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Climate change researcher honoured

Kristyn Comino

2 April 2015: World-leading climate change researcher Will Steffen believes the challenges of a changing globe could be addressed by the newest batch of University of Canberra graduates.

Dr Steffen, who was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Canberra yesterday, said graduates: "are going out into the world at a time that is absolutely unique in the history of humans on planet Earth."

"We now have the knowledge that it is our own activities that are destabilising the planetary system – and we are the first generation of humans to be in this position," Dr Steffen said.

"University of Canberra graduates can go into the world with confidence in a period that is unprecedented in human history because they have an excellent education and all the tools to contribute to the great transformation that we need.

"No one can predict the future but there are several ways graduates can help shape it. No matter what graduates have studied there is a role for them in the great transformation that is needed to build a just and sustainable society."

Dr Steffen is an adjunct professor at the University of Canberra and was co-founder of Canberra Urban and Regional Futures, or CURF, an initiative based at the University that is a joint venture with the Australian National University and the ACT Government.

He said it felt great to receive an honorary degree from the University of Canberra. 

"It's a really nice feeling to have your work recognised in this way by your peers in academia and research. It's a personal pleasure for me as I do a lot of work at the University of Canberra. My daughter Sonja also graduated from the University in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Communications with first class honours," Dr Steffen said.

During his occasional address speech he shared with graduates how they can best utilise their education and also what it is worth, saying "the true value of a university education is in the ability to create well-informed citizens."

Born in the US, after his university studies Dr Steffen moved to Australia to work at the ANU, where he filled a number of roles in senior management including Pro Vice-Chancellor Research, executive director of their Climate Change Institute and director of the Institute for Environment.

He also spent a decade working with the CSIRO studying soil-plant atmosphere systems, before having the opportunity to be based in Sweden as executive director and then chief scientist of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme.

He has also held the title of Climate Commissioner with former Australian Government's Climate Commission, along with a number of roles on international and local climate change panels. 

Dr Steffen has a Bachelor of Science from the University of Missouri and a PhD from the University of Florida.

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