Colloquium on Forests and Climate

New Thinking for Transformational Change

24 September 2014, Alfred Lerner Hall, Columbia University, New York

Colloquium on Forests & Climate: Lisa Goddard’s opening address

Watch Lisa Goddard (Director, IRI, Earth Institute, Columbia University) speaking at the Colloquium on Forests & Climate.

Colloquium on Forests & Climate: New Thinking for Transformational Change, Columbia University, New York. #forestsclimate


Lisa Goddard’s speech:

Good afternoon, welcome everyone. My name is Lisa Goddard as Louis mentioned. I am the Director of IRI, which is the International Research Institute for Climate and Society. IRI is one of the largest institutes within Columbia Earth Institute, and the only one that’s specifically devoted to the science of linking climate information for decision making. I’ve been given this opportunity to make a few opening remarks and I’d like to use my short time, first of all, to very much – well, myself and also on behalf of Earth Institute and Jeff Sachs, to thank CIFOR for their vision and leadership in shaping this event. We’re very excited to be part of it. I’d also like to thank our very distinguished panel of speakers for this afternoon. I think it’s shaping up to be a really exciting and interesting event. I’d also like to use a few minutes to tell some of you who may not be so familiar with IRI a little bit about us and why this event is so important to us.

We were founded almost 20 years ago by NOAA. Since then, we’ve grown quite a bit. We now have over 15 funding partners, NOAA and USAID being prominent among those. We’ve established an international group of climate services partnership, which is really at this forefront of a community of practice in bringing science into action, and especially in climate-related, climate-sensitive decisions. So, our mission remains to this day to enhance society’s capability to understand, anticipate and manage the impacts of climate for the improvement of human welfare and the environment, and especially in developing countries. And we conduct this mission through strategic and applied research, through education and capacity building, and also by providing climate forecasts and information that really has an emphasis on the practical and verifiable utility of that information – and through partnerships. So partnerships – and that’s the sort of thing that we’re going to see and hear more about today – partnerships are critical to all of the work that IRI does. Through the knowledge of our international staff, we’re very heavily engaged in strategic partnerships with governments, UN agencies, academic institutions, NGOs, the private sector, that’s interested in climate science and improvements in climate-related sectors.

We also have very strong practical engagements and research activities with national meteorological agencies around the world. And these partnerships have given us an unparalleled access to local knowledge of the climate. In addition, we also work with our colleagues in the Earth Institute and across Columbia University, and that’s one thing that makes this CIFOR collaboration really attractive – is that they collaborate with our collaborators. They’re friends with our friends here in the Earth Institute, and that really just makes all of our work that much stronger. What these partnerships ultimately mean is that, within our own institute, the IRI, we seek to cross these disciplinary boundaries. And, while advancing our own research on climate and sectoral science, we can help to translate the results that are coming out of our collective and collaborative endeavors, to really feed into tangible development opportunities on the ground.

Behind that is something may not all of you – maybe not most of you – have heard about, but should. Behind a lot of that work is one of our crown jewels. It’s the IRI Data Library. The Data Library is a unique capability that allows one to manage, analyze, visualize and share vast amounts of data – climate data, environmental data, other data sources – with operational and research communities around the world. And this has been really fundamental. Our regional and sectoral science at IRI makes extensive use of this capacity, and has really driven a lot of the user-oriented innovations in it. So, Walter Baethgen, who is here with us today, he is the head of our regional and sectoral research effort. And he, together with other IRI researchers, together with our colleagues at the Agriculture and Food Security Center here at Earth Institute, and also the Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustainability, have really been instrumental in building and strengthening our partnership with CIFOR, and our advances in the science and service of linking climate with ecosystems and forests.

So, we are truly grateful for this opportunity – the opportunity that this meeting provides to recognize the value of our partnerships, the value of our core missions, and its relevance then to society. I’m very confident that the discussions that we hear today will just provide additional motivation for our work. And I once again want to thank CIFOR and my Earth Institute colleagues and, again, our distinguished panel of speakers for the opportunity to be part of this dialogue and to learn from you all. Thank you.