Lectures, Seminars, Symposia, & Colloquia

The Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) is a strong supporter of the University of Illinois’ educational mission — and that includes encouraging members of the campus community to attend lectures, seminars, symposia, and colloquia that will help them discuss and learn more about issues of sustainability, energy, and environment. This page features one-time talks and series of talks that promote that kind of learning. One example is the iSEE-hosted Charles David Keeling Lecture (see video). To check for individual events of interest, visit the Illinois Sustainability Calendar. Do you know of a series not listed here that would be of interest to iSEE website visitors? Please email us, and we’ll gladly consider adding it!

2024 Earth Month Lecture

The 2024 Earth Month Lecture — set for 4 p.m. Thursday, April 18, in the College of Law’s Max L. Rowe Auditorium (504 E. Pennsylvania Ave., Champaign) — is hosted and sponsored by iSEE and the College of Law. Join us for this talk by Howard A. Learner, President and Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Chicago.

Title of talk: “Getting Smarter About A Smart Transmission Grid for the Future

Abstract: The electricity system is rapidly transforming to a more decentralized and distributed system due to innovative technological advances just as the telecommunications rapidly transformed from landlines to wireless systems, thereby fundamentally changing the ways that we live and we work. The overcharged rhetoric and often profit-motivated pounding on the table to spend trillions of public dollars to build a new interstate transmission “highway” system that will run through rural small towns and EJ communities, scenic landscapes and vital natural resources is an excessively expensive approach that risks being outdated soon after it’s built just as the huge investment in building-out new telephone wires and poles to serve more business and household modem lines was rendered largely obsolete by the shift to wireless services. Thus far, the political, regulatory and public debate on a huge interstate high-voltage transmission line build-out is sharply divided between two opposite poles of advocacy: (1) Profit-seeking developers and their allies clamoring to build more high-voltage transmission towers and line anywhere and everywhere at any cost to be charged to ratepayers and taxpayers no matter how high by invoking the mantra “climate change” to justify everything; and (2) NIMBY opposition to transmission lines and solar and wind development everywhere no matter the need for reliability and the vital importance of reducing carbon pollution that is threatening our planet. There is a balanced, vast middle-ground space for better policies and regulatory actions that can both avoid excessive and unnecessary overbuilding of huge high-voltage transmission lines that no one really wants in their own neighborhood, and provide a better and cleaner electricity system that is reliable. That more balanced middle-ground approach involves assessing four factors for a proposed new transmission line: (1) what does it carry — fossil fuel or renewable energy?; (2) what does it cost? (3) where does it go – what vital natural resources, protected public lands such as National Wildlife Refuges and community values are threatened or harmed?; and (4) what are the reasonable alternatives? That approach also involves better using and improving capacity of the existing transmission lines through advanced grid-enhancing technologies (GETS) that are often highly cost-effective by comparison and can be implemented more quickly with less environmental and community harms. In short, modernize, upgrade and better utilize the existing transmission grid, develop more distributed clean energy resources, and build some but not as much completely new transmission lines — a smarter and less rancorous strategy to achieve a smart transmission grid for our future. (And, let’s realize that standing in the middle ground often means being shot at by both sides of this polarized debate!)

Speaker Bio: Learner is an experienced attorney who serves as ELPC’s President and Executive Director. He is responsible for ELPC’s overall strategic leadership, policy direction and financial platform. Mr. Learner served as the General Counsel for Business and Professional People for the Public Interest, specializing in environmental, energy, economic development and civil rights litigation and policy development. He serves as Vice-Chair of the (Cook County) Forest Preserve Foundation. He was the founding Chair of the Illinois Citizens Utility Board and founding Chair of the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance. He served on the Executive Committee and Board of the Environmental Law Institute and as the Vice-Chair of the U.S. EPA’s National Advisory Council on Environmental Policy and Technologies. Mr. Learner is an Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University Law School and the University of Michigan Law School, teaching advanced seminars in energy law and climate change policy. Read more >>>

The Charles David Keeling Lecture

Named for Charles David Keeling, a 1948 graduate of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Illinois who was renowned for making extremely precise measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), this annual lecture explores topics of anthropogenic climate change.

The Lecture is sponsored by the Department of Atmospheric Sciences and iSEE. Past sponsors have also included the School of Chemical Sciences (SCS), the School of Earth, Society and Environment (SESE), and the Department of Chemistry. 

Keeling Lecture 2023: Webinar by Manvendra Dubey

Manvendra Dubey, Los Alamos National Laboratory Fellow in Earth & Environmental Sciences, will deliver this annual lecture on Monday, April 17, 2023. View the video above!

Title: “Greenhouse Gases Observations 1957-2100: Past, Present & Future”

Abstract: Charles David Keeling’s precise CO2 observations at the remote Mauna Loa site discerned its global rise that is attributed to emissions from human activities. His Keeling curve is the observational framework to examine anthropogenic climate change that has expanded to other greenhouse gases (GHGs) and monitoring techniques. The accelerating GHG rise and the heat absorbed by them led to concerns about climate change that have exacerbated. My lecture will:

  1. Trace how multiple long-term atmospheric CO2 observations (in situ surface, and total column from ground and satellites) have helped quantify that vegetation and ocean soak up half of the human CO2 emissions and elucidate regional fluxes (national to Amazon).
  2. Describe international agreements that slowed the rise of halocarbons and strengthening policies to reduce CH4, CO2 and N2O emissions. Highlight how novel CH4 observations are helping constrain emissions (at Four Corners, dairies and cities)
  3. Discuss the future trajectory of CO2 and monitor efficacy of decarbonizing efforts and carbon credits. Stress that positive carbon-climate feedbacks pose a risk, and their early detection is key to mitigation.

Speaker Bio: Dubey did his Ph.D. at Harvard with Professor Jim Anderson and a postdoctoral fellowship on radical-molecule reaction mechanisms at SRI-International where he focused on stratospheric photochemical models. Over the past 26 years, Dubey’s research at LANL combines measurements and simulations to improve climate forecasts and implement decarbonization. He has performed targeted aerosol, and greenhouse gas field measurements to verify emissions and validate parameterizations. He demonstrated that absorbing aerosols from fires play a key role in climate and derived new formulations to treat them in models. He has separated natural variability from secular human climate change by a synthesis of models and data. Dubey co-discovered the methane hot spot over Four Corners and showed that remote sensors can verify power-plant GHG emissions. He is active in developing effective methods using machine learning to find and fix natural gas leaks. Dubey is an AAAS, LANL and Fulbright-Nehru Fellow, and won the 2022 Energy I-Corps and 2019 R&D 100 award for developing autonomous gas leak detection technology. He is an adjunct Professor at Duke University’s Nicholas School of Environment and was Program Director for NSF’s Atmospheric Chemistry program where he served as the lead for USGCRP’s 4th National Climate Assessment. Dubey has mentored more than 20 postdocs and 50 students and has over 150 peer reviewed papers with 9,300 citations and an h-index of 52. His LinkedIn webpage >>>


More About Keeling

Keeling photograph

Charles David Keeling

After receiving his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Northwestern in 1954, Keeling spent most of his career at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography until his death in 2005. As the first to confirm the accumulation of atmospheric CO2, he produced a data set now known widely as the Keeling Curve.

To quote Charles Kennel, former Scripps Director, his measurements “are the single most important environmental data set taken in the 20th century.” Keeling also constructed one of the first models of the carbon cycle into which future man-made CO2 can be introduced to predict concentration levels in the air and water well into the next century.

His first few years of measurements also demonstrated the now well-known seasonal cycle in atmospheric CO2 due to the “breathing” of the biosphere. Read an iSEE profile of Keeling and his legacy >>>


Past Keeling Lecturers

  • 2022 — Gavin Schmidt, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). Watch Schmidt’s talk >>>
  • 2021 — Alice Hill, the David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in Washington, D.C. Watch Hill’s talk >>>
  • 2020 — Katharine Hayhoe, Endowed Professor in Public Policy and Public Law in the Public Administration program of the Department of Political Science and Co-Director of the Climate Center at Texas Tech University. Watch Hayhoe’s talk >>>
  • 2019 — Kerry Emanuel, Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Atmospheric Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Watch Emanuel’s talk >>>
  • 2018 — Eban Goodstein, Director of the Bard College’s Center for Environmental Policy and MBA in Sustainability program. Watch Goodstein’s talk >>>
  • 2017 — Illinois Atmospheric Sciences Professor Emeritus John E. Walsh, former Director of the NOAA/Alaska Cooperative Institute for Arctic Research. Watch Walsh’s talk >>>
  • 2016 — Christopher B. Field, Founding Director of the Carnegie Science Department of Global Ecology and Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies at Stanford University. Watch Field’s talk >>>
  • 2013 — Edward Maibach, Director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University
  • 2011 — Susan Solomon, Adjunct Professor at the University of Colorado and an NOAA Scientist
  • 2010 — Ralph Cicerone, President of the National Academy of Sciences and Chair of the National Research Council.
CAS MillerComm Lectures

iSEE has secured MillerComm Lectures as part of its outreach activities each academic year.

The Center for Advanced Study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign hosts the MillerComm Lecture Series each academic year, and the lectures are supported by the Office of the Chancellor, Office of Equal Opportunity and Access, Office of the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, the George A. Miller Programs Committee and Peggy Harris Memorial Fund, The Council of Deans, The David Gottlieb Memorial Foundation, and The Graduate College.


Earth Week 2022 MillerComm Lecture: Richard Lazarus

Lazarus delivered the 2022 MillerComm Lecture on Wednesday, April 20, at the Spurlock Museum’s Knight Auditorium. Listen to the audio recording >>>

  • Title of talk: “The Rule of Five: Making Climate History at the Supreme Court”
  • Abstract: Lazarus will discuss his recent book, The Rule of Five: Making Climate History at the Supreme Court, which tells the inside story leading to the Supreme Court’s most important environmental law case, Massachusetts v. EPA, in which the Court ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions to reduce the threats to public health and welfare from climate change. It is an unlikely yet nonetheless hopeful and inspiring story that both reveals the best of Supreme Court lawyering and underscores the challenges the nation has faced in adopting laws needed to address climate change. Professor Lazarus will also discuss West Virginia v. EPA, a case now pending before the Supreme Court, which threatens to limit EPA’s authority even while scientists are warning that the consequences of climate change are even worse than previously understood.
  • Bio: Lazarus is the Howard and Katherine Aibel Professor of Law at Harvard University, where he teaches environmental law, natural resources law, Supreme Court advocacy, and torts. Lazarus has represented the United States, state and local governments, and environmental groups in the United States Supreme Court in 40 cases and has presented oral argument in 14 of those cases. Prior to joining the Harvard law faculty, Lazarus was the Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., Professor of Law at Georgetown University, where he also founded the Supreme Court Institute. An Urbana native, he graduated from Harvard Law School in 1979 and has a B.S. in Chemistry and a B.A. in Economics from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. An Urbana native, he graduated in 1971 from University Laboratory High School. Read more >>>


Past MillerComm Lecturers

  • Spring 2021 — Peter Gleick, Co-Founder of the Pacific Institute (view his talk); Joan Rose, Nowlin Chair in Water Research, Michigan State University (view her talk)
  • Fall 2019 — Natalie Kofler, Stuart L. and Nancy J. Levenick Resident Scholar in Sustainability Leadership at iSEE and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, “Editing Nature: Governance Hurdles and Ethical Holes in Genetic Engineering”
  • Spring 2019 — Jonathan Overpeck, Samuel A. Graham Dean of the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan, “The Big Dry: New Drought Projections for the Southwest, Great Lakes, and Beyond” View the lecture >>>
  • 2018 — Michael Mann, Director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center (ESSC), “A Return to the Madhouse: Climate Change Denial in the Age of Trump”
  • 2017 — Kim Cobb, ADVANCE Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech, on coral bleaching and dying reefs in the central Pacific.
ISTC Sustainable Seminar Series

Each semester, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), a division of the Prairie Research Institute, puts on the Sustainability Seminar Series. ISTC’s goal is to offer “presentations by researchers, policy makers, and corporate executives on various topics related to sustainability, energy, and the environment. This series is an opportunity to share scientific research with peers in a relaxed, informal environment. Please feel free to bring a lunch. Seminars usually last about an hour and questions are welcome.” To read more about the Series and to see archives from past talks, visit the ISTC website. iSEE intends to post each scheduled event on the Illinois Sustainability Calendar.