Responding to the global impacts of human activity, UC Berkeley and the Berkeley Lab have long been leaders in the research needed to understand and respond effectively to humanity's global environmental impact. And that research was on display May 12, 2017 at the Cal Future Forum, showcasing developing energy efficiency standards that are now used around the world, developing technologies for making our cities more resilient to droughts and floods, converting sunlight into modern fuels, assessing the impact of the sixth mass extinction, to forecasting future change. Videos from the event are now available.

Along with a dozen other researchers, Berkeley Water Center Co-Director David Sedlak and affiliates Max Auffhammer and Ashok Gadgil provided a primer on the state of the planet, the challenges humanity faces, as well as the solutions developed at Berkeley that are being implemented globally. In addition, Environmental Design Professor Kristina Hill and Energy and Resources Group Professor Dan Kammen also talked about water-related projects.

Sedlak’s research can be traced to the first time he read the book “Dune,” and the "stillsuit" characters wear that stores and recycles water. He began to ask how can scientists meet users' need for water, and can such a concept be expanded to an entire city to form a water recycling system.

He said that in fact such concept is already being translated to reality. At Orange County in California for example, water recycling has been practiced for 40 years.

Sedlak stressed that he believes water storage is important as it remains the major method for tackling drought, but building on storage, water recycling is more exciting especially for places like drought-ridden California.

Several years ago, a colleague approached Gadgil about how to protect women in refugee camps in Sudan. Women must either walk for hours to find firewood, risking attack every step of the way, or must trade precious food rations for the fuel. Gadgil and his team designed a fuel-efficient cookstove which is tailored to Darfur’s climate and cooking and requires less than half the fuel of traditional cooking methods, decreasing women’s exposure to violence while collecting firewood and their need to trade food rations for fuel.

Auffhammer discussed the idea of social cost of carbon and the question what is the economic cost of one more ton of carbon dioxide?

Kammen addressed the science and policy of sustainable energy, asking the question is there a recipe for mixing policy, organization, equity and engagement to create a “special sauce” for changing economics around the world?

He spoke specifically about how his labs are working towards meeting the Paris Climate Change Agreement, a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C. He highlighted innovative energy efforts including renewable energy for transportation, home and industry.

Hill addressed the questions of How bad will sea level rise really be? How will coastal cities adapt? Since we don’t yet know how fast and how high sea levels are going to rise, Hill stresses that our strategies must be ready and be adaptive as conditions change.  Rising seas pose multiple dangers. Groundwater rises on top of sea level causing inland flooding. What can we do to prepare? A fundamental principle of landscape architecture -- "dig a hole, make a mound” -- offers a time-tested strategy, she argues.

More than ever, California needs to play a proactive role in understanding global impact and finding solutions to ensure a vibrant future and lead the nation —and the world — in developing a clean-energy economy, ameliorating the effects of global change, and promoting green businesses for the future.

The full-day forum also provided a primer on the state of the planet, the challenges humanity faces, as well as the solutions developed at Berkeley that are being implemented globally, such as how to verify climate treaties, the future of carbon sequestration, superdikes to deal with rising sea levels, the future of farming, and the connections among biodiversity loss, human health and social conflict.

The gathering of leading Berkeley scientists, engineers, scholars and policy experts were moderated by prominent radio host, Michael Krasny. The event consisted of short talks, to be distributed as short online videos after the event, interspersed with extensive Q & A with the audience.

The Forum was supported by Tencent Holdings Limited, a leading provider of internet value-added services in China.