take place at Harrisburg University main campus in downtown Harrisburg. Each event in the speaker series will run from 11:30AM to 1:00PM.  From 11:30AM to noon, there will be networking and a complimentary lunch. The lectures begin at noon with time for Q&A following. The events will be moderated by John Quigley, Director of HU’s Center for E3.

The lectures and distinguished speakers are described below.  Registration is requested. To attend, RSVP online to http://www.HarrisburgU.edu/RSVP.


2019 Distinguished Speaker Series on Climate Disruption 
and Sustainable Development

 1. Friday, January 18, 2019, 11:30AM-1:00PM, 14th Floor Auditorium: What Citizens Urgently Need to Know About Climate Change in Light of Several Recent Scientific Papers Including the Special Report of IPCC on Limiting Warming to 1.5 0Donald A. Brown, Scholar In Residence and Professor, Sustainability Ethics and Law, Widener University Commonwealth Law School, Harrisburg, PA.

This presentation will explain six things that citizens around the world urgently need to understand about climate change in light of the most recent climate change science. These six things are:

  1. The enormous magnitude of GHG emissions reductions needed to prevent catastrophic warming.
  2. The speed of GHG emissions reductions needed to prevent catastrophic warming.
  3. No nation may either legally or morally use national self-interest alone as justification for their failure to fully meet their obligation under the UNFCCC.
  4. No nation may either legally or morally use scientific uncertainty as justification for their failure to fully meet their obligations under the UNFCCC.
  5. Developed countries must legally, morally, and practically more aggressively reduce their GHG emissions than developing countries
  6. Developed countries must legally, morally, and practically help finance mitigation and adaptation programs in poor developing countries.

2. Friday February 8, 2019, 11:30AM-1:00PM, 14th Floor Auditorium – Is 100% Renewable Energy the Answer to Climate Change?: Technical and Economic Implications of the Clean Energy Transition – Karl Hausker, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, World Resources Institute

This briefing will explore how assumptions regarding the availability, performance, and integration of various energy technologies drive the climate and economic implications of contrasting pathways to the “deep decarbonization” of the U.S. economy. Implications for energy policy and R&D portfolios will also be explored.

 3. Friday, March 15, 2019, 11:30AM-1:00PM; 14th Floor Auditorium: Legal Pathways to Zero Greenhouse Gas EmissionsJohn Dernbach, Commonwealth Professor of Environmental Law and Sustainability and DirectorEnvironmental Law and Sustainability Center, Widener University Commonwealth Law School, Harrisburg, PA

Scientific reports are increasingly urgent about the need to act on climate change.  But what do we do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?  This presentation will discuss the findings in a new book that describes and analyzes more than 1,000 legal tools for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to zero, or nearly zero, by midcentury.  The book is Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States (Michael B. Gerrard & John C. Dernbach, editors, Environmental Law Institute Press, forthcoming March 2019).   The book provides tools for policy makers, lawyers, and the public to address what is easily one of the most challenging problems of our time.

4. Friday, March 29, 2019, 11:30AM-1:00PM, 14th Floor Auditorium: Natural Gas in Pennsylvania: Energy, Innovation, and the EnvironmentArvind P. Ravikumar, PhD, Assistant Professor in Energy Engineering, Harrisburg University Natural Gas in Pennsylvania: Energy, Innovation, and the Environment

Pennsylvania is one of the largest producers of natural gas in the United States. The shale boom of the past decade had many benefits – it reduced air pollution, created jobs, and provided local economic growth. More importantly, it has also made US a net importer of oil and gas resources – a feat that was considered impossible just 10 years ago. In this talk, Dr. Ravikumar will discuss how Pennsylvania can harness advances in new technological innovation to make the natural gas industry more sustainable, while creating hundreds of local, high-paying jobs.

Despite this success of natural gas development in recent years, it has also brought its own challenges – methane emissions. Methane is the major component of natural gas that heats our homes and cooks our food. However, leaks in the natural gas supply chain often releases methane directly into our atmosphere. This is a problem. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is far more powerful than carbon dioxide and contributes to climate change. Near the ground, it can lead to ozone formation and local air pollution. The challenge, therefore, to Pennsylvania and the U.S., is to strike a balance between effective environmental regulations and economic development.

Fortunately, the last 5 years has seen tremendous technological innovation in the methane space. Many start-up companies in the US are developing methane leak detection sensors that are faster, cheaper, and more effective than existing solutions. These new sensors, often on mobile platforms such as drones, trucks, planes, and even satellites, can enable the sustainable development of the natural gas industry. In this lecture, we will explore this technological revolution, understand its impact on the energy industry, and discuss what it means to Pennsylvania.

5. Friday, April 5, 2019, 11:30AM-1:00PM, 14th Floor Auditorium: Towards a Public Web-Platform for Limiting Methane Emissions from the Oil and Gas Sector: Iheb Abdellatif, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Information Systems Engineering and Management, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, with Arvind P. Ravikumar, PhD, Assistant Professor in Energy Engineering, Harrisburg University

 FEAST (Fugitive Emissions Abatement Simulation Testbed) is a tool for modeling the performance of methane leak detection and repair programs that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of detection technologies and proposed mitigation policies. Originally developed by HU Professor Arvind Ravikumar and colleagues at Stanford University, FEAST is now being refined at Harrisburg University.

Dr. Abdellatif will discuss how Harrisburg University is enhancing the FEAST tool and migrating it to a web-based platform to meet widespread interest among regulators, industry, and other academics in using a tool like FEAST to understand the economics of methane mitigation policy.  This project is part of HU efforts to comprehensively advance the business case for methane emission reduction from energy production across the full value chain – from production through distribution.

 6. Friday, April 19, 2019, 11:30AM-1:00PM, Room 1151 – Using the Latest Digital Innovations to Address Energy Poverty in Developing Countries – Festus Odubo, Ph.D., Public Utility/Energy Advisor/ Rate Case Review Specialist and Agency Representative, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PA PUC) and Amjad Umar, Ph.D., Professor and Director of the Management and eBusiness degree program and the Information Systems Engineering and Management (ISEM) programs, Harrisburg University; and Senior Advisor to the United Nations and a Fulbright Senior Specialist with the US Council for International Exchange of Scholars

Dr. Odubo will present his work on the technical and economic/financial issues that impact the commercial viability and effectiveness of microgrid systems in Nigeria and the viability of existing and future microgrid projects in the country.  Dr. Umar will present a model of how the latest digital innovations and computer-aided planning can be deployed to address the issues and foster a bottom-up, community-based approach to addressing energy policy and sustainable development in developing and least developed countries.

About the Center for E3: Harrisburg University’s Center for Environment, Energy, and Economy (E3) was created in August 2017 to connect HU’s faculty, curriculum, and students to change-makers who work to combine environmental protection and sustainability practices with economic development. The Center partners with and solves problems for businesses and governmental entities, focusing on IT, data, and systems-based projects that can support evidence-based decision-making systems, policy development, and practice. ​

About Harrisburg University: Accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Harrisburg University is a private non-profit university offering bachelor and graduate degree programs in science, technology, and math fields to a diverse student body. For more information on the University’s affordable demand-driven undergraduate and graduate programs, call 717.901.5146 or email, Connect@HarrisburgU.edu.