Steven Chu, Nobel laureate in physics and ex-US Secretary of Energy (2009-2013), has advised Shanghai to combine its basic and high-tech research prowess.
Chu, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1997, said that instead of asking students to focus on sophisticated research, he encouraged young scientists to “participate in all activities.”
Frequent travel between China and the United States has afforded Chu, who now teaches at Stanford University, a glimpse into the development of clean energy on both sides.
With the US leading the exploration of shale gas and oil, and countries like China also closely engaged in this drive, the world might one day benefit from a reduction of energy prices.
But in the long run, mankind’s continued failure to wean itself off a dependency on fossil fuels will have a lasting impact on the environment and public health, he said.
A long-time advocate of a shift away from fossil fuel, he warned that continued heavy use of fossil fuels will undercut efforts to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius.
The public health effects resulting from climate change and environmental pollution are also dire. While human life span can now reach 90 years and more, Chu warned, somewhat apocalyptically, that severe pollution will drastically reduce it to “50 years or even less.”
His environmental concerns have committed him to research in battery technologies.
Advances in this field have enabled pioneers like Tesla to reduce the charging time of their vehicles to less than 40 minutes for a ride of up to 140 miles (224 kilometers).
Comparing scientists to ambassadors disseminating knowledge across borders, Chu believed that cooperation is happening alongside competition.