21st Century Urbanization and Grand Challenges for Global Sustainability

Friday, January 20, 2023

This talk is part of the Greenberg Distinguished Colloquium.

Yale Spotlight on Science Series

Bringing discovery from Yale to China, hosted by Yale Center Beijing.

The Yale Spotlight on Science Series will bring outstanding science faculty from Yale University to China to present their latest research, and engage with audiences on related topics of interest. Please join us to explore the latest breakthroughs in scientific frontiers, and what relevance they hold for the future!

Event Time

January 20, 2023 | Friday
8:00 am - 9:00 am Eastern Standard Time (EST)
January 20, 2023 | Friday
9:00 pm - 10:00 pm China Standard Time (CST)

Participation Format

Registration is required to obtain a ZOOM Conference access link, which will be sent to your registration email or phone shortly. Please enter the ZOOM room 15 minutes before the starting time. When the room is full, latecomers will not be able to access the ZOOM conference.


Please click on“HERE” to register. Please send an email to yalecenterbeijing@yale.edu if there are any problems.



The language of the event will be English.

The Event

The pace and reach of contemporary urbanization are unprecedented. Every day, an area equal to about 20,000 soccer fields become converted to urban uses. Every ten days, the global urban population increases by about one million. Currently, urban areas contribute to about 67-72% of global emissions. With urban land areas expected to triple in size between 2015 and 2050, massive infrastructure build-up will result in carbon lock-in and the global share of future urban GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions will increase through 2050.

Why are cities critical to solving the climate crisis? How does large-scale urbanization interact with regional climate change? In this talk, Professor Seto will discuss trends in urbanization and the challenges they present for global sustainability. She will present key findings from the 2022 IPCC report and other new results that document the effects of urbanization on land, biodiversity, food systems, and regional and global climate.

The Speaker

Karen Seto
Frederick C. Hixon Professor of Geography and Urbanization Science, Yale University

Karen Seto is the Frederick C. Hixon Professor of Geography and Urbanization Science at Yale University. An urban and land change scientist, she is one of the world’s leading experts on contemporary urbanization and global change. She uses satellite remote sensing, field interviews, and modeling methods to understand how urbanization will affect the planet, including land change, food systems, biodiversity, and climate change. She has pioneered methods to reconstruct urban land use with satellite imagery and has developed novel methods to forecast urban expansion. She has extensive fieldwork experience in Asia, especially China and India, where she has conducted research for over 20 and 10 years, respectively. Professor Seto serves on numerous national and international scientific bodies. She currently co-chairs the U.S. National Academies Climate Security Roundtable, established by the direction of Congress to help better understand and anticipate the ways climate change affects U.S. national security interests. She also co-chairs the U.S. National Academies Subcommittee on U.S.-China Scientific Engagement. She has been a coordinating lead author for the IPCC 6ᵗʰ and 5ᵗʰ Assessment Reports. From 2000 to 2008, she was faculty at Stanford, where she held joint appointments in the Woods Institute for the Environment and the School of Earth Sciences. She has received many awards for her scientific contributions, including the Outstanding Contributions to Remote Sensing Research Award from the American Association of Geographers. Professor Seto is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She received a Ph.D. in Geography from Boston University.

Greenberg Distinguished Colloquium

Thanks to the generosity of Mr. Maurice R. Greenberg, Chairman and CEO of Starr Insurance Companies, and a member of Yale Center Beijing’s Advisory Committee, Yale Center Beijing is pleased to host the Greenberg Distinguished Colloquium, which convenes thought leaders from all sectors who, in the spirit of Mr. Greenberg, play pivotal roles in building bridges among China, the U.S., and the rest of the world.

Energy & Environment

Public Event