On 13 and 14 December 2023, Professor Naomi Oreskes was visiting Belgium on the occasion of the honorary doctorate she was awarded by the Université Libre de Bruxelles for her significant achievements in the field of science.
Naomi Oreskes barely needs an introduction. Her academic career started in geology, as a research assistant in the Geology Department, and as a teaching assistant in the departments of Geology, Philosophy and Applied Earth Sciences at Stanford University. Most recently, after 15 years as Professor of History and Science Studies at the University of California (San Diego), Oreskes became Professor of the History of Science, and Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University in 2013.
She has worked on studies of geophysics, environmental issues such as global warming, and the history of science. In 2010, Oreskes co-authored with Eric M. Conway Merchants of Doubt, which identified some parallels between the climate change debate and earlier public controversies, notably the tobacco industry's campaign to obscure the link between smoking and serious disease.
Professor Oreskes has lectured widely and won numerous prizes, including the 2009 Francis Bacon Medal for outstanding scholarship in the history of science and technology, the 2011 Climate Change Communicator of the Year, the 2014 American Geophysical Union Presidential Citation for Science and Society, amongst many others. In 2017, she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
The Belgian Climate Centre took advantage of Professor Oreskes' visit to Belgium, to invite her in the Climate Centre's offices and organise a panel discussion on the theme 'Think the future, Imagine the present'.
The panel discussion focused on future-oriented issues related to socio-environmental challenges, the role that fiction can play in developing a collective narrative about (un)desirable futures, and the pursuit of a more just and more sustainable society, which contributes to the emergence of transformative actions in the present.
Other panellists included Delphine Misonne (UCL-St-Louis), Anne Snick (Club of Rome), and Yves De Weerdt (VITO). In addition to the above mentioned topics, the panel also reflected on more recent news items (the meeting took place on closing day of the COP28 conference in Dubai, where a historic agreement was reached on the transition away from fossil fuels).