Geography 2050
Geography 2050 Logo


Powering Our Future Planet

November 15-16, 2018 | Columbia University | NYC

An Event by the American Geographical Society


Geography 2050 is a multi-year, high-level strategic dialog among thought leaders from academia, government, and the world of business. Organized by the American Geographical Society (AGS) in 2014, the purpose of this continuing dialog is to facilitate discussion of the major forces that will shape our planet’s future. Undoubtedly, energy will be one the most important factors influencing geopolitics, environmental quality, transportation routes, military conflicts, standards of living, world economies, food production, technical innovation, and the mass movement of people. Because of its pivotal role in the future of the human species, the theme of this year’s Geography 2050 Symposium is Powering Our Future Planet.

Bringing together people from diverse organizations and individuals with an assortment of backgrounds, AGS is developing this unique and compelling program with the cooperation of the Earth Institute of Columbia University. This partnership enhances interaction and idea exchange with thought-leaders who understand geography as a geospatial science and how it applies to meeting energy supply and demand.




Theme 1: The Energy Context

What are the geographical dimensions of energy transitions?

Nearly everything that we identify as “modern” across our global landscape has emerged because of humanity’s energy innovations. In cities and towns buildings are lit and made comfortable, regardless of season, by all manner of energy solutions and design. Food has been cooked using wood and later by gas, electric, and even solar devices. Landscapes have been reshaped by combustion engine machinery. And, human mobility far and wide has co-evolved with the harnessing of wind, coal, oil, and electricity. The nature of these various energy resources has driven profound geographic changes to land, water, and air at local, regional and global scales from every phase of energy development and use. This session will help to build a shared understanding of how energy of all kinds has shaped the modern global landscape and identify key transitional moments in this energy history.

Theme 2: Environmental Consequences of Energy Supply and Demand

How important are location, scale, and networks in influencing the ecological consequences of energy?

Energy systems have clear ecological consequences that have impacted the sustainability of particular geographies over time. Fossil fuels have brought with them a geography of resource exploitation, distribution, and use that have hardly been pristine – with oil spills, brownfields, and pollution from emissions. Modern electrical generation, whether driven by coal, natural gas, or uranium has shaped cities and rural localities. The growing energy usage of a global population has created a geography of pollution that can only be understood by mapping change over time. This session will take a geographic lens to understanding how energy-fueled progress can be weighed against its ecological consequences.

Theme 3: Geopolitics of Energy Systems

What will be the global energy map and its geopolitical implications in 2050?

Understanding the current and projected changes in the global energy map is critical. Industrial interests, government regulatory agencies, technological advances, as well as existing and new distribution systems will shape the global energy landscape. Surveying these developments through a geopolitical lens underscores the dynamic and volatile features of energy production, potential conflict areas, and potential areas of cooperation. This session explores the geopolitical dimensions of energy futures.

Theme 4: Emerging Energy Technologies

What new technologies and approaches will reshape the energy terrain?

Many new technologies, business models, and public policies will reshape global energy patterns of supply, demand, impact, and human well-being. Shale and the exploitation of natural gas resources have had huge impacts on the energy landscape over the past decade, a trend that will likely continue. Renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and biomass are growing at explosive rates over specific geographic areas, due to various policy, price, and environmental factors. The long-time investment in Generation IV nuclear power plants promises the potential of highly distributed, long-term base load generation. New materials like graphene, local microgrids, and new forms of energy storage offer the potential for more resilient energy infrastructures. This session investigates new energy technologies, and new technologies shaping energy, that will impact the changing geography of energy.

Theme 5: Geospatial Technologies and Energy

How will the production, distribution and consumption of energy be influenced by geospatial technologies?

Geospatial technologies and geospatial data sources have opened new frontiers in investing, monitoring, and distributing energy sources. Geographic Information Systems (GIS), remote sensing, crowdsourcing technologies, geospatial big data, geospatial twists on Artificial Intelligence, and automation are enabling geographic insights to be derived and applied at the global scale to energy systems. This session will explore how geospatial technologies will shape the future of energy discovery, exploitation, generation, storage, transmission, distribution, and consumption. It will also focus on how geospatial technologies and geospatial data sources will help us tackle the complex social welfare and environmental justice issues that naturally arise from humanity’s quest for energy.

Theme 6: Social Dimensions of Energy Access

How will the growing demands of the world’s 9 billion people influence energy access, especially in the developing world?

While the industrialized countries of the world generate and consume the vast majority of the energy on the planet, they hold a minority of the global population. As the developing world hosts the rise of the global middle class, their appetite for energy will grow enormously while capital investment and access to energy may lag. There are opportunities for the developing world to leapfrog old energy technologies the same way they used wireless communications to avoid the developed world’s costly legacy of wireline telecommunications. Yet considerable social justice issues are at play, including the environmental consequences that will shape their everyday lives. This session will explore the geographies of energy poverty and energy access across the developing world, including indigenous peoples, and how we can find our way to an energy resilient future that support social justice and protect our planet.

Theme 7: Energy Adaptation Strategies

How will energy systems adapt to climate change?

Climate change will profoundly influence the adaptations that our energy infrastructure will need to accommodate. As weather patterns change, sea level rises, plants and animal distributions adjust, human migrations continue to escalate, and disease vectors are altered, energy planning will face major challenges that will impact capital investment, commodity pricing, and geopolitics the world over. Sea level rise alone will threaten an enormous proportion of generation assets located in coastal and riverine areas. As populations adapt to these changes, generation equipment, resource movement and transmission will forcibly adjust in response. Investment in new generation technologies will place increasing pressure to reduce carbon emissions. At the same time, new forms of energy production will emerge to meet new ecologically minded demand in both old and new spatial patterns of settlement. This session explores how various climate adaptations will fundamentally reshape the future geography of energy.


Thursday, November 15 2018

Alfred Lerner Hall

12:30 -  1:00

Symposium Registration

1:00 -  1:10

Welcome and Introduction

Dr. John Konarski Chief Executive Officer, American Geographical Society

Dr. Marie Price President, American Geographical Society

Dr. Christopher Tucker Chair, American Geographical Society

1:10 -  1:20

Symposium Overview

Dr. Martin Pasqualetti Symposium Chair, American Geographical Society

1:20 -  2:00

Plenary Session

The Energy Context


Dr. Amy Glasmeier Professor of Economic Geography and Regional Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Mr. John Hofmeister Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Citizens for Affordable Energy

Mr. John Mingé Former Chairman and President, BP America, Inc.

2:00 -  3:15

Plenary Session

Energy Policies and Energy Futures


Dr. Lee Schwartz The Geographer, U.S. Department of State

Mr. Oscar Ankunda Energy Specialist, USAID-Uganda

Ms. Kristin Mayes Professor of Practice, School for the Future of Innovation in Society, Arizona State University

Dr. Jatin Nathwani Ontario Research Chair in Public Policy for Sustainable Energy, University of Waterloo

Dr. Sonia Yeh Professor of Transport and Energy Systems, Department of Earth, Space and Environment, Chalmers University of Technology

3:15 -  3:35

Keynote Session

Mr. Robert Cardillo Director, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA)

3:35 -  4:00

Break and Caucus

4:00 -  5:00

Special Plenary Session

The Global Reach and Geographic Implications of China's Energy Demand


Dr. Marie Price

Mr. Gary Dirks Director, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, Arizona State University

Dr. Yushan Duan Professor, School of Geographic Sciences, East China Normal University

Mr. David Sandalow Inaugural Fellow, Center on Global Energy Policy, Columbia University

5:00 -  6:00

Plenary Session

Lightning Presentations


Dr. Christopher Tucker

Dr. Sean Ahearn Director, Center for Advanced Research of Spatial Information, Hunter College, “Solar New York: A Solar Application for the State of New York”

Mr. Anthony Bevacqua PhD Candidate, Clean Energy and Sustainability Center, Montclair State University, “Spatial Economics of Solar Photovoltaics in New Jersey”

Ms. Mariana Cerca Master’s Candidate, Humboldt University, “Sustainability Deviations Between North and South: The Social Dimension of Bioenergy Systems”

Mr. Ben Hoen Research Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, “The U.S. Wind Turbine Database: Watching U.S. Wind Energy Growth Quarter by Quarter”

Dr. Camelia Kantor Director of Academic Programs, United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation, “The Downside of Modern Energy Access”

Ms. Selene Lawrence Deputy Director of Community Development, Sullivan Solar Power, “California: Leading the Renewable Energy Charge”

Dr. Stanislav Martinat Research Fellow, Cardiff University, “Developing Biogas Energy in Rural Areas: A Perspective From Central Europe”

Ms. Elise Mazur Research Analyst, World Resources Institute, “Exploring Energy Access Through Mapping”

Dr. Thomas Ptak and Mr. Alexander Nagel Assistant Professor and Graduate Student, University of Idaho, “Community Solar”

Mr. Michael Terner Google Partner Practice Support, Thermopylae Sciences + Technology, Earth's Eye View to Support Energy Planning

Mr. Dean Wise Principal, Dean Wise LLC, “The Geography of Wind Energy”

Mr. Isaac Zaworski Vice President, Vricon, “How X, Y, Z, and T Fuels the Future of Energy”

6:00 -  6:10

Review of the Day and Planning for Tomorrow

Dr. Martin Pasqualetti

6:10 -  7:10

Welcome Reception

Friday, November 16 2018

Low Library

8:00 -  8:30

Registration and Breakfast

8:30 -  9:30

Plenary Session

Emerging Energy Technologies


Dr. Nuala Cowan Disaster Risk Management Consultant, The World Bank

Gen. Richard Devereaux Executive Vice President, Viviz Technologies

Mr. Christofer Mowry Chief Executive Officer, General Fusion

Mr. Frank Prautzsch President, Velocity Technology Partners, LLC

Dr. Kevan Weaver Technical Lead of Reactor Systems Safety, Idaho National Laboratory

9:30 -  9:45


Dr. Alexander Halliday Director, The Earth Institute, Columbia University

9:45 -  10:15

Break and Caucus

10:15 -  11:45

Plenary Session

Geospatial Technologies and Energy


Dr. Jerome Dobson President Emeritus, American Geographical Society

Mr. Rodney Buhrsmith Head of Business Development, East View Geospatial

Dr. Gregory Koeln Technical Fellow, Radiant Solutions

Mr. Bill Meehan Director, Utility Solutions, Esri

Dr. Kumar Navulur Director of Next Generation Products in Labs, DigitalGlobe

Mr. Geoff Zeiss Principal, Between the Poles

11:45 -  12:45

Plenary Session

Social Dimensions of Energy Access


Dr. Wesley Herche Associate Director of Research, Global Security Initiative, Arizona State University

Ms. Bidtah Becker Executive Director, Navajo Nation Division of Natural Resources

Mr. Peter Fiekowsky Founder, Foundation for Climate Restoration

Dr. Clark Miller Director, Center for Energy and Society, Arizona State University

Ms. Elizabeth Monoian Chief Executive Officer, Land Art Generator Initiative

12:45 -  1:15


1:15 -  1:45

Luncheon Keynote

Hon. Sheldon Whitehouse U.S. Senator, Rhode Island

1:45 -  3:00

Plenary Session

Environmental Consequences of Energy Supply and Demand


Dr. Wesley Reisser Senior Foreign Affairs Officer, U.S. Department of State

Dr. Robin Leichenko Chair, Department of Geography, Rutgers University

Dr. Diana Liverman Regents' Professor, University of Arizona

Mr. Kevin Seegmiller Director of Program Management, Delta Environmental Sciences

Ms. Joanna D. Underwood Founder and Board Member, Energy Vision

3:00 -  3:30


AGS Honors and Awards Ceremony

3:30 -  4:00

Break and Caucus

4:00 -  4:30

Plenary Session

Lightning Presentations


Dr. Christopher Tucker

Mr. Jacob Betham PhD Candidate, Arizona State University, “Universal Ethics for the U.S. Energy Transition”

Dr. Bohumil Frantal Senior Scientist, Institute of Geonics, The Czech Academy of Sciences, “Repowering Wind Farms: Challenges and Obstacles as Experienced in Central Europe”

Dr. Enrique Lanz Oca Adjunct Assistant Professor, The Pratt Institute, “Climate Change, Dam Removals, and the Transformation of the Energy Landscape”

Mr. Eric Lyttek PhD Candidate, Montclair University, “Place-based Bioenergy Assessment in New Jersey Associated with Ash”

Ms. Molly Seltzer Founder and Chief Storyteller, Electric America, “How Do Changes in The Way That Electricity is Produced Impact the Economy, Landscape, and Quality of Life in Energy Communities Throughout the United States”

4:30 -  5:45

Plenary Session

Energy Adaptation Strategies


Dr. David Mooney Executive Director, Institutional Planning, Integration, and Development, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Dr. Marilyn Brown Regents' and Brooks Byers Professor of Sustainable Systems, Georgia Institute of Technology

Dr. Vasilis Fthenakis Founder and Director, Center for Life Cycle Analysis, Columbia University

Mr. Raffi Garabedian Chief Technology Officer, First Solar, Inc.

Ms. Susan Sloan Vice President of State Affairs, American Wind Energy Association

5:45 -  6:00

A Prospectus for the Future

Dr. Martin Pasqualetti

Dr. Marie Price

Dr. Wes Reisser

Dr. Christopher Tucker

6:00 -  8:00

Closing Reception


Program Chair

Dr. Martin "Mike" Pasqualetti

Arizona State University

Ms. Andrea d'Amato


Mr. Anthony "Tony" Quartararo

Spatial Networks

Mr. Dean Wise

Dean Wise LLC

Dr. Deborah E. Popper

Princeton University

Mr. Keith Masback


Mr. Mark Safran

BAE Systems

Dr. Wesley J. Reisser

U.S. Department of State





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