Ten Essentials for Action-Oriented and Second Order Energy Transitions, Transformations and Climate Change Research

Energy Research & Social Science
Volume 40 (2018)

by I Fazey, N. Schäpke, G. Caniglia, J. Patterson, J. Hultman, B. van Mierlo, F. Säwe, A. Wiek, J. Wittmayer, P. Aldunce, H. Al Waer, N. Battacharya, H. Bradbury, E. Carmen, J. Colvin, C. Cvitanovic, M. D’Souza, M. Gopel, B. Goldstein, et al.

The most critical question for climate research is no longer about the problem, but about how to facilitate the transformative changes necessary to avoid catastrophic climate-induced change. Addressing this question, however, will require massive upscaling of research that can rapidly enhance learning about transformations. Ten essentials for guiding action-oriented transformation and energy research are therefore presented, framed in relation to second-order science. They include: (1) Focus on transformations to low-carbon, resilient living; (2) Focus on solution processes; (3) Focus on ‘how to’ practical knowledge; (4) Approach research as occurring from within the system being intervened; (5) Work with normative aspects; (6) Seek to transcend current thinking; (7) Take a multi-faceted approach to understand and shape change; (8) Acknowledge the value of alternative roles of researchers; (9) Encourage second-order experimentation; and (10) Be reflexive. Joint application of the essentials would create highly adaptive, reflexive, collaborative and impact-oriented research able to enhance capacity to respond to the climate challenge. At present, however, the practice of such approaches is limited and constrained by dominance of other approaches. For wider transformations to low carbon living and energy systems to occur, transformations will therefore also be needed in the way in which knowledge is produced and used.

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A Review of Media Coverage of Climate Change and Global Warming in 2017

Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO)
Special Issue, 2017 Recap

– report prepared through contributions from Max Boykoff, Kevin Andrews, Meaghan Daly, Jennifer Katzung, Gesa Luedecke, Celeste Maldonado, and Ami Nacu-Schmidt

2017 saw media attention to climate change and global warming ebb and flow. At the global level, June of this year was the high water mark for coverage of climate change or global warming in the fifty-two sources across twenty-eight countries tracked by our Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO) team. Figure 1 above shows media coverage of climate change or global warming month to month – organized into seven geographical regions around the world – from January through December 2017. This trend of highest levels of coverage in June was also the case at the national level in Australia, Canada, India, Spain and the United Kingdom (UK) in 2017. This increase was largely attributed to news surrounding United States (US) President Donald J. Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 United Nations (UN) Paris Climate Agreement, with continuing media attention paid to the emergent US isolation following through the G7 summit a few weeks later.

However, coverage of climate change or global warming across The Washington PostThe Wall Street JournalThe New York TimesUSA Today, and the Los Angeles Times in the US was at its highest level for the year in January. Figure 2 below illustrates these trends month to month in US press accounts in these five publications in 2017. The inauguration of US President Trump on January 20th along with great anticipation (punctuated by a heavy dose of dread) regarding a new phase of approaches to science and the environment by the incoming administration generated numerous stories on political and policy dimensions of climate change.

The prominence of news on climate change or global warming associated with Donald J. Trump in 2017 has been referred to as a ‘Trump Dump’. This is defined as a phenomena where media attention that would have focused on other climate-related events and issues instead was placed on Trump-related actions, leaving many other stories untold.

This Trump Dump was illustrated most recently as the year 2017 came to an end, through media responses to the December 28 tweet from the President that referred to a cold snap in the Eastern half of the United States (approx. 1% of the Earth’s surface) to cheekily call into question investments and action to confront climate change (see Figure 3 for the tweet). This goading on social media garnered reports and responses in a number of sources. For examples, journalist Kendra Pierre-Louis from The New York Times reported that President Trump “appeared unaware of the distinction between weather and climate” in an article entitled ‘It’s Cold Outside. Cue the Trump Global Warming Tweet’. Meanwhile, reporter Dino Grandoni from The Washington Post pointed out, “Before sending that message, Trump had not sent any tweet containing the phrase “climate change” or “global warming” since becoming president… In contrast, two years ago during the chilly winter of 2015, Trump sent off at least nine tweets holding up cold temperatures as evidence that global warming can’t be happening.”

Throughout the year 2017, in terms of the frequency of words in articles in the US, ‘Trump’ was invoked 19,184 times through 4117 stories in The Washington PostThe Wall Street JournalThe New York TimesUSA Today, and the Los Angeles Times in 2017 (a ratio of nearly 4.7 times per article on average). Figure 4 depicts word frequencies in US press accounts across the calendar year 2017.

This report is an aggregation of monthly summaries that our MeCCO team has compiled and posted each month on our website. The project is a part of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR) in the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado Boulder. Initial funding for this project (six months) was received from the Office for Outreach and Engagement at the University of Colorado Boulder and continues with support from CSTPR.

Media stories on climate change or global warming typically manifest through primary yet often intersecting politicalscientificcultural and ecological/meteorological themes. The month-to-month summaries that follow generally then highlight key events, stories and developments through these dimensions.

As 2018 begins, it is a time for important reflection on how the past year 2017 shapes the one to come and those that follow. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.” May this report provide a useful resource to help confront climate change in 2018 and beyond. Read more …

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MeCCO Monthly Summary: Ecological and Meteorological Issues Grab Media Attention

Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO)
November 2017 Summary

November media attention to climate change and global warming was up just slightly (3%) throughout the world from the previous month of October 2017. Increases were detected most strongly in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe, with a decrease in Oceania and counts holding steady in the Americas. Compared to counts from fifty-two sources across twenty-eight countries in seven regions around the world in November 2016 (a year ago), the global numbers were actually down about 23%. The high levels of coverage in November 2016 were largely attributed to the US Presidential election of Donald J. Trump and the concatenate Marrakech round of international climate negotiations (COP22). While this November was punctuated with the Bonn round of climate talks (COP23), it did not prove to be nearly as resonant a media event-come-story as those that unfolded in the previous November.

At the country level, coverage was also up from the previous month of October 2017 in Germany (17%), India (21%), Spain (8%), the United Kingdom (UK) (14%), and the United States (US) (2%). Coverage was down in Australia (-39%), Canada (-7%) and New Zealand (-29%). Figure 1 shows these ebbs and flows in media coverage – organized into seven geographical regions around the world – from January 2004 through November 2017.

The figure below shows word frequency data at the country levels in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the USA, Germany and the UK in November 2017. The five representative US sources showed continuing signs of a ‘Trump Dump’ (where media attention that would have focused on other climate-related events and issues instead was placed on Trump-related actions (leaving many other stories untold)). However, this pattern of news reporting appeared limited to the US context (as was the case in the previous month). In US news articles related to climate change or global warming, Trump was invoked 2816 times through the 280 stories this month (a ratio of over 10 times per article on average) in The Washington PostThe Wall Street JournalThe New York TimesUSA Today, and the Los Angeles Times. However, in contrast in the UK press, Trump was mentioned in the Daily Mail & Mail on SundayGuardian & the Observer, the Sun, the Daily Telegraph & Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Mirror & Sunday Mirror, the Scotsman & Scotland on Sunday, and the Times & Sunday Times 724 times in 566 November articles (a ratio of just over one mention per article on average).

Figure: Word clouds showing frequency of words (4 letters or more) invoked in media coverage of climate change or global warming in Australia (top left), New Zealand (top right), Canada (middle left), the United States (middle right), the United Kingdom (bottom left) and Germany (bottom right) in November 2017. In English these are articles containing the terms ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’; in German, these are articles with the terms ‘klimawandel’ or ‘globale erwärmung’.

These stories led into wider considerations of attention paid to political content of coverage during the month. In this arena, coverage of the November 6-17 international climate talks in Bonn, Germany (COP23) dominated news attention. Of note, Doyle Rice in USA Today reported on November 7th that Syria’s move to join the Paris Agreement meant that the USA Trump Administration would become the one nation on earth to not be a part of the international climate agreement, once the US fully moves out of the accord. Also, later in November, news stories covered how the US Environmental Protection Agency held its only public hearing on replacing the Clean Power Plan in Charleston, West Virginia, an area considered ‘the heart of coal country’. John Schwartz from The New York Times reported on November 28th of hours of emotional testimony from a range of stakeholder and interest groups during the hearing.

Media accounts also focused on scientific dimensions of climate change and global warming. For example, the US Global Change Research Program Report release by thirteen US agencies in early November (with findings at odds with the stance of the Trump Administration) generated coverage. Brady Dennis, Juliet Eilperin and Chris Mooney from The Washington Post wrote a November 3 story entitled “Trump Administration Releases Report Finding ‘No Convincing Alternative Explanation’ for Climate Change”, naming human activity as the dominant driver of contemporary climate change. The authors stated that this is “a conclusion at odds with White House decisions to withdraw from a key international climate accord, champion fossil fuels and reverse Obama-era climate policies”.

Across the globe in November there were a range of stories that intersected with the cultural arena. For example, Lisa Friedman from The New York Times wrote on November 11th about the #WeAreStillIn social movement afoot to express commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as local and regional scales while offsetting the lack of commitment to mitigate climate change in the US Federal government.

In November, coverage relating to ecological and meteorological issues grabbed attention. There were a number of stories like a November 6th piece by Fiona Harvey in The Guardian that related news that the World Meteorological Organization announced that 2017 was on track to become one of the top three hottest years on record (along with 2015 and 2016). In addition, stories continued to cover connections between climate change and extreme events, documenting Puerto Rico’s continued challenges to recover from hurricane Maria two months after the storm passed over the island. One story by Milton Carrero Galarza and Kurtis Lee from The Los Angeles Times documented how thousands of residents have begun to migrate to the US mainland.

Hope nonetheless springs eternal as we head into the final month of 2017. Have a happy December!

– report prepared by Max Boykoff, Celeste Maldonado, Jennifer Katzung and Ami Nacu-Schmidt

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State Public Lands Policies: Colorado and Utah’s Divergent Perspectives on Public Land Values

by Xander Martin
Legislative aide, Colorado State Senate

Edward Abbey once said, “there is no shortage of water in the desert but exactly the right amount”. He alludes to the American West’s issue with water: there isn’t a lot of it. And over time, residents of the region have learned to become innovative with what little water exists. In the West, people value what they have around them. Water and public lands are the collective centerpiece of Southwest values. The public lands found in the American West are more than just open spaces, they are sacred lands to Native Americans, they are a refuge to uniquely Southwestern ecosystems and organisms, and they are both representative of the Western culture, identity, and economy.

But what happens when these values are threatened by federal overreach fueled by corrupt private sector interests? In order to address this question, an understanding of what is meant by “values” in different Southwest states must be discussed. Colorado culture writ large places intrinsic value on its public lands, subsequently protecting them, declaring them as state treasures. Conversely, it is apparent that Utah culture, broadly construed, values its public lands for the resources found within them, resulting in Utah’s congressional invitation to President Trump to dismantle key federal land protections.

Since July of 2017, Utah’s US Senator Orrin Hatch has repeatedly contributed to his state’s anti-public lands rhetoric by personally asking President Trump to downsize Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments. Senator Hatch’s request was answered by President Trump on December 4th, 2017. Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments have been collectively cut by more than two-million acres.

Across the Utah border in Colorado, people can’t help but wonder, ‘what’s next?’ Which national monument is next on the chopping block? Or perhaps the question should be, ‘which one isn’t?’ If Utah’s Federal request to degrade their public lands was met with exactly what they were asking for, could the opposite request work as well? Can state policies in the Western US  politically deter the federal government from going too far with public lands reductions? Colorado has established itself as one of the strongest voices for public lands in the West, and when this line of thinking is considered, it seems that yes, state policies can make the difference.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper on May 17th, 2016 signed the Colorado Public Lands day bill into law. This bill, sponsored by State Senator Kerry Donovan, sought to recognize how deeply embedded public lands and open spaces are in the collective cultural identity of Colorado. This bill was the first of its kind for any state in the US, and after Colorado’s first Public Lands Day celebration it has become abundantly clear that Colorado residents value their public lands too much to allow the Federal government to open them up to resource extraction and ultimate destruction.

In early 2017 Utah’s governor signed a very different bill into law. Governor Gary Hubert signed a resolution, formally requesting that President Trump nullify the federal protections for Bears Ears National Monument. This move subsequently cost the state its twenty-year relationship with Outdoor Retailer, one of the nation’s largest sporting goods conventions.

Outdoor Retailer took a stand against Utah’s anti-public lands rhetoric by announcing their intention to move to a state that would hold public lands at a higher value. Colorado, having already established itself as the “public lands state”, immediately invited Outdoor Retailer to find Colorado as its new home state. Governor Hickenlooper and Senator Donovan led Colorado in this community-based effort, furthering Colorado’s public lands reputation.

Colorado’s invitation was formally accepted by Outdoor Retailer in July of 2017, a five-year contract was agreed upon. In July of 2018, Outdoor Retailer will hold its first convention in Denver, Colorado, the capitol of the “public lands state”.

As of yet, it may be too early to know what will be required of individual states to address Federal interests with public lands. However, what we do know as of right now is this: Colorado and Utah made invitations to two very different entities in the spirit of their individual values held for the public lands that fall within their state borders. For Colorado, it was Outdoor Retailer. For Utah, it was the Trump Administration. And as it stands right now, one state (Utah) is losing its public lands protections while the other one (Colorado) is holding strong.

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2018 AAAS “CASE” Workshop Student Competition

Student competition to attend the AAAS “Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering” workshop in Washington, DC to learn about Congress, the federal budget process, and effective science communication. Students will have an opportunity to meet with their Members of Congress or congressional staff.

Application Deadline: January 15, 2018

Competition Details
The CIRES Center for Science and Technology Policy Research is hosting a competition to send two CU Boulder students to Washington, DC to attend the AAAS “Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering” workshop. The competition is open to any full-time CU Boulder graduate student or upper class undergraduate in one of the following fields: Biological, physical, or earth sciences; Computational sciences and mathematics; Engineering disciplines; Medical and health sciences; and Social and behavioral sciences.

The evaluation committee will select two students from those who apply. The competition is supported by the CU Graduate School and the Center for STEM Learning. Competition winners will be asked to submit a brief report about their workshop experience and participate in a panel discussion.

Please submit a one-page statement explaining the importance of the workshop to your career development and a one-page resume to ami.nacu-schmidt@colorado.edu by January 15, 2018.

The evaluation committee will select two students from those who apply. The competition is supported by the CU Graduate School and the Center for STEM Learning. Competition winners will be asked to submit a brief report about their workshop experience and participate in a panel discussion.

Workshop Overview
Making our CASE: 
Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering
March 18-21, 2018

A coalition of scientific and engineering societies, universities, and academic organizations has created an exciting opportunity for upper-class undergraduate and graduate students in science, mathematics, and engineering disciplines to learn about science policy and advocacy.

This entry-level program is organized to educate graduate students who are interested in learning about the role of science in policy-making, to introduce them to the federal policy-making process, and to empower them with ways to become a voice for basic research throughout their careers.  The workshop is designed for students in science, technology, engineering, and math fields, with limited experience and knowledge of science policy and advocacy who want to learn more about science policy.

Two elected students will participate in a three-and-a-half day program in Washington, DC, March 18-21, 2018. Participants will learn about the structure and organization of Congress, the federal budget and appropriations processes, and tools for effective science communication and civic engagement.  In addition, students will participate in interactive seminars about policy-making and communication.

More Information

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Tax Reforms, Tuition Waivers, and the Role of Policy-Relevant Knowledge Production in a Contemporary Society

Florencia Foxley speaks to the crowd as University of Colorado Boulder campus graduate students protest against the proposed tax bill making it way through the Congress. Photo: Paul Aiken, Nov 29.

by Steve Vanderheiden
CSTPR Faculty, Political Science & ENVS Faculty

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, December 2, the Senate passed its long-anticipated tax reform bill, having circumvented the filibuster-proof supermajority requirements routinely used to obstruct ordinary legislation when Democrats controlled the chamber with a 51-49 majority. In announcing the vote, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell remarked that he was “totally confident” that the bill would be at least revenue-neutral, and that he personally believed “that it’s going to be a revenue producer.”[1]

The basis for such a belief is unclear. The Joint Committee on Taxation, which was established in 1926 to assist legislators in “making objective and informed decisions with respect to proposed revenue legislation,” projected that the bill would add over $1 trillion to the federal deficit over a decade, after accounting for any economic stimulus effects.

Only one Senator crossed party lines, with Bob Corker (R-TN) opposing the bill on stated fears that this congressional advisory body might possibly be correct in its estimates.  According to analysts, his 51 Senate colleagues voting for the bill rejected the findings of the institution’s in-house and non-partisan experts “because they felt burned by unflattering analyses of their health care proposals issued this year by the Congressional Budget Office.”[2]

The message sent by McConnell and his fellow congressional Republican colleagues was clear: rather than seeking to make “objective and informed decisions” about public policy, where facts and evidence inform legislative decision-making and relevant forms of expertise are valued for their contributions to the understanding of such facts, questions such as the budget impact of tax cuts are to be settled by reference only to the personal beliefs of individual politicians. Where unbiased expertise becomes an obstacle to partisan or ideological objectives, expertise itself is to be denigrated and cast aside, to be replaced by whatever personal beliefs accommodate the interests of the nation’s donor class. Critics have lamented this “post-truth” turn in U.S. politics and public life as endemic to the Trump era.[3] CSTPR founding Director Roger Pielke, Jr. has actually chronicled that the politicization of science has a longer history.

What is new and alarming about the hostility of U.S. political elites toward scientific knowledge and expertise is that it appears now to be moving beyond attempts to suppress inconvenient facts and discredit scientists as mere ideological actors, from a radically constructivist epistemology in which no empirical finding can have more validity than any other (or even unfounded personal beliefs about empirical facts). That hostility is no longer directed only at individual researchers or the findings of scientific bodies that result from processes like peer review, but has been widened to include sweeping attacks against the scientific knowledge production system itself.

Prometheus—for whose symbolic association with the human quest for knowledge this blog was named—was tortured by Zeus for allowing mortals access to a systematic understanding of the natural world. As the French philosophes that produced the first Encyclopedia well understood, making knowledge available to the public can be emancipatory, but is also threatening to those whose hold on power is challenged by it.

Knowledge is power, but democratic distributions of power undermine the monopoly control over it previously held by elites.

A generation ago, Prometheanism was among the leading political discourses opposed to state regulatory protection of the environment, embracing this association between knowledge and human progress. Insofar as technical knowledge and the capacity for innovation is unlimited, Prometheans like Julian Simon promised, there could be no real ecological limits to growth, as technology would allow humans to overcome forms of scarcity motivating environmentalism. Competing discourses like this one, along with competing knowledge production institutions like contrarian “think tanks” emerged to challenge an emerging scientific consensus about the need for science-based natural resource management or pollution control policy within a marketplace of ideas in which adversaries still respected that competition. Even climate skeptics sought to influence decision outcomes against environmental protection while allowing genuine scientific research to go forward, obfuscating its findings or exaggerating its uncertainties to confuse the public and delay regulatory action, interfering with knowledge dissemination but not production.

In this sense, the bill opens a new and pernicious front in the science wars through an attempt to interfere in knowledge production rather than merely politicizing its dissemination. 

Among the provisions of the House tax reform bill, which was not included in the Senate bill but which could still emerge through reconciliation, is a move to treat tuition waivers for graduate students as income, amounting to an approximately 300-500 percent tax increase[4] on a low-income group that did not appear to have been randomly targeted.  Because graduate students train to acquire the knowledge-production skills in their chosen fields, whether these are in the natural or social sciences, humanities, or arts, they pose a threat to those elites seeking a level of control over knowledge production and dissemination not seen in Western democracies since before the Enlightenment. While partly retributive, targeting scholars during their most economically vulnerable time to punish academia for the free inquiry it cherishes but which is loathed by those whose political ends depend upon stifling public access to impartial knowledge, the provision appears to also be partly designed to diminish the future research capacity of these universities and knowledge-based institutions outside of the academy. No longer content to merely suppress knowledge produced by scholars who are dependent upon tuition waivers to make financial ends meet while training at U.S. universities, this provision financially threatens the young scholars themselves, and with them the process of training the next generation of researchers. Indeed, it threatens the future of U.S. leadership in scholarly research, with a chilling effect upon the future production of the kind of policy-relevant research valued by this Center as contributing to the public good, viewing it as a threat to the post-truth politics embraced by the Majority Leader.

As part of a nationwide movement, CU Boulder students walked out of their classrooms and labs last Wednesday in a show of support for their integral role within the university.  This is not a problem for graduate students alone: faculty, administration, undergraduate students, and indeed the public at large all stand to lose as access to graduate education is diminished for all but the wealthy, and society’s capacity to train new knowledge producers is undermined by those threatened by the production and public dissemination of that knowledge. In the short run, we should all remind our representatives about the role of policy-relevant knowledge production in a democratic society, and opposing this pernicious attempt to interfere with it for transparently political reasons. In the long run, we should think about how to better communicate the social value of the research university, and of scholarly research itself, not just to the more educated and progressive members of the public that are already inclined to view it favorably, but also to its indirect beneficiaries, whose support for higher education declines as its suspicion that our educational mission is socially exclusive increases. We in public research universities must also continue to fight to keep access to higher and graduate education economically accessible and socially inclusive, to prevent this kind of anti-intellectual populism from arising in the future and to reaffirm the basic democratic values that inform our knowledge production system.

[1] J. Tankersley, T. Kaplan and A. Rappeport, “Senate Passes Sweeping Republican Tax Overhaul Bill,” The New York Times, 1 December 2017.

[2] Tankersley, Kaplan and Rappeport (2017).

[3] See, for example, “Yes, I’d Lie to You: The Post-Truth World,” The Economist, 10 September 2016, and Nathan Bomey, After the Fact: The Erosion of Truth and the Inevitable Rise of Donald Trump (Prometheus Books, 2018).

[4] Ethan Siegel, “The GOP Tax Plan Will Destroy Graduate Education,” Forbes (online edition), 7 November 2017.

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Trump Science Job Nominees Missing Advanced Science Degrees

Associated Press
December 5, 2017

by Seth Borenstein

When it comes to filling jobs dealing with complex science, environment and health issues, the Trump administration is nominating people with fewer science academic credentials than their Obama predecessors. And it’s moving slower as well.

Of 43 Trump administration nominees in science-related positions — including two for Health and Human Services secretary — almost 60 percent did not have a master’s degree or a doctorate in a science or health field, according to an Associated Press analysis. For their immediate predecessors in the Obama administration, it was almost the opposite: more than 60 percent had advanced science degrees.

The AP analyzed 65 Senate-confirmable positions that deal with science and environment, many of which haven’t been filled yet after 10 months. The analysis focused on earned degrees, not life experience.

“This is just reflective of the disdain that the administration has shown for science,” said Christie Todd Whitman, a former Republican New Jersey governor and Environmental Protection Agency chief.

“When you’re talking about science, issues about protecting human health…it’s very, very complicated and sophisticated work,” said Whitman, who was appointed by George W. Bush and does not have an advanced degree herself but surrounded herself with people who did. “You need the background and experience to handle these things.”

Including now-resigned Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, a medical doctor, the number of political appointees with a doctorate in science or a medical degree dropped 21 percent from Obama’s 19 to Trump’s 15 in those equivalent positions. And when it comes to master’s degrees, the number decreased one-third from 27 in Obama to 18 in Trump.

Public health researcher Dr. Caroline Weinberg, who helped organize last spring’s protest March for Science, said in an email, “I knew the dire straits we were in but seeing it laid out with percentages really amplifies the horror.”

Trump administration officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

It is especially noticeable in the Energy Department, which oversees the nation’s nuclear stockpile.

None of the seven Trump energy science-oriented nominees — including the undersecretary for science, who did research while in the U.S. Navy — has even a master’s degree in a science field, although some are lawyers and have MBAs. Five of their Obama predecessor’s had master’s degrees in science field and four had science doctorates — not including the Obama deputy Energy secretary, who had a doctorate in international relations. The two Obama Energy secretaries both had doctorates in physics, and Steven Chu was a Nobel prize winner in physics. Trump Energy Secretary Rick Perry has a bachelor’s degree in animal science and was a former governor.

“This is just hollowing out of expertise in these posts,” said Max Boykoff, director of Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado. “It’s a really worrisome trend.”

This isn’t about making jobs for science, but providing the best advice for government leaders who have to make tough decisions, said Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society.

“It’s the policy-makers themselves who need it. If they want to develop policies that are most likely to succeed, they should make those policies with the understanding available of how things are,” said Holt, a former physicist and Democratic congressman from New Jersey. “We do this with the age-old, time-tested procedure of determining how things are. We call that science.” Read more …

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CSTPR 2017 AGU Attendees

The 2017 Fall American Geophysical Union Meeting will take place in New Orleans, Louisiana. Below is a list of CSTPR Members attending the meeting this year.

New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
900 Convention Center Blvd, New Orleans, LA 70130

Monday, December 11
Lisa Dilling, H13S-02 | Abstract
Water Security and Adaptive Capacity for Climate: Learning Lessons From Drought Decision Making in U.S. Urban Contexts
1:55pm – 2:10pm in New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center 280-282

Tuesday, December 12
Abigail Ahlert, C23E-04 | Abstract
What Models and Satellites Tell Us (and Don’t Tell Us) About Arctic Sea Ice Melt Season Length
2:25pm – 2:40pm in New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center 278-279

Wednesday, December 13
Matthew Druckenmiller, PA32A-01 | Abstract
Developing Science Policy Capacity at the State Government Level: Planning a Science and Technology Policy Fellowship Program for Colorado and Beyond
10:20am – 10:31am in New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center 255-257

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Machine Learning, Social Learning and the Governance of Self-Driving Cars

by Jack Stilgoe, Department of Science and Technology Studies, University College London

Social Studies of Science (2017)

Jack Stilgoe was a visiting scholar at CSTPR/University of Colorado Boulder in 2016

Abstract: Self-driving cars, a quintessentially ‘smart’ technology, are not born smart. The algorithms that control their movements are learning as the technology emerges. Self-driving cars represent a high-stakes test of the powers of machine learning, as well as a test case for social learning in technology governance. Society is learning about the technology while the technology learns about society. Understanding and governing the politics of this technology means asking ‘Who is learning, what are they learning and how are they learning?’ Focusing on the successes and failures of social learning around the much-publicized crash of a Tesla Model S in 2016, I argue that trajectories and rhetorics of machine learning in transport pose a substantial governance challenge. ‘Self-driving’ or ‘autonomous’ cars are misnamed. As with other technologies, they are shaped by assumptions about social needs, solvable problems, and economic opportunities. Governing these technologies in the public interest means improving social learning by constructively engaging with the contingencies of machine learning. Read more …

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Hot Topics at COP 23

by Diana Dorman
Environmental Studies Program, University of Colorado Boulder

The main body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meets every year for the Conference of Parties (COP) to discuss and negotiate measures to combat climate change. The 23rd meeting of the COP took place Nov 6-17 in Bonn, Germany. The COP is where global agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement have been created and signed by countries around the world. Every COP has different challenges and themes as the effects of climate change become more apparent and circumstances change in individual countries. This COP was no different, and as a Master’s student in the Environmental Studies program I was able to observe COP 23 and several of the hot topics relevant this year.

Small Island States Front and Center

COP 23 was the first to be led by a small island develop state (SIDS), putting their issues regarding climate change front and center. Fiji’s Presidency at COP 23 reminded the world that for those in Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia the effects of climate change are here and disrupting entire communities. I sat in on several panels that discussed full community relocation due to sea walls no longer stopping the relentless waves, or because water sources and farmland had been corrupted by sea water encroachment. Fiji called for the global community to notice the issues of the SIDS and take action before it is too late.

Gender Equality and Climate Change

Climate change impacts are expected to hit disadvantaged groups hardest, including women. Women tend to make less than men and have more restricted access to technology and financial resources to counter challenges caused by climate change. The Paris Agreement incorporates language requiring that equality and aiding disadvantaged groups is pursued moving forward to combat climate change. Acknowledging this issue and continuing these conversations on a global stage is an encouraging first step to progress the issue of gender equality.

The USA at COP 23

After being a leading force in 2015 on the Paris Agreement the United States’ position on climate change has taken a 180-degree turn. The election of President Trump swiftly brought in the US intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The United States did not have an official delegation or pavilion at COP 23, but the citizen and business community of the US did at in the U.S. Climate Action Center where “We are still in” was the tagline. Conversations around US actions seemed to express disappointment and frustration, but also resolve to trudge on and continue progress on climate change without America.

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