News Archive:

ERG student Hausfather in Science: Oceans are warming even faster than previously thought

Heat trapped by greenhouse gases is raising ocean temperatures faster than previously thought, concludes an analysis of four recent ocean-heating observations. The results provide further evidence that earlier claims of a slowdown or “hiatus” in global warming over the past 15 years were unfounded.

“If you want to see where global warming is happening, look in our oceans,” said Zeke Hausfather, a graduate student in the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley and co-author of the paper. “Ocean heating is a very important indicator of climate change, and we have robust evidence that it is warming more rapidly than we thought.”

Ocean heating is critical marker of climate change because an estimated 93 percent of the excess solar energy trapped by greenhouse gases accumulates in the world’s oceans. And, unlike surface temperatures, ocean temperatures are not affected by year-to-year variations caused by climate events like El Nino or volcanic eruptions.

The new analysis, to be published tomorrow (Jan. 11) in Science, shows that trends in ocean heat content match those predicted by leading climate change models, and that overall ocean warming is accelerating.

For more on this, see the study in Science and the press release at Berkeley News.

Stories on this topic have appeared in more than 150 sources around the world, including, The New York TimesThe GuardianNewsweekEcoWatchForbesLondon Economic, and Agence France Presse (AFP)

Study finds racial inequality in the deployment of rooftop solar

A new study by researchers at UC Berkeley and Tufts University shows fewer rooftop solar photovoltaics installations exist in African-American and Hispanic-dominant neighborhoods than in white-dominant neighborhoods, even when controlling for household income and home ownership. It was published in Nature Sustainability.

The study was conducted by Deborah Sunter (former postdoctoral scholar in Dan Kammen’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Lab–RAEL, now at Tufts University), Sergio Castellanos of RAEL, and Dan Kammen, professor and chair of the Energy and Resources Group, professor in the Goldman School of Policy, and professor of Nuclear Engineering at UC Berkeley. .

Read the the full article on Nature Sustainability.
More reporting on the study: UC Berkeley News, Tufts University

ERG’s Lara Kueppers on Climate Change and CA Wildfires

ERG Professor Lara Kueppers recently commented in Bustle on the relationship between climate change and the California wildfires. 

“‘Due to climate change, she explains, ‘warm temperatures extend over a larger portion of the year.’ This, in turn, causes vegetation to dry out more quickly and for sometimes longer periods of time. ‘That essentially lengthens the fire season,’ she adds. ‘And the moisture in that vegetation has a lot to do with whether that fire will spread.'”

Read the full article here.

NPR Interviews Dan Kammen On U.N. Climate Convention

NPR’s Michel Martin interviewed ERG Professor Dan Kammen on the U.N. climate talks December, 2018 in Poland.

“Unfortunately, because the U.S. backed out, that’s left a number of holes. Essentially, the Paris conference was such a success because countries have been ramping up clean energy and becoming less expensive. But the U.S. and China, the two big holdouts, took major leadership positions in 2014, with President Obama and President Xi committing to very strong clean-energy strategies. And, of course, President Trump has now stepped out of that. And that’s left a big financing void of at least 20 billion a year against the committed or pledged totals. And we are seeing that only very few countries are actually on target to deliver on what they promised in Paris.”

Listen to the full podcast here.

ERG Student Chris Hyun Highlighted as InFEWS Fellow

InFEWS fellowships are granted to students whose PhD research aims to provide lasting environmental solutions and alleviate poverty in the world’s poorest regions. The Blum Center for Developing Economies recently sat down with four of its current InFEWS fellows to talk about the global challenges they are addressing, including ERG PhD student Chris Hyun:

“I recently completed a research project, working with water valvemen to help improve intermittent water systems and partnering with NextDrop and the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board. As I continue with my PhD research, I hope to uncover pro-poor sanitation solutions that have long-term impacts on food, energy, and water systems in urban contexts of low- and middle-income countries.”

Read the full Q&A here.

ERG Graduate Student Advisor Kay Burns Receives Berkeley’s Highest Advising Honor

ERG graduate student advisor Kay Burns (pictured with ERG/CNR Undergraduate Advisor Ryann Madden and ERG Professor Emeritus Dick Norgaard) has been named a 2018 recipient of the the Mary Slakey Howell Excellence in Advising Award. The award is UC Berkeley’s highest advising honor, and it recognizes visionary leadership and exceptional contributions to the advising community. More than that, it recognizes the incredible impact of exceptional advising on the lives of students, on the quality of life and community on campus, and on the institution itself.

At last week’s awards ceremony, Kay was recognized for her amazing work:

How would it be possible to sum up the 35 detailed individual letters from students, faculty, deans and directors that comprised Kay Burns astonishing nomination portfolio? Let us attempt to merely scratch the surface of her impact, contributions and accomplishments.

Let us start with a quote…”Without people like Kay, UC Berkeley would not be the best public university in the country”.

The stuff of greatness is sometimes demonstrated in the simplest of actions.

Kay’s greatest impact is through the patience and care she shows in her everyday interactions. She supports 65 graduate students dealing with academic challenges and personal ones such as mental health issues, physical injuries, homelessness, and deaths in their families, sometimes walking them to the Tang Center and checking with them on weekends, evenings, even on vacations – and even being there to celebrate important triumphs. Kay has also shows resolute commitment to diversity and inclusion, leading efforts to create an academic environment that welcomes and supports all. She helped the department identify creative ways to reach underrepresented students and has been critical to ERG’s success in recruiting, admitting and working with students from diverse backgrounds. She has also raised awareness of challenges facing student parents and identified campus resources for them that neither students nor faculty had been familiar with.

One nominator described Kay has having a magic wand. With a swoosh of the wand you get enrolled in a Haas class, despite Cal Central blocking you. With a swoosh of the wand the $600 balance remaining on your fees because of a clerical anomaly, gets resolved. With a swoosh of the wand, your anxieties about your research and course plan are washed away for a moment as Kay gives you assurance. Kay is not a wizard. She doesn’t actually do magic. But, she does have a wand. Really.

She is known for scavenging for funds for her students (an international student credited her for being the reason he could fund his graduate education) and for creating calm for those in a program with no prescribed curriculum. Students describe her as cheerful, loyal, fierce, kind, positive, knowledgeable, reassuring, insightful, trustworthy, connected, persistent, student-centered, wise, engaged, committed, a champion, professional, transformative, available, responsible, stellar… ….a gift, a fountain…. and as the reason for their success at Berkeley.

Here is perhaps the greatest quote from her portfolio…Kay is an intelligent, analytical, and critical thinker who takes initiative to innovate and improve systems in ERC and UC Berkeley. She has a sense of responsibility and ownership, an attitude of “someone needs to make this better, so it might as well be me.” This is a rare and precious quality.

Please join us in recognizing the phenomenal, unique and irreplaceable Kay Burns.

ERG’s Isa Ferrall and Haas Teammates Win “Energy in Emerging Markets” Case Competition

The case competition, hosted Nov. 6 by the MBA Energy Club at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, required a team of three to five graduate students to compare the electrical infrastructure, regulatory environment, and competitive landscapes in Benin and neighboring Nigeria and recommend a go-to-market strategy for one of those nations based on their findings.

Ferrall, paired with four Berkeley Haas MBA students, said it was fascinating to work with team members who understood how to finance solar projects and assess market potential, while she leveraged her research on renewable energy in Kenya and Tanzania.

Read more about the competition and the team’s conclusions here

ERG’s Kammen Comments on ‘Yellow Vest’ Protests in New York Times

“Of the 34 billion euros, or $39 billion, that the French government is expected to raise this year from the fuel tax, less than a fourth is earmarked for measures that could help people of modest means transition to less-polluting transportation, said Daniel M. Kammen, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley who specializes in energy policy.” 

Read the full New York Times article here.

Campus and Alumni Mourn the Passing of ERG Professor Gene Rochlin

Obituary and news:

A message from Energy and Resources Group Chair, Professor Dan Kammen:

It is with a very heavy heart that I have to pass on the news that University of California Berkeley Energy and Resources Group (ERG) core faculty emeritus Gene Rochlin passed away this weekend.  The last night before suffering a stroke, he spent his final dinner surrounded by his sons, their wives, and all of his grandchildren.

Gene was an incredibly vibrant and integral part of ERG.  His own transition from physics to the social and political study of science, complexity, and engineered systems mirrored what so many of us find critical and central to the Energy and Resources Group.  Among his many publications, his books, Scientific Technology and Social Change (1974), Plutonium, Power, and Politics (1979), and Trapped in the Net (1997) explored both the high profile and the more nuanced aspects of science and society.

Gene was an invaluable teacher and mentor to generations of ERG and UC Berkeley students.  He facilitated the dialog across campus between science, engineering and social science and the humanities.  In fact, even in retirement, Gene continued to play a core and inspiring role in ERG.  He would have taught a masters seminar this coming week.

In looking over Gene’s papers, his children wanted to pass on a small part of one of his poems that in many ways summed up Gene’s optimism and philosophy in mentoring and in building careers in sustainability:

When at last it’s all quite done 
Make them feel that it’s been fun

Gene was also a tremendous friend and mentor outside the classroom.  His welcoming informal meetings with students, extensive conversations about career paths, and trips to Giants baseball games (especially when the Cubs were in town) showed just how fun and welcoming a role model and friend he was.

Gene will be sadly and sorely missed.


Gene I. Rochlin was Emeritus Professor of the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley. He received a B.S. in 1960, M.S. in 1961, and Ph.D. in 1966 from the University of Chicago, all in Physics. After teaching physics at Berkeley for several years, he retrained in political science as an advanced post-doctoral scholar at MIT and Harvard in the mid-1970s. His research interests included science, technology and society, cultural and cognitive studies of technical operations, the politics and policy of energy and environmental matters, and the broader cultural, organizational and social implications and consequences of technology – including large technical systems. He was a principle of the Berkeley High Reliability Project, a multidisciplinary team that studied the organizational aspects of safety-critical systems such as nuclear power and air traffic control, and continued to work on the management, regulation and control of large, complex, high-technology organizations performing socially critical functions as an independent scholar. This extended to studies that sought to apply methods, approaches, and theories from a broad spectrum of the humanities and social sciences to issues arising from the vulnerability of complex, sophisticated technologies and technical systems, particularly the global threats arising from human networks as well as natural phenomena.

Prof. Rochlin’s book “Trapped in the Net: The Unanticipated Consequences of Computerization” (Princeton: 1997), which focused on the vulnerability of organizations and institutions in an earlier phase of global technical integration, won the 1999 Don K. Price Award of the Science, Technology and Environmental Politics Section of the American Political Science Association. He was a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and served on the editorial board of several journals.

Expanded information on his research, publications, and instruction is available at:

To make a gift to ERG in Professor Rochlin’s honor please visit our giving page and indicate that your gift is in his memory.

Energy by Whom? With ERG Alumna Nikky Avila

Nikky Avila (PhD ’18) was recently featured on the podcast “Somebody Call a Doctor.” Avila discusses how distributed energy technologies are disrupting conventional electricity planning paradigms and enabling social innovation. She also shares how working with Professor Charisma Acey and engaging in Vietnam and Kenya transformed the way she thinks about energy planning.

Nkiruka (Nikky) Avila is a recent PhD in Energy and Resources at Berkeley. Her graduate research focused on solar grid integration and climate policy in California, and on electrification in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia to answer the question, “Energy by Whom?”. We’ll be talking about her research and its implications, the process of getting a PhD, and ask her why you’d call her if somebody said, ‘Somebody Call a Doctor!'”

Listen to the full podcast here.