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The IET Clerk Maxwell Lecture 2014 - Climate, Energy Arithmetic and 2050 Pathways.

David MacKay FRS

From: The IET Clerk Maxwell Lecture 2014, 6th March 2014, London

06 March 2014  News

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About the presentation

The Clerk Maxwell 2014 Lecture will be held on 6 March 2014 at the Royal Institution, London, UK.


2050 Pathways
The UK is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050, relative to 1990 levels. For this to happen, we need to transform the UK economy while ensuring secure, low carbon energy supplies to 2050.

The 2050 Calculator is a user-friendly model that lets you create your own UK emissions reduction pathway, and see the impact using real UK data. The Calculator helps everyone engage in the debate and lets Government make sure planning is consistent with the long-term aim.

The 2050 Calculator outlines, in minutes, months of work from technical experts. It can be used to engage a range of audiences on the challenges and opportunities of the energy system. It brings energy and emissions data alive, showing the benefits, costs and trade-offs of different versions of the future. It allows you to explore the fundamental questions of how the UK can best meet energy needs and reduce emissions.

The 2050 Pathways work presents a framework through which to consider some of the choices and trade-offs we will have to make over the next 40 years. It is system-wide, covering all parts of the economy and all greenhouse gases emissions released in the UK. It is rooted in scientific and engineering realities, looking at what is thought to be physically and technically possible in each sector.

Source: Department of Energy and Climate Change 2050 Pathways


About the lecture
Professor David MacKay will discuss the energy and climate challenge from a UK perspective. The UK, like many developed countries, still gets 90 percent of its primary energy from fossil fuels; climate change action must involve significant change to the energy system.

It is crucial that discussions about future low-carbon options are founded on the laws of physics and the realities of engineering.

The UK's 2050 Calculator is an open-source tool that enables the public and policy-makers to explore the range of technically feasible pathways and the trade-offs between different options.

David MacKay will discuss the latest climate data, and the crucial role of engineering and innovation in the delivery of the UK's targets.

About the speaker

Chief Scientific Advisor, DECC, Professor of Natural Philosophy, University of Cambridge


David MacKay was appointed as Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) on 1st October 2009. The Chief Scientific Advisor’s role is to ensure that the Department’s policies and operations, and its contributions to wider Government issues, are underpinned by the best science and engineering advice available.

David MacKay studied Natural Sciences at Trinity College, and then onto Caltech to complete a PhD in Computation and Neural Systems.

In 1992 he returned to Cambridge as a Royal Society research fellow at Darwin College. In 1995 he became a university lecturer in the Department of Physics, where he was promoted in 1999 to a Readership and in 2003 to a Professorship in Natural Philosophy. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 2009.

In 2013 David MacKay was appointed Regius Professor in Engineering at the University of Cambridge. Regius Professorships are Royal academic titles, created by the monarch. The Engineering role is a new Regius Professorship, announced in 2011 to celebrate the Duke of Edinburgh’s 34 years as Chancellor of the University.

David MacKay’s research interests include reliable computation with unreliable hardware, and communication systems for the disabled. He believes that what the climate-change discussion needs is clear, simple numbers, so that we can understand just how big our challenge is, and not be duped by wishful thinking.

His book on the subject (Sustainable Energy - Without The Hot Air: David MacKay, UIT Cambridge, 2009) has received endorsements from all sectors and from all political parties; The Economist called it “a tour de force�, and The Guardian called it “this year's must-read book�.

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