University of Utah announces The Wilkes Center for Climate Science and Policy

Aug 24, 2022, 5:10 PM | Updated: 9:24 pm

SALT LAKE CITYThe University of Utah announced Wednesday the creation of the interdisciplinary Wilkes Center for Climate Science and Policy. The center will promote research, study effective public policies, and propose entrepreneurial business solutions.

The Wilkes Center for Climate Science and Policy will be located in a science building under construction just off of President’s Circle. But University administrators said this climate center is already more than a building because there’s already a lot of climate science underway at the University.

“Utah is a natural laboratory for studying climate,” said Erin Rothwell, interim VP for research at the University of Utah.

With the drought-stricken Salt Lake Valley and the shrinking Great Salt Lake as the backdrop, the University announced what it expects will be a game-changing research center not only for our community but for the world.

“We have the most incredible scientists that are gifted, passionate, insightful and bring world-class expertise to this venture,” said Dr. Taylor Randall, president of the University of Utah.

The center will leverage climate work, wildfire research, drought research, and studies of the Great Salt Lake.

Collaboration among scientists and students is critical to the mission of the climate center.

“This has been going on for years,” Rothwell said. “What the center does is it synergizes even more people, more institutions, and you get to think outside the box.”

The climate center is made possible by a $20 million gift from Clay and Marie Wilkes.

“Unless entrepreneurship helps to solve this problem, it will not be solved,” Wilkes said at Wednesday’s announcement.

Wilkes, who made his money in computer technology, sees the center as a nimble, entrepreneurial model that other states can follow.

“I believe issues related to climate are the most important thing that we and our children are facing today,” he said. “If we don’t leave an environment where we can live healthy lives, then what else matters?”

The center will also host an annual climate summit, attracting international experts.

The president of the university calls the Wilkes Center an ambitious undertaking that will attract international acclaim.

“This center will produce research products that are easily implemented. This center will actually also produce passionate students that want to work on these issues,” Randall said.

The university envisions roughly 75 faculty and 350 students working on climate projects and solutions in the Wilkes Center each year.

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University of Utah announces The Wilkes Center for Climate Science and Policy