John H. Chafee Memorial Lecture on Science, Policy, and the Environment

The Chafee Memorial Lecture is dedicated in the memory of the Honorable Senator John H. Chafee who, in his 23 years representing Rhode Island in the U.S. Senate, was a leader in promoting a bipartisan, science-based approach to environmental issues.


Previous Lectures

2022 Sir Partha Sarathi Dasgupta, Economist, Frank Ramsey Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom; Fellow of St John's College, Cambridge, and Visiting Professor at the New College of the Humanities, London

Sherri Mitchell, (Weh’na Ha’mu Kwasset), (Weh’na Ha’mu Kwasset), Indigenous rights activist, lawyer, and spiritual teacher
Darren Ranco, Ph.D., Chair, Native American Programs and Director of Native American Research, University of Maine
Moderated by Laura Weiland, Senior Advisor for Special Projects, National Council for Science and the Environment


The first-ever panel-style Chafee Lecture was held in 2020 to recognize the work and acknowledge the longstanding leadership of federal agencies at the intersection of the environment, policy, and decision-making.

Alex Beehler, Assistant Secretary of the United States Army Installations, Energy and Environment, U.S. Army
Tim Gallaudet, Ph.D., USN Ret., Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, Deputy NOAA Administrator
Gerald Geernaert, Ph.D., Director, Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, U.S. Department of Energy
James Green, Ph.D., Chief Scientist, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Steven Kappes, Ph.D., Agricultural Research Service Associate Administrator for National Programs, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Cynthia Lodge, Deputy Director, U.S. Geological Survey
Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, Ph.D., Office of Research and Development Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Moderated by Lynn Scarlett, Chief External Affairs Officer, The Nature Conservancy

2019 Gary Geernaert, Ph.D., Director, Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, in the Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Office of Science, U.S. Department of Energy 
2018 U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
2017 Governor Bill Ritter Jr., Former Governor of Colorado (2007–2011)
2016 Simran Sethi, Author, Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love
2015 Amory Lovins, Chief Scientist, Rocky Mountain Institute
2014 James Hansen, Earth Institute, Columbia University and Former Head, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator, NOAA

"Phoenix Rising? Resilience in a Climate Change World"

2012 Gro Harlem Brundtland, Former Prime Minister of Norway and Director-General, World Health Organization
2011 Jean-Michel Cousteau, President, Chairman, Ocean Futures Society

James Gustave Speth, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Demos, New York City; Professor of Law, Vermont Law School; and Dean Emeritus, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies

"A New American Environmentalism and the New Economy"

2009 J. Craig Venter, Founder, Chairman, and President, J. Craig Venter Institute

John P. Holdren, Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University; Director, the Woods Hole Research Center

"Meeting the Climate Change Challenge"


Larry Brilliant, Founder, Seva Foundation; Executive Director,

"Climate, Poverty and Health"


Ralph J. Cicerone, President, National Academy of Sciences

"Finding Climate Change and Being Useful"


William D. Ruckelshaus, First and Fifth Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

"Choosing Our Common Future: Democracy’s True Test"

2004 Jared M. Diamond, Pulitzer Prize Recipient, University of California, Los Angeles

Rita R. Colwell, Director, National Science Foundation

"Obstinate Issues, Sophisticated Solutions: Environmental Science and Education for a New Age"


Edward O. Wilson, Pulitzer Prize Recipient, Harvard University

"The Future of Life"


Sherwood Rowland, Nobel Laureate; University of California, Irvine
Mario Molina, Nobel Laureate; Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"THE CFC-OZONE PUZZLE: Environmental Science in the Global Arena"


Senator John H. ChafeeAbout Senator Chafee

Senator John. H. Chafee (1922–1999) earned degrees from Yale University and Harvard Law School. After six years in the Rhode Island House of Representatives, Chafee was elected Governor in 1962 and re-elected in 1964 and 1966. In January 1969, he was appointed Secretary of the Navy and served that post until we was elected to the United States Senate in 1976. As Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, the Senator was a leading voice in crafting the Clean Air Act of 1990. He led successful efforts to enact oil spill prevention and response legislation and a bill to strengthen the Safe Drinking Water Act. Senator Chafee was a long-time advocate for wetlands conservation and open space preservation and was the recipient of every major environmental award. John Chafee was a Republican, committed conservationist, and a political leader who worked across party lines to advance environmental protection.