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RIHST Conference: Rich Rocks, the Climate Crisis, and the Tech Imperium

Monday, July 12, 2021
Wednesday, July 14, 2021
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Online Event
Organized by the Research Institute for the History of Science and Technology (RIHST) at Caltech and The Huntington

The decarbonization of the global economy in response to the climate crisis and the fourth industrial revolution, featuring artificial intelligence (AI) and 5G networks (accelerated in response to the coronavirus pandemic), has triggered a race to secure uninterrupted access to critical raw minerals (CRMs) that are indispensable inputs for high-technology applications. Access to necessary resources has become a strategic security question, in light of the projected rapid increase in global demand for these essential inputs.

Geopolitical realignments because of China's spectacular rise, moreover, in combination with the growing US-China rivalry are quickly turning the technology race into a battle over who will lead the tech imperium. Industry actors and businesses that require CRMs as inputs are caught in the middle of these geopolitical realignments. Speakers will address definitions of material criticality, that transformed these simple inputs in modern applications to materials of strategic and economic importance worthy of front-page news. There will be a session dedicated to the view from industry and a special focus on the government, industry, and finance nexus in light of the push to reconstitute supply chains, decouple from China, develop and deploy new technologies. Finally, the socio-economic and environmental impacts of mining and processing of these important minerals which are mostly concentrated in the developing world will be addressed in the third session.

To attend the online public sessions, register via the links at the bottom of this page.

Organized by Sophia Kalantzakos
Visiting Fellow in the Research Institute for the History of Science and Technology (2020-2021), Caltech; Global Distinguished Professor in Environmental Studies and Public Policy, New York University/NYU Abu Dhabi
Between Rocks and Hard Places: Geopolitics of Net Zero Futures and the Tech Imperium


Saleem H. Ali, Blue and Gold Distinguished Professor of Energy and the Environment, University of Delaware
Ecological and Social Tradeoffs in Terrestrial and Oceanic Mining

Chris Berry, House Mountain Partners, LLC
The Paradox of Green Growth: Opportunities and Challenges in Decarbonizing the Electric Vehicle Supply Chain

Arjun Bhalla, Senior Operations Officer at International Finance Corporation (IFC)
Race to Zero: The Critical Importance of Critical Minerals

Keith Bradsher, The New York Times, Shanghai bureau chief and senior writer for Asia economics and business
Radioactive Waste and Organized Crime: Rare Earth Metals Supply Chains

Roderick Eggert, Professor Viola Vestal Coulter Foundation Chair in Mineral Economics, Deputy Director of Critical Materials Institute, Colorado School of Mines
Public Policy Toward Rare Earths and Other Critical Materials

Dr Roland Gauß, Senior Advisor - Substitution and Recycling, Sustainable Materials for Future Mobility, EIT RawMaterials
Materials Criticality in the Light of Europe's Green Deal

Constantine E. Karayannopoulos, President, CEO & Director, Neo
Lessons From Three Decades in the Rare Earth Trenches: What Works and What Doesn't

Julie Michelle Klinger, Assistant Professor of Geography at University of Delaware
Social and Environmental Impacts of Rare Earth Mining and Processing

Jonas Nahm, Assistant Professor of Energy, Resources, and Environment, Johns Hopkins, SAIS
Collaborative Advantage: Forging Green Industries in the New Global Economy

Johan Nylander, Regional Technical Advisor Carbon Pricing ASEAN, Consultant, UNIFCCC, Collaborative Instruments for Ambitious Climate Action (CI-ACA)
Decarbonization of Industrial Processes: Carbon Pricing and Industry Response

Xiaoyu Pu, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Nevada, Reno
Interdependence vs Geopolitics: Securitization and Partial Decoupling of US-China Relations

Richard Saines, Partner, Pollination Group
Supply Chain Transparency, Accountability and Governance Trends: The expanding Frontier

Ben Sampson, Principal, 40 North Ventures
The Role of Risk Capital and Innovation in the Race Against Climate Change

Marc van den Berg, Managing Director at 40 North Ventures
The Role of Risk Capital and Innovation in the Race Against Climate Change

Kristin Vekasi, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and School of Policy and International Affairs at the University of Maine
Securing Supply Chain Independence From China in Critical Rare Earth Materials

Session 1: Intro and Geopolitics - July 12 at 9 a.m. PDT
Session 2: View from Industry I - July 12 at 4 p.m. PDT
Session 3: View from Industry II - July 13 at 9 a.m. PDT
Session 4: Social and Environmental Impacts - July 13 at 12 p.m. PDT

For more information, please visit this announcement.