News Archive:

ERG Alum Zeke Hausfather Cited by NY Times Regarding Global Warming

Recent ERG Alumnus, Zeke Hausfather (PhD ’19) was quoted in the New York Times last week, with two correspondents reaching out to the climate change expert for commentary.

“June 2019 will likely be the warmest or second-warmest June in all the global temperature data sets since records began in the mid-1800s,” Hausfather said in an article regarding recent heat wave data. “This further boosts an already near-record-warm start to the year, putting us on track for 2019 to be the second or third-warmest year on record.”

Read what Hausfather had to say about rising temperatures in these two pieces:

Restoring Forests Could Help Put a Brake on Global Warming, Study Finds

Heat Wave Nudged the Planet to Its Hottest June, European Forecasters Say

ERG Alumnus Patrick Gonzalez Speaks to Congress on Climate Change

ERG faculty affiliate as well as alumnus (PhD ’97), Patrick Gonzalez, spoke to the U.S. Congress last week on impacts and solutions to human-caused climate change in national parks. Dr. Gonzalez is a University of California, Berkeley, scientist, and Associate Adjunct Professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management. He spoke on June 20, 2019, to the U.S. House of Representatives Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, returning after his testimony in February to the House Natural Resources Committee.

Dr. Gonzalez discussed his research results on the disproportionate exposure of U.S. national parks to hotter and drier conditions and the increased wildfire, melting glaciers, and shifts of biomes and wildlife driven by human-caused climate change. He also reviewed how meeting the Paris Agreement goals could reduce projected heating in national parks by two-thirds and reduce risks of species extinctions and severe wildfire. Members of Congress asked questions on how to integrate these scientific findings into specific legislation and policy.












Dr. Patrick Gonzalez presents scientific findings to Representative Mike Quigley and other members of the U.S. House of Representatives Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition Members in the U.S. Capitol (photo by P. Harman).

Read more of Dr. Gonzalez’s work here:

Disproportionate Magnitude of Climate Change in United States National Parks

Climate Change Trends, Impacts, and Vulnerabilities in US National Parks 

Alumnus Jim Williams Speaks at Vatican Climate Change Meeting

During a recent discussion of sustainable development goals held at the Vatican, climate experts and finance ministers from around the globe were invited to reflect on the theme “Climate Change and New Evidence from Science, Engineering, and Policy.” Included among these experts was ERG alumnus and University of San Francisco Professor Jim Williams (MS ’86, PhD ’95) who presented his findings on decarbonization pathways. He was joined by ERG core faculty member and alumna Professor Margaret Torn (MS ’90, PhD ’94), pictured here meeting Pope Francis.

Pope’s address

Vatican news

Dan Kammen and Tom Steyer Comment on the Adverse Effects of Climate Change on Biodiversity

A recent report released from the United Nations details the threat that climate change and human activities pose to hundreds of thousands of plant and animal species and their biodiversity. Professor Dan Kammen, appearing on KQED, details the intricate and intertwined relationship between humans and other species on the planet and how this impacts the future of both energy and biodiversity on Earth. “We can really bring the system back; but we have to commit to understanding that we’re part of nature, nature is not a part of us,” said Kammen.

Noah Kittner and Dan Kammen Argue for Solar and Wind Over Hydropower in Nature Article

Recent ERG alum Noah Kittner (MS ’15, PhD ’18) and professor Dan Kammen, along with Stanford postdoc Rafael Schmitt and UC Berkeley professor of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning Matt Kondolf, published an article this week in Nature. They argue that solar and wind energies are key to maintaining both environmental and human health in river basins around the world.

The authors cite declining costs and improving efficiency of solar, wind, and battery storage technologies as to why their implementation would be both more viable and sustainable than previously proposed hydropower options.

“As more streams are dammed, less sediment reaches the coast and river channels and banks erode, the report states. “Lower river levels allow salt water to intrude into coastal aquifers, diminishing supplies of fresh water. Human health can be affected. For example, across Africa, incidences of the parasitic disease schistosomiasis are rising as dams interrupt the migration of prawns that feed on the parasite’s host, water snails.”

The Nature report’s release coincided with the May 14-16 World Hydropower Congress meeting. Kammen comments, “With the World Hydropower Congress meeting now, members of this important industry group could take action to ensure that all proposed dams recognize and act on this new world of clean and non-destructive energy options.”

The full report from Nature may be read here, along with coverage from the College of Natural Resources.

New ERG Course: Data, Environment and Society

Data, Environment and Society (ENERES 131)
Professor Duncan Callaway

Lecture (#33105) TT 9:30 – 11am
Labs (#33106) M 10am – 12pm or (#33276) W 10am – 12pm

This course will teach students to build, estimate and interpret models that describe phenomena in the broad area of energy and environmental decision-making. Students leave the course as both critical consumers and responsible producers of data-driven analysis.

The effort will be divided between (i) learning a suite of data-driven modeling and prediction tools (including linear model selection methods, classification and regression trees and support vector machines) (ii) building the programming and computing expertise to use those tools and (iii) developing the ability to formulate and answer resource allocation questions within energy and environment contexts.

We will work in Python in this course, and students must have taken Data 8 before enrolling. The course is designed to complement and reinforce Berkeley’s “data science” curriculum.

Required Prerequisites: Foundations of Data Science (Computer Science C8/Information Systems C8/ Statistics C8) and college calculus.

Recommended Preparation: An introductory computer programming course (Computer Science 61A or Computer Science 88) and Linear Algebra (Mathematics 54, Electrical Engineering 16A, or Statistics 89A).

PhD Candidate Laura Moreno Comments on Food Waste in National Geographic

PhD candidate Laura Moreno, ERG’s resident food waste expert, is featured in an article published by National Geographic this week.

Moreno’s research focuses on why household waste is generated, how much, and from what combination of cultural and systemic factors. In the article, she draws on examples of concerns and subtle behavioral habits that contribute to food waste from households she has studied during her PhD research. In addition to perceptions and patterns that exist at the scale of a household or individual, Moreno also discusses the greater systematic factors that influence the proliferation of food waste, like the manner in which food is labeled, presented, and sold.

“Just because food is wasted in a household doesn’t mean it’s caused by that individual person,” Moreno says. “There are a lot of factors at play.”

Read the full article on National Geographic’s website here.

Isha Ray and Chris Hyun Analyze Issues with Water Access Alerts in Bangalore

A recent article from UC Berkeley’s Blum Center considers the lessons learned from the trial run of Next drop, an application intended to help residents of Bangalore, India optimize their time dedicated towards collecting water. NextDrop was designed to alert households in Bangalore when they should expect to receive water, based off of real-time data input by valvemen – public works employees tasked with the physical regulation of water flow. Due to the unpredictability of water deliverance to homes and businesses, it is reported that most households lose up to a week of time per year simply waiting for water.

However, valvemen were found to have only input data 70% of the time, while the alerts that were produced were only accurate 37% of the time. ERG faculty Isha Ray and PhD candidate Chris Hyun, along with ERG affiliate Allison Post of the Department of Political Science, conducted two studies analyzing why NextDrop’s performance was poorer than expected. The first study, led by political science PhD candidate Tanu Kumar, developed a nodal framework to describe the key points in the communication flow from the valvemen to households where alert viability could break down. The other study, led by Hyun, analyzed the responsibilities and program compliance of the valvemen, and came to the primary confusion that they were often too burdened with other tasks to report accurately report water flow timing. Post and Ray were co-authors on both studies.

The original article from the Blum Center can be read here.

Alum Chris Jones Featured on Berkeley Talks Podcast

As part of April’s Cool Campus Challenge, ERG alumnus Chris Jones (MS ’05, PhD ’14), now director of the CoolClimate Network, sat down with student reporters from the Goldman School of Public Policy to discuss the CoolClimate Calculator. The CoolClimate Calculator is an online tool developed by the Renewable & Appropriate Energy Laboratory that allows users to calculate their carbon footprint and provides input on how to reduce their emissions based off of the data they input.

Listen to the podcast here.

Professor John Harte and Alumnus Scott Saleska Elected as Ecological Society of America Fellows

ERG Professor of the Graduate School John Harte and alumnus Scott Saleska (PhD ’98), now a Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona, have been announced as Ecological Society of America (ESA) 2019 Fellows for their outstanding contributions to the ecological sciences. The ESA Fellows program was established in 2012 and members are elected for life.

Among the other 2019 Fellows, Harte and Saleska are joined by ESPM Professor and ERG affiliate Steven Beissinger and this year’s ERG Annual Lecture speaker Professor Thomas Lovejoy of George Mason University.

Read more about this year’s ESA Fellows and their contributions to the field of ecology here.

Coverage from CNR can be read here.