Skip main navigation

Global problems

Smalley and the Terawatt Challenge
© University of Wollongong, 2019

Richard Smalley Chemist and Nobel Prize winner

1986 Nobel Prize-winning chemist, Professor Richard Smalley identified what he felt were the top 10 issues facing the world:

  1. Energy
  2. Water
  3. Food
  4. Environment
  5. Poverty
  6. Terrorism & Wars
  7. Disease
  8. Education
  9. Democracy
  10. Population

Smalley stated:

“…what the world needed most was an abundant, low-cost, clean energy; a resource that can raise living standards, desalinate seawater (for crop irrigation and human health), increase food production, restore the environment, and promote global peace, health, and cooperation.”
Smalley believed that solving the energy problem would have a flow-on effect on resolving some of the other problems facing our planet.
“energy is the single most important problem facing humanity today. Solve the energy crisis and you solve all the other problems in the world– water, food, war, and so on. “

Measuring the impacts

In the video below, Sir David Attenborough talks about climate change, CO2 emissions and the role that clean energy must play in our future. The power of exponential change and constantly expanding our ambitions.
“What we do in the next 10 years will determine the next 1000” – Sir David Attenborough

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Conversation Starter

  • Do you agree with Professor Smalley?
  • These comments were made in 2000, do you think they are still valid?
  • Do you agree with his notion that solving the energy crisis will have a flow-on effect for all of the other challenges?
© University of Wollongong, 2019
This article is from the free online

How to Survive on Earth: Energy Materials for a Sustainable Future

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education