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Former U.S. Secretary of Energy speaks at Clarkson

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POTSDAM - Nobel Laureate and former U.S. Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu spoke at Clarkson University Friday, one day before he is scheduled to receive an honorary degree from the school.

Dr. Chu talked about the pressing environmental concerns facing the planet and offered suggestions on how we can improve the climate.

He also presented numerous statistical graphs, showing how the country’s climate has been effected by human’s actions.

“One of our issues is the record of land temperatures from 1800 to 2011. It shows that the temperature has been increasing. ... Although over the last 10 years the temperature hasn’t been increasing, if you step back and look at a bigger picture, it appears to be increasing,” Dr. Chu said. “The average temperature increase has been mostly in the last 30 to 40 years. ... When you start looking at a half a century, it becomes something different.”

The professor of physics and molecular and cellular physiology at Stanford University was the longest-serving Secretary of Energy, serving more than five years under President Barack Obama.

His initiatives while in office included the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy, the Energy Innovation Hubs, and the Clean Energy Ministerial meetings. During his tenure, the deployment of renewable energy in the U.S. doubled.

“We see that beginning in 1900 and going until 2005 - American male adults who were smoking - in 1900 we were not a smoking country. Virtually no one smoked. But by the 1960s, the average consumption - if you divide by all adult males - was 4,500 cigarettes per year. That’s an astounding number,” Dr. Chu said. “If you consider all of the people in all of the wars in the United States that were ever fought, more people have died from cigarette smoking in the past 50 years by 10 times. It’s a staggering statistic.”

Dr. Chu also talked with the crowd nearly filling the school’s Student Center Forum about the effects of oil production in the country. Other topics during the discussion included energy efficiency methods and how our decisions today will determine the outcome of future generations.

“To me, working on a sustainable energy climate change is really something that is a moral duty because the most innocent victims of climate change are the ones who will suffer the most - the ones who had nothing to do with it and mostly the unborn children,” Dr. Chu said. “I’ll close by reminding you of an ancient Native American saying that said, ‘We do not inherit the planet from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children.’”

Dr. Chu, along with Bridges to Prosperity CEO Avery Bang, will be receiving honorary doctorate degrees Saturday during Clarkson’s commencement.

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