State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

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Event: The National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges: An Overview and Focus on Water

Dr. Charles Vest

The Columbia Climate Center, in collaboration with the Columbia Water Center and the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy, invites you to attend “The National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges: An Overview and Focus on Water,” on Tuesday, November 24 at 3 pm. The event will feature Charles Vest, President, National Academy of Engineering and President Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Farouk El-Baz, Director, Center for Remote Sensing and Research Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Boston University. Earth Institute Director Jeffrey D. Sachs, will introduce the event, and Columbia Climate Center Director Peter Schlosser will conclude.

When: Tuesday, November 24, 3 to 4:30 PM (reception to follow)

Where: 1501 International Affairs Building, 420 W 118th St at Amsterdam Ave (map)


Event details: Sustainable development on a planet with finite resources and a growing population is not only a desirable, but a priority. In February 2008, a National Academy of Engineering committee unveiled their perception of the grand challenges of engineering that face humanity in the 21st century. Meeting the demands of growing energy needs while curtailing greenhouse gas emissions, overcoming water scarcity, fighting disease, ensuring security, building and maintaining sustainable urban infrastructure, and furthering discovery and learning are just a few of the areas that require concerted research from engineers, natural scientists, doctors, and social scientists alike.

The grand challenges are:

  • Make solar energy economical
  • Provide energy from fusion
  • Develop carbon sequestration methods
  • Manage the nitrogen cycle
  • Provide access to clean water
  • Restore and improve urban infrastructure
  • Advance health informatics
  • Engineer better medicines
  • Reverse-engineer the brain
  • Prevent nuclear terror
  • Secure cyberspace
  • Enhance virtual reality
  • Advance personalized learning
  • Engineer the tools of scientific discovery

Dr. Charles Vest, President of the National Academy of Engineering and President Emeritus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will discuss the process that led to the list and present an overview of fourteen challenges and the role that we can play in meeting them. He will be joined by Professor Farouk El-Baz, director of the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University, who will focus primarily on the challenge inherent to meeting the need for water in the face of a growing population, increased urbanization, and a changing climate.

For more information about the NAE’s Grand Challenges of Engineering, to express your opinion about the fourteen challenges, or to choose the highest priority challenge, go to Please join us on Tuesday November 24 to learn about the challenges firsthand!

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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