Colorado research universities to lead U.S. contribution to global environmental initiative
The United States has been selected as one of five international hubs for Future Earth, an ambitious 10-year research initiative to address global environmental change solutions and actions. The U.S. hub will be headquartered in Colorado and managed jointly by Colorado State University and the University of Colorado-Boulder.
Other Future Earth global hubs will be located in Canada, France, Japan and Sweden. In addition to these global hubs, a number of regional hubs are established or in development in Latin America, the Middle East, Asia, and in Africa.
The selection was announced July 2 by the International Council for Science, or ICSU, based in Paris and the interim secretariat for Future Earth.
The Future Earth initiative builds on decades of global change research with a goal of linking scientists, decision makers and private sector to design and develop activities to deal with such change at local and regional levels.
Future Earth is expected to mobilize roughly 60,000 scientists and students worldwide to work toward responding effectively to the risks and opportunities of global change and supporting transformation toward global sustainability. The research platform will engage scientists, decision makers, business leaders and other stakeholders to address mounting societal challenges of global environmental change.
From a global perspective, the Future Earth initiative could not have come at a more opportune time, according to CSU President Tony Frank and CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano.
“The visibility and prestige that Colorado will gain as an international hub for Future Earth will bolster state, national and global research partnerships and allow faculty and students from both universities to play significant roles in solving pressing environmental change issues around the world,” they said in a joint statement. “This selection of CSU and CU to lead our nation’s efforts on the world stage speaks to the combined research strengths of our two universities, and how the global scientific community, and people around the world, will benefit from this significant collaboration.”
Future Earth focuses on three major themes related to global change: better understanding the environmental and societal trends on the planet, including the anticipation of global risks; developing a sustainable, secure and fair stewardship of food, water, biodiversity, health and energy on Earth; and a transformation toward sustainability, with emphasis on new technologies and economic development appropriate to local communities.
“We now stand at a crossroads regarding rapid global change that is affecting our planet, including our environment, our societies and our resources,” said CU-Boulder Vice Chancellor for Research Stein Sture. “We view Future Earth as a crucial venture and the best way to bring together the top minds in our international research communities to recognize and help to solve the many challenges we face, which reach far beyond national borders, politics and policies.”
“Colorado State University is excited to partner with University of Colorado on Future Earth,” said Alan Rudolph, vice president for research at CSU. “This new effort will establish Colorado as a global nexus for environmental sustainability.”
Search for solutions
As part of Future Earth, scientists will continue to monitor and forecast changes in the Earth’s systems, including climate, atmospheric chemistry, water, ecosystems, and biodiversity.
Future Earth is being created from a number of existing international science organizations, including the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, the International Human Dimensions Programme, Diversitas, the World Climate Research Programme and the Earth Science System Partnership. Funding for Future Earth will come from international science funding agencies, as well as other public and private sources.
“The U.S. hub of Future Earth will work closely with Colorado research institutions such as the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth Systems Research Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, other federal agencies, and national groups such as the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, that have long and mutually beneficial relationships with both universities and the state of Colorado,” said Dennis Ojima, lead scientist for the CSU part of Future Earth, and professor of ecosystem science and sustainability in the Warner College of Natural Resources.
“We expect that this new U.S. hub will facilitate new collaboration between researchers, business and decision makers in the Front Range of Colorado and beyond,” said Professor Jason Neff, lead scientist for the CU-Boulder part of the Future Earth effort.
Colorado as global partner
Future Earth will be part of a new Center for Global Environment managed jointly by CU-Boulder and CSU. The U.S. hub will reside within the new Sustainability, Energy and Environment Complex (SEEC) at CU-Boulder and at the School of Global Environmental Sustainability (SoGES) at CSU.
Ojima will be the acting global hub director of Future Earth’s U.S. hub in Colorado. The primary facility for the hub will be at CU-Boulder.
With the involvement of students from around the world, Future Earth also will contribute to the development of the next generation of scientists and policy makers.
Colorado’s research universities and the 21 national laboratories located in the state already have strong cooperative agreements that have helped propel the state to the fourth fastest-growing economy in the nation. The addition of the U.S. hub of Future Earth to that intellectual ecosystem will further enhance the state’s reputation as a hub of innovation and a place with the talent and resources to find solutions to problems on a global scale.