The major set of new challenges faced by our global civilisation in this century result from the improvement in wellbeing delivered through the last 150 years. Advances in engineering, technology, agriculture and medicine, together with economic and political development, led to human lifespan increasing and the population rising by 1 billion every 12 years, reaching 6.7 billion today and 9 billion by mid-century. Due to the consumption of one set of natural resources, including fresh water, oil and minerals, at a rate faster than they can be replenished, and the mismanagement of others, in particular the atmosphere, land and oceans, the ecosystem services required from the Earth for a population of 9 billion are being rapidly eroded. Climate change is the single biggest new challenge, as it requires a collective response from all major nations. If these challenges are not future-proofed, enforced environmental migrations coupled with growing health, food, energy, mineral and water challenges will lead to widespread conflict by mid-century between developed, rapidly emerging and developing nations. The discussion will centre around meeting these challenges through greater global awareness of the demand for equitable solutions, and new forms of national and global governance which are fit for purpose.
Professor Sir David King is the Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment at the University of Oxford. He was the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser and Head of the Government Office of Science from October 2000 to 31 December 2007. In that time, he raised the profile of the need for governments to act on climate change and was instrumental in creating the new £1 billion Energy Technologies Institute. In 2008 he co-authored The Hot Topic (Bloomsbury) on this subject. As Director of the Government’s Foresight Programme, he created an in-depth horizon scanning process which advised government on a wide range of long term issues, from flooding to obesity. He also chaired the government’s Global Science and Innovation Forum from its inception. He advised government on issues including the foot-and-mouth disease epidemic of 2001; post 9/11 risks to the UK; GM foods; energy provision; and innovation and wealth creation. He was also heavily involved in the Government’s Science and Innovation Strategy 2004-2014.
Sir David was born in South Africa in 1939, and after an early career at the University of Witwatersrand, Imperial College and the University of East Anglia, he became the Brunner Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Liverpool in 1974. In 1988 he was appointed 1920 Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Cambridge and subsequently became Master of Downing College (1995-2000) and Head of the University Chemistry Department (1993-2000). He has published over 450 papers on his research in chemical physics and on science and policy, and has received numerous prizes, fellowships, and honorary degrees. He continues as Director of Research in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge. He is President of the Collegio Carlo Alberto in Turin and is Senior Science Adviser to UBS, Science Adviser to President Kagame of Rwanda, and Adviser to EU Commissioners on science capacity building in Africa.