Nobel laureate & former US Energy Secretary to give key lecture on climate change

4 November 2014

This year’s Romanes Lecture will be about climate change and energy and is being delivered by a Nobel laureate who served in Barack Obama’s administration as the US Secretary of Energy from January 2009 to April 2013. Professor Steven Chu shared the Nobel Physics Prize in 1997 for the development of methods using lasers to cool and trap atoms. He will be speaking at the Sheldonian Theatre on Tuesday, 11 November about the challenges of climate change and sharing some possible solutions with the audience.

Professor Steven Chu, who is currently Professor of Physics and Molecular and Cellular Physiology at Stanford University, said: ‘Better solutions to the energy and climate challenge mean two things: it means environmentally better but also economically sensible solutions. Science and technology will play a crucial role in this, for finding solutions that include energy efficiency and clean energy sources  Research and policy nudges are essential to help accelerate this process.’

He will give an “epidemiological” approach to assessing the risks of climate change, explaining how we can mitigate the risks with science, technology and policy so that sustainable energy becomes the low cost option. He will say that ignoring the risks of climate change until we are certain the predictions will be realised is not a prudent way to plan for the future. And while it is OK to hope for the best, it is foolish to plan for the best.

The Romanes Lecture is the annual public lecture of the University. The Lectures were created in 1891 following an offer by John Romanes of Christ Church to fund them. Romanes’s circle of friends included Charles Darwin, George Eliot, and William Gladstone. Gladstone gave the first Romanes lecture in 1892; T H Huxley, another friend, gave the second in the following year.

Each year the lecturer is invited to speak by the current Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford. Each Romanes lecturer must give the Vice-Chancellor a copy of his or her lecture, which will be kept at the Bodleian Library.

More recently, speakers have included the Nobel-prize-winning pioneer of microcredit, Muhammad Yunus, who in 2008 gave a lecture about attaining a poverty-free world; in 2009, the then Prime Minister the Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP spoke about the power of science working in the service of humanity; Professor Sir Andrew Motion, who served as Poet Laureate from 1999 to 2009, assessed the impact of government policy on the arts and humanities; and Lord (Martin) Rees explained the ‘Limits of Science’ in 2011.

For more information, contact the University of Oxford News Office on +44 (0)1865 280534 or email [email protected]

Notes for Editors:

The lecture, ‘Our Energy and Climate Change: Challenges and Solutions’ will take place in the Sheldonian Theatre, Broad Street, Oxford on Tuesday 11 November 2014 at 17.45.

Media are invited to attend the lecture. Please register your interest in advance to [email protected]

A photograph of Professor Chu is available to media. The lecture will be posted on the University website. To register for this free event, go to