News Archive:

New ERG Courses Focus on Data, Energy, Ecosystems, Climate Change

The Energy and Resources Group has announced two new courses this fall addressing current, timely topics in energy and environment. Registration is open.

Statistical Learning for Energy and Environment (ENERES 190C)
ERG Professor Duncan Callaway
Lecture: 102 Wheeler, TT 9:30 – 11 (#32987) + Lab: 110 Barrows, M 10 – 12 (#32988)
This course will teach students to build, estimate and interpret models that describe phenomena in the broad area of energy and environmental decision-making. The effort will be divided between (i) learning a suite of data-driven modeling approaches, (ii) building the programming and computing tools to use those models and (iii) developing the expertise to formulate questions that are appropriate for available data and models. My goal is that students will leave the course as both critical consumers and responsible producers of data driven analysis.
(See flyer link below for full description.)

Disturbance and Resilience in Terrestrial Ecosystems Exposed to Climate Change (ENERES 290)
ERG Professor Lara Kueppers
Fridays 1 – 3 pm, 323 Barrows Hall (#32555)
This course will review what is known about projected changes in drivers of major disturbance types, post-disturbance recovery trajectories, and how these are and should be represented in vegetation models used to understand and project regional- to global-scale vegetation change. We will consider current theory related to disturbance and resilience in ecological systems, as well as interactions and feedbacks between physical and biological processes, and develop case studies from US ecosystems, with student interests influencing exact topical emphasis.
(See flyer link below for full description.)

FLYER_ER190C Data and Environment
New Graduate Seminar290_Kueppers

ERG Alum Steve Fetter Named UMD Assoc Provost and Dean

“COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland has named Steve Fetter as Associate Provost and Dean of the Graduate School, effective June 1, 2018. As Dean, Fetter will lead the Graduate School’s mission to advance graduate education and enhance the graduate student experience at UMD by working closely with staff of the university’s more than 230 graduate programs.”

Steve Fetter completed the Energy and Resources MS (’83) and PhD (’85).

Read the full announcement:

Lyft Commits to Cancelling Out its Carbon Emissions – Will it Make a Difference?

Lyft announced its plans last month to purchase carbon offsets to cancel out the carbon emissions created by its drivers. It’s also part of a larger strategy to lessen Lyft’s carbon footprint and to provide a billion rides a year via autonomous electric vehicles by 2025.

“Some energy experts have applauded the announcement, while suggesting it should be the first in a multistep process to ensure Lyft isn’t just removing the pollution it adds, but that it’s making less in the first place.

‘I think it’s very much a partial step,’ says Daniel Kammen, a professor of energy at University of California, Berkeley. ‘Recognizing it and offsetting it is not the full answer,’ he says. ‘But it’s certainly a great start.'”

Read more here.

Why Climate Change, Food Security, and Population Should Be at the Top of Your Agenda

Last month, the Nanaimo and Area Land Trust co-hosted a world-class symposium on water stewardship in a changing climate. Canadian water expert and professor Bob Sandford spoke about “The Hard Work of Hope,” the title of his recent book, and the grim outlook of global climate issues, from the water cycle to temperature rise.

Also last month, ERG Professor John Harte published a piece with Stanford ecologist Paul Ehrlich entitled “Pessimism on the Food Front,” detailing the food insecurity, soil quality, and water scarcity issues our population can no longer ignore and will certainly face in the coming century.

“Ehrlich and Harte name the greatest barrier to hope as ‘a combination of ignorance, politics, and the stresses on the world order from human overpopulation.’ Unless climate change and food security and population issues reach the top of all agendas, the risk of social breakdown and mass suffering faces all of humanity. The only way to move towards real solutions is to stop working against nature and start working with natural forces and resources.”

Find the full article here.

Costa Rica’s Promise to Phase Out Fossil Fuels

Costa Rica’s president-elect Carlos Alvarado announced his goal to remove gasoline and diesel from the country’s transportation plans by 2021, its 200 year anniversary of independence. This promise marks the first time a Costa Rican leader has backed such a move, though green organizations have previously urged it. While completely eliminating fossil fuels within three years may not be realistic, ERG’s Jose Daniel Lara (a Costa Rican native) praises the plan, and the groundwork it lays for faster action toward the goal.

“A proposal like this one must be seen by its rhetoric value and not by its technical precision,” Lara told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. One problem in cutting back on fossil fuels is that the country´s budget depends on them, Lara said. “But the president´s proposal to eliminate fossil fuel use for transport could force a rethink of Costa Rica´s financial dependence on a pollution source.”

Read the full article here.

ERGies Contribute to the Green Schoolyard Movement

May is International School Grounds Month, and organizations like Green Schoolyards America are inspiring and enabling communities to enrich their school grounds and use them to improve children’s well-being, learning, and play, while contributing to the ecological health and resilience of their cities. ERG student Alana Siegner contributed to this year’s Living School Yard Activity Guide, designed to provide a wide range of outdoor activity ideas for elementary, middle, and high school students. Her activity allows students to gain hands on experience with composting, and learn about climate change.

View the full guide here.

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)