Respected climate scientist Will Steffen dead at 76

Respected climate scientist Will Steffen dead at 76

Respected climate scientist Will Steffen, climate commissioner and co-director of the Canberra Urban and Regional Futures initiative, died on Tuesday morning 31 January at the age of 76.

He was executive director of the Australian National University Climate Change Institute and one of the founding climate board members of the Climate Council.

Steffen earned his BSc in Industrial Chemistry in 1970 from the University of Missouri and later received an MSc and a PhD in Environmental Science from the University of Florida in 1972 and 1975, respectively.

Throughout his career, he has been widely published on climate science and has made significant contributions to the understanding of Earth system science, including climate change adaptation in land systems, and incorporation of human processes into Earth system modeling and analysis.

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I am shocked and devastated to hear that the brilliant climate scientist Will Steffen has died. I am deeply grateful to him for so many things – so here is a thread of 5 thanks (and please feel welcome to add more).

— Kate Raworth (@KateRaworth) January 30, 2023

He was a proponent of the concept of the Anthropocene, which he described in the scientific journal Nature in 2009 as the current era “in which human action has become the main driver of global environmental change”.

Together with Swedish sustainability and water resource scientist Johan Rockström, he was instrumental in initiating the international debate on planetary boundaries and the concept of a “safe operating space for humanity”.

Steffen has held various positions of influence, including being the executive director of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program from 1998 to 2004, science advisor to the Australian Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, a member of the Prime Minister’s Science , Engineering and Innovation Council, chairman. of the Antarctic Science Advisory Committee, co-director of the Canberra Urban and Regional Futures, an expert advisor to the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee, and a member of the advisory board of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

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Vale Will Steffen.
We have lost a truly leading thinker on climate change, someone who made a difference in how the world understands it. And a gentle, positive person.
I worked with Will when he was founding director of the ANU Climate Change Institute, and owe him a lot.

— Frank Jotzo (@frankjotzo) January 30, 2023

He was also an honorary professor at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Geography and Geology, served on the Science Advisory Committee of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Climate Center in Korea, and was a visiting researcher at the Stockholm Resilience Center.

In 2011, Steffen was the lead author of a government climate report titled “The Critical Decade” in which he called for a tax on carbon.

Following the abolition of the Australian Climate Commission in 2013, Steffen was a founding member of the independent non-profit organization the Climate Council. He was also an author of the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2018.

Steffen’s contributions to the scientific community and his advocacy for the environment will not be forgotten. He leaves a legacy of advocacy, research and a commitment to finding solutions to the pressing issue of climate change.

His legacy will live on through the countless individuals inspired by his work.


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