MIT Alum Dr. Larry Linden on His Journey to Climate Activism
The MIT Climate Change Conversation kicked off its 2015 spring events series with an inspirational talk by Dr. Larry Linden, MIT Alum, former General Partner and Managing Director of Goldman Sachs, and Founder and Trustee of the Linden Trust for Conservation.
From growing up in smog-filled Los Angeles, to MIT, the White House, and then a career on Wall Street, Dr. Linden described the experiences and transformation that brought him to launch an effort to move the politics of climate change in the United States.
In his talk, Dr. Linden traced his illustrious career and personal trajectory to climate activism—from his days as a young boy in Pasadena, California, when he recalled, “the air was so polluted, it was brown.” He attributed the progress achieved with air quality to effective science and then legislation and policymaking, but also highlighted the difficulty in passing legislation on climate change today. "You couldn't design a more vexing issue than climate change for the US government to solve, " Dr. Linden insisted. “10 years ago, we had reason for optimism, to hope climate change would be solved," adding that climate change is a matter of risk management to avoid a planetary catastrophe.
"It is a governance challenge how we deal with the economic realities of climate change. We need federal policy changes, including – in my view - a revenue neutral carbon tax on CO2," he added.
Despite the policy and legislative hurdles, Dr. Linden remains optimistic saying that “climate change legislation could go from impossible to inevitable, overnight.” He highlighted that action on climate is a reflection of our national character and, personally, a patriotic duty, and that the scale of climate change action needs to meet the challenges we face. Through his work today, Dr. Linden is committed to advancing a national conversation on the use of a revenue-neutral carbon tax to minimize greenhouse gas emissions, a centrist concept with the potential to draw bipartisan support.
On finding his life’s purpose, Dr. Linden stated: "I want to slow down the rate at which we are destroying the planet," and encourage students at MIT to effectively engage in this important debate that will shape the livelihoods of future generations. “Specific choices by MIT leaders impacted my career trajectory,” said Dr. Linden, reinforcing MIT’s leadership role in fostering a constructive conversation, and furthering effective action on climate change. Dr. Maria Zuber, Vice President of Research and E.A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics, highlighted in her introductory remarks to Dr. Linden’s talk, MIT’s dedicated efforts to actively engage its community in forming a better understanding of the challenges of climate change, and helping formulate clear action paths that MIT is best positioned to implement and push for.
MIT has had a long track record on climate change research and leadership. Through the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change (SPGC) for instance, MIT has been actively working on the interplay between our global environment, the economy, human activities, and the potential impact of policies intended to stabilize these relationships. Through the MIT Climate Change Conversation and centers such as the SPGC, MIT will continue to bring policy and science together to advance both frontiers and create an environment where scientists, economists, and researchers can work side-by-side to help find effective solutions to the climate change challenges we face. For a comprehensive list on MIT's research on climate change, please visit the MIT Climate Change Conversation Climate Resources page.
Dr. Linden currently leads the Linden Trust for Conservation, founded in 2006 to bring state-of-the art skills in finance and markets to the environmental community. The Trust is currently focused on the establishment of market-based solutions for the control of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. In his role with Goldman Sachs, Larry launched the firm's first environmental policy, and has also served as Partner at McKinsey & Co. and on the White House Staff in the Carter Administration coordinating technology policy development for the transportation, energy sectors and environmental protection. Larry’s commitment to climate activism has also extended to his work as Board Chair for the World Wildlife Fund and Resources for the Future, and he is currently a member of the Board of Directors of TIAA and advisor to the Redstone Strategy Group and New World Capital Group. Dr. Linden holds a PhD from MIT and a BSE from Princeton.
If you missed the talk, you can view a recording of the talk here.