"Forget the environment for a moment. What’s the business environment going to be? Regulations are coming," he says, even if the federal government doesn’t create them. "States are [reducing emissions], city mayors are doing it, businesses are doing it. Forget the science. Looking forward, something’s coming" to change the market.
The search for opportunities led Hoffman and Lyon to organize that first conference. Hoffman believes it is imperative to bring together a cross-disciplinary crowd. "Climate change is the environmental issue right now," he says. "It has a magnitude like no other. It requires input from so many different systems—economics, international relations, science… ."
He believes U-M is the ideal place to generate this sort of conversation. "One thing that makes Michigan unique," he says, "is that cross-disciplinary work is more likely here. I’ve been at other schools, where the ‘silo mentality’ is much more pronounced." Other professors agree: U-M has always built links between schools and departments. It has a huge number of joint-degree programs and cross-disciplinary institutes, and many faculty have joint appointments.
"I would love to see Michigan become the go-to place on climate change," says Hoffman, "with every researcher linked in an open network."