Addressing Climate Change: A Least-Cost Strategy

Thursday, March 22, 2007
7:00 p.m. – Stern Center, Great Room
Benjamin Rush Award
Roger W. Sant

Roger W. Sant is co-founder and chairman emeritus of The AES Corporation, one of the world’s largest global power companies operating in 27 countries. Mr. Sant was assistant administrator for energy conservation and the environment at the Federal Energy Administration as well as director of the energy productivity center, affiliated with the Carnegie Mellon University.

Issue in Context
Over the past two centuries, “greenhouse gases” which trap heat in our atmosphere have caused global temperatures to increase. The concentration of “greenhouse gases” is formed from deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels. “Greenhouse gases” are critical to life for they allow the planet to remain warm. In recent years these temperatures have risen above traditional levels, providing cause for concern. Eleven out of the past 12 years have been some of the warmest years ever recorded. Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are 30 percent higher than they were during the Industrial Revolution. Polar ice caps are melting rapidly, at an average of 9 percent per decade; artic thickness has decreased 40 percent in the past 40 years. Furthermore, the number of category 4 and category 5 hurricanes has multiplied dramatically over the past three decades. Such rapid developments have allowed scientists to be very confident that global temperature rises are caused in large measure by human industrial activity.
Scientists have suggested that plant and animal ranges are shifting and plants are beginning to bloom earlier than usual. Growing seasons around the world are becoming longer and precipitation patterns have changed. Extreme weather changes such as droughts, heat waves, and floods have also become more frequent. Without the reduction of emissions it is likely that many areas will suffer decreased crop production and hunger, continued droughts, loss of coral reefs, complete loss of artic ice, and an increase in tropical diseases in more widespread areas. Many species extinctions, the loss of ocean circulation, and the collapse of ecosystems are also likely. It is clear that the growing climate changes are negatively impacting the world community and it is necessary for us to take immediate steps to prevent further harm to future generations.

About the Speaker
Roger W. Sant co-founded the Applied Energy Services Corporation in 1981. From 1981 to 1986 he served as president and chief executive officer and held the position of chief executive officer until 1993. Mr. Sant was the Chairman of the Board from the time the company started until 2003. The AES Corporation is one of the world’s largest global power companies operating in 27 different countries on 5 continents. The corporation provides up to 100 million people around the world with power and generates up to 44,000 watts of electricity.
Mr. Sant is an environmentalist and under his leadership the AES Corporation sponsored the planting of 50 million trees and helped to preserve the rainforest of South America. Before founding the AES Corporation, Mr. Sant worked as an Administrator for Energy Conservation and Environment at the U.S. Federal Energy Administration. He then founded the Energy Productivity Center associated with Carnegie Mellon University. Mr. Sant also founded Finnigan Instruments, a chemical instrumentation company; and he served as a Professor of Finance at the Stanford University School of Business. He currently serves on the board of directors for the World Wildlife Fund and the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation; he is the Chairman of the Executive Committee and is a member of the Smithsonian Institution Board of Regents, and Chairman of the Board of The Summit Foundation and the Summit Fund of Washington. Mr. Sant received his bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and his M.B.A. from the Harvard University School of Business.

Related Readings

The AES Corporation
The Earth Institute at Columbia University
Climate Change: The U.S. EPA
USAToday: A Climate Change Cost-Analysis