Speakers Profile - Will Steffen


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Will Steffen is a researcher, writer and communicator who explores the evolving relationship between human societies and the planet we inhabit. For over 20 years he has been an international leader in global change research and Earth System science. From 1998 to 2004, he was the CEO of the world's largest global change research program, headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, involving about 10,000 scientists from over 50 countries. Since then he has become a leading proponent of the Anthropocene, the new geological epoch of Earth in which human activities are changing the face of the planet, and is now working with the international geological community to pursue formal recognition of the Anthropocene.

Based on the challenges of the Anthropocene, Will Steffen is increasingly focused on solutions. His work spans a very wide range of approaches, from analysing the fate of past civilisations that faced challenges to their futures, to building new conceptual frameworks that promote the creativity of humans and the ability of our societies to innovate, transform and build better worlds.

For nearly a decade, Will Steffen has had a major impact at the science-policy interface in Australia on the climate change issue. He is well known as a Climate Commissioner, engaging the Australian public on the science of climate change and communicating the science to a wide spectrum of audiences through the print and electronic media and through personal appearances. In 2010-2011 he served as one of four independent expert advisers on the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee, chaired by then Prime Minister Julia Gillard. From 2004 to 2011 he served as science adviser to the Federal Government Department of Climate Change and its predecessors under both the Howard and Rudd/Gillard Governments.

Based at the Australian National University in Canberra, Will Steffen maintains several international links. He is a senior associate of the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership, UK; an honorary professor at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark; and a guest researcher at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Sweden.

When he is not at his desk or out in the field, Will Steffen often takes to the hills, pursuing his passion for walking, climbing and photography. He has undertaken multi-day treks in Australia and New Zealand, North and South America, Europe and Asia, and has climbed on rock, ice or snow on every continent except Antarctica. In 2010 he published the book Himalayan Dreaming, the definitive history of Australian mountaineering in the great ranges of Asia.