News Archive:

The Fundamentals of a Clean(er) Economy – Dan Kammen

ERG Chair Dan Kammen wrote an Op-Ed piece for the Daily Californian this week, outlining the stark global reality of climate change in 2018 and the need for collective action.

“…As it stands, China is now projected to be able to cap emissions before 2030. Conversely, the United States is currently the only country in the world that is not a signatory to the historic 2015 Paris climate accord, an agreement that established that the United States had to make much-needed 80 percent emissions cuts and a two-degree Celsius cap on temperature rise. Sadly, we are not making sufficient progress toward that goal. So, what should engaged students and citizens worldwide do next? Fortunately, the fundamentals of a clean(er) economy are now all around us, so truly useful steps to a sustainable economy and planet are readily available.”

For his seven tips, continue reading in the full Daily Californian article. Kammen relayed this message in the Cornell Daily Sun as well after attending Cornell’s Ivy Policy Conference last week.

You can also read his 2013 Daily Californian piece on the consequences of the UC system investing in fossil fuels.

Photo: Xinyu Li

2018’s Greenest States — John Harte Weighs In

Have you ever wondered which states in the U.S. are the most environmentally conscious? The least?

“In order to highlight the greenest states and call out those doing a poor job of caring for the environment, WalletHub compared each of the 50 states on 23 key metrics. Our data set ranges from LEED-certified buildings per capita to share of energy consumption from renewable resources. Read on for our findings, expert commentary and our full methodology.”

One of the experts consulted by WalletHub was ERG’s John Harte, who answered the following questions:

  • What policies can state and local authorities pursue to make their communities more environmentally friendly?
  • Is there an inherent tradeoff between protecting the environment and promoting economic growth?
  • How might states be affected by the Trump administration’s EPA policies?
  • What is the single most impactful thing an individual can do to reduce their effect on the environment?

To view John Harte’s answers and read more about the findings, click here.

Patrick Gonzalez Selected to be a Lead Author of IPCC’s Next Major Climate Change Report

ERG alumnus Patrick Gonzalez (PhD ’97) has been selected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to be a lead author for a chapter about freshwater ecosystems in their next milestone report, “Climate Change 2021: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability.” The IPCC is the scientific panel that produces the authoritative reports on human-caused climate change, which are then used as the standard references for scientists and policymakers.

To continue reading, view the UC Berkeley News article, and the IPCC Selection of Authors press release.


Efficiency, Cost, and Environmental Benefits of Self-Driving Electric Taxis in NYC

“What would it look like if all Yellow Cabs in Manhattan were replaced with self-driving electric taxis? How much battery range would they need, and where would you put charging stations? How much would it cost to ride in a robotaxi, and what would the environmental impact be?”

These are the questions posed by ERG student Gordon Bauer and researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The team found that the cost of shared automated electric vehicles, or SAEVs, would be dramatically lower than present-day taxis while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption. Researchers believe that the electrification of vehicles coupled with a shared transportation approach is the clear path to solving the personal transportation crisis, and will occur faster than people think.

For more information, visit the following links:

Fleet of Automated Electric Taxis Could Deliver Environmental and Energy Benefits (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)
Automated Electric Taxis Could Deliver Environmental Benefits (UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources)
Robotaxis in Manhattan (YouTube)
Cost, Energy, and Environmental Impact of Automated Electric Taxi Fleets in Manhattan (full study)



Jesse Ribot Awarded 2018 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship


Congratulations to ERG alum Jesse Ribot, who received the 2018 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in the field of  Geography and Environmental Studies. The award aims to further the development of scholars and artists by assisting them to engage in research in any field of knowledge. Jesse Ribot is an Africanist scholar specializing in rural environmental justice. His work explores political representation and equity in struggles over the benefits from natural resource use and commerce. His current project on cause and responsibility in the anthropocene explores how the causes of climate disasters are linked to responsibility and to response.

For more information, view Jesse Ribot’s Guggenheim Fellowship page, or visit his website.

Congratulations NSF and NSERC Fellowship Recipients!

This week, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced the recipients of their Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). The program recruits high-potential, early-career scientists and engineers and supports their graduate research training in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. 2,000 winners were selected from more than 12,000 applicants who came from all 50 U.S. states, as well as the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. Honorable mention recognition went to 1,459 individuals.

Congratulations to ERG student Gordon Bauer for being selected as a 2018 recipient, as well as Christian Miller, Will Gorman, and Peter Worley for Honorable Mentions!

We would also like to recognize Salma Elmallah for receiving a fellowship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

Read the NSF Press Release, or visit the GRFP and NSERC websites for more information.

Isha Ray Recognized as a Trailblazer for Her Impact on Developing Economies

“Gamechangers. Engineers. Innovators. Researchers. Entrepreneurs. These are just a few of the words that describe the outstanding women of the Blum Center ecosystem. In honor of National Women’s History month, the Blum Center recognizes the outstanding work, achievements, and global impacts of these trailblazing women.”

This month, ERG Professor Isha Ray was recognized as a trailblazer for her work with gender equity in access to sanitation. Since beginning her research on the design of sanitation programs in developing economies, she has been advocating for the water and sanitation rights of women and girls globally. Her work encompasses the affordability, reliability, public health impacts, and environmental implications of water usage.

Read more about the trailblazers recognized by the Blum Center here, and take a look at Isha Ray’s Tedx Talk.


How Does Building a New Suburb Affect the Atmosphere?

A team of scientists at the University of Utah as well as several other universities decided to take a closer look at the effects of expanding suburban communities near Salt Lake City, UT over the past decade. The atmospheric researchers found that “carbon dioxide emissions increased as suburban areas developed to the southwest of Salt Lake City, while comparable population growth in the center of the city did not have the same effect.” ERG alumnus Chris Jones added that this conclusion is logical, considering that these previously rural areas experienced huge population growth compared to the city’s center, in percentage terms. And that “of course, if you put more people where there weren’t people before, you’re going to have more emissions.”

“It’s the latest evidence highlighting the environmental consequences of suburban expansion, often accompanied by more miles driven by cars and larger free-standing homes that require more energy for heating and cooling. As cities become a central focal point for action on climate change, the ways in which they manage their growth will be a key question.”

The full Washington Post article can be found here.

Misplaced Praise – How Kosovo Took a Step in the Wrong Direction

The U.S. government recently congratulated the government of Kosovo for signing a contract with American multi-national corporation Contour Global to build a new 500 MW coal-fired power plant. Kosovo highlights the potential of this plant to relieve a long history of energy insecurity, and provide for better health and economic prosperity. However, ERG Chair Dan Kammen and PhD student Noah Kittner’s research points to a different conclusion.

“Our electricity options study shows that an integrated package of investments in energy efficiency and renewable electricity – including solar, wind, and small-scale sustainable hydropower – could provide the same amount of electricity as a 500 MW coal-fired power plant at a lower cost. More importantly, an integrated energy system will create more jobs and reduce the financial risk across a larger number of projects.”

Read the rest of the article here, and look into Noah Kittner and Dan Kammen’s research on Sustainable Energy for Kosovo and Southeast Europe.

Photo: A lignite power plant near Obilic, Kosovo. Image from Lograsset/Wikimedia Commons.

Transportation Emissions in Mexico City – How Big Data is Driving Change

Mexico City is one of the most congested cities in the world, and it’s taking a toll on the health of its citizens and the environment. Sergio Castellanos, a postdoctoral scholar with Energy and Resources Group, along with Dan Kammen and other researchers from UC Berkeley and the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change in Mexico, have been working to address this problem. The team researched approaches to reducing transportation emissions in Mexico City through the use of data, and it earned them the Data for Climate Action Challenge Grand Prize last November. This week, Sergio also wrote about the project in Data Makes Possible.

“The Data for Climate Action Challenge invites data scientists, researchers, and innovators to use the world’s rapidly amassing data to address climate change. Global Pulse, the United Nations initiative for big data and data science, announced the Data for Climate Action Challenge winners during the COP23 UN climate change conference. The Grand Prize was awarded to “Electro-mobility: Cleaning Mexico City’s Air with Transformational Climate Policies Through Big Data Pattern Analysis in Traffic & Social Mobility.”

The team quantified the number of traffic jams at different times and locations throughout Mexico City, and then used the MOVES-Mexico model to estimate emissions from the transportation sector. The team also used data from Google’s ‘Popular Times’ to understand population movement patterns in Mexico City. Based on this information, the team evaluated different potential locations for electric vehicle charging stations, along with three different policies and their impact in terms of avoided emissions: (i) electrification of the entire taxi fleet in Mexico City; (ii) electrification of Mexico City’s public transit buses; (iii) electrification of all light-duty vehicles in Mexico City.”

For more information, read the Data for Climate Change Announcement and Sergio Castellanos’ article in Data Makes Possible.

Photo: Smog hanging over Mexico City. Credit: Santiago Arau