A Chinese-American, Chu is a professor of physics and molecular and cell biology at the University of California-Berkeley and has been the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory since 2004, where he has pushed aggressively for research into alternative energy as a way to combat global warming.
It is the oldest of the Energy Department's national laboratories, but does only unclassified work and in recent years under Chu has been at the center of research into biofuels and solar technologies. Chu has been a strong advocate for the need to engage scientists in the search for ways to combat global warming by replacing fossil fuels with other energy sources such as biofuels and the sun.
At this years National Clean Energy Summit, Chu explained why he shifted from quantum physics to global warming research:
Consider this. There's about a 50 percent chance, the climate experts tell us, that in this century we will go up in temperature by three degrees Centigrade. Now, three degrees Centigrade doesn't seem a lot to you, that's 11° F. Chicago changes by 30° F in half a day. But 5° C means that ... it's the difference between where we are today and where we were in the last ice age. What did that mean? Canada, the United States down to Ohio and Pennsylvania, was covered in ice year round.
Five degrees Centigrade.
So think about what 5° C will mean going the other way. A very different world. So if you'd want that for your kids and grandkids, we can continue what we're doing. Climate change of that scale will cause enormous resource wars, over water, arable land, and massive population displacements. We're not talking about ten thousand people. We're not talking about ten million people, we're talking about hundreds of millions to billions of people being flooded out, permanently.