The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Climate Crisis: Transitioning Away from a Carbon-Based Economy

Thursday, April 22, 2021 - 12:30pm
Virtual Event

Climate Crisis

On January 27, 2021, the White House issued an Executive Order declaring a climate crisis and committing to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, placing climate change at the center of US foreign policy and national security. Yet, despite a pause during the pandemic, carbon emissions are projected to rise above their pre-COVID levels as governments attempt to jumpstart their economic recoveries in 2021. How will the US – and the world – transition from a carbon-based economy to one that is greenhouse gas emissions neutral in order to avert this crisis? 

Please join us for the 2021 Freedman lecture on April 22, titled 'Climate Crisis: Transitioning Away from a Carbon-Based Economy'  for a lively discussion among three experts who will present different perspectives on how to move forward.  The Annual Freedman Lecture is sponsored by Robert J. Rosen '69 and Nancy J. Rosen '70, in memory of her parents, Max and Ruth Freedman. 


  • Jacopo Buongiorno, director of the Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems (CANES), director of Science and Technology for the MIT Nuclear Reactor Laboratory, & professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT. Buongiorno will discuss new advances made in nuclear energy production as an alternative to carbon-based energy sources in every sector of the economy.  
  • Samantha Gross, director, and Fellow of the Foreign Policy, Energy Security, and Climate Initiative at the Brookings Institution. Gross will share her research on approaches for decarbonizing the heavy transport and industry sectors of the economy, which are difficult to electrify.
  • Robert Pollin, professor of Economics & co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) will present his vision for a Global Green New Deal. 


  • Krista Harper, acting director of the Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR) & professor of Anthropology & Public Policy 


Jacopo Buongiorno

Jacopo Buongiorno is the TEPCO professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the director of Science and Technology of the MIT Nuclear Reactor Laboratory. He teaches a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses in thermo-fluids engineering and nuclear reactor engineering. Jacopo has published 90 journal articles in the areas of reactor safety and design, two-phase flow and heat transfer, and nanofluid technology. For his research work and his teaching at MIT he won several awards, among which the ANS Outstanding Teacher Award (2019), the MIT MacVicar Faculty Fellowship (2014), the ANS Landis Young Member Engineering Achievement Award (2011), the ASME Heat Transfer Best Paper Award (2008), and the ANS Mark Mills Award (2001) Jacopo is the Director of the Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems (CANES). In 2016–2018 he led the MIT study on the Future of Nuclear Energy in a Carbon-Constrained World. Jacopo is a consultant for the nuclear industry in the area of reactor thermal-hydraulics, and a member of the Accrediting Board of the National Academy of Nuclear Training. He is also a member of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) Space Working Group, a Fellow of the American Nuclear Society (including service on its Special Committee on Fukushima in 2011–2012), a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, past member of the Naval Studies Board (2017–2019), and a participant in the Defense Science Study Group (2014–2015). 

Samantha Gross

Samantha Gross is a fellow in the Cross-Brookings Initiative on Energy and Climate. Her work is focused on the intersection of energy, environment, and policy, including climate policy and international cooperation, energy efficiency, unconventional oil and gas development, regional and global natural gas trade, and the energy-water nexus. Gross has more than 20 years of experience in energy and environmental affairs.  She has been a visiting fellow at the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, where she authored work on clean energy cooperation and on post-Paris climate policy. She was director of the Office of International Climate and Clean Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy. In that role, she directed U.S. activities under the Clean Energy Ministerial, including the secretariat and initiatives focusing on clean energy implementation and access and energy efficiency. Prior to her time at the Department of Energy, Gross was director of integrated research at IHS CERA. She managed the IHS CERA Climate Change and Clean Energy forum and the IHS relationship with the World Economic Forum. She also authored numerous papers on energy and environment topics and was a frequent speaker on these topics. She has also worked at the Government Accountability Office on the Natural Resources and Environment team and as an engineer directing environmental assessment and remediation projects. 

Robert Pollin

Robert Pollin is distinguished professor of Economics and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He is also the founder and president of PEAR (Pollin Energy and Retrofits), an Amherst, MA-based green energy company operating throughout the United States. His books include The Living Wage: Building a Fair Economy (co-authored 1998); Contours of Descent: U.S. Economic Fractures and the Landscape of Global Austerity (2003); An Employment-Targeted Economic Program for South Africa (co-authored 2007); A Measure of Fairness: The Economics of Living Wages and Minimum Wages in the United States (co-authored 2008), Back to Full Employment (2012), Green Growth (2014), Global Green Growth (2015) and Greening the Global Economy. He has worked recently as a consultant for the U.S. Department of Energy, the International Labour Organization, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and numerous non-governmental organizations in several countries on various aspects of building high-employment green economies. He was selected by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the “100 Leading Global Thinkers for 2013.” 

Krista Harper

Krista Harper is professor of Anthropology & Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is also currently serving as Acting Director of the Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR). Krista uses ethnographic, qualitative, and participatory action research methods to study mobilizations around the environment, urban infrastructure, food justice, and placemaking, carrying out ethnographic research in Hungary, Portugal, and the United States. At UMass Amherst, she has led student teams in conducting participatory design ethnography research on higher education libraries, campus planning, and carbon mitigation efforts. Her latest project, “Elevating Equity Values in the Transition of the Energy System” (ELEVATE, NSF #2020888), investigates how urban residents and other stakeholders understand the transition to renewable energy technologies and decarbonization policies, with a focus on issues of equity and environmental justice in marginalized communities.