Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network

Jeremiah Osborne-Gowey, Doctoral Student, Environmental Design and Environmental Studies
Bruce Goldstein, Associate Professor, Environmental Design and Environmental Studies

As part of our research program into the transformative potential of learning networks, wevisited a range of communities affiliated with the Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network, a network of communities that exchange information, collaborate to enhance the practice of fire adaptation, and work together at multiple scales to live more safely with fire. As part of this work, we have developed an informal 4-part typology of community fire-adaptation practices:

  • communications and messaging,
  • relationship and trust-building,
  • projects and practices, and
  • co-management of fire risk.

In this blog post, we briefly illustrate these practices, and describe how they can help communities more safely live with and manage fire risk.

Communications and Messaging
Communities engage in a range of communications about their efforts to decrease risks, restore the social, ecological, and economic integrity of communities, and efforts to learn how to better live with fire. On popular approach is to offer the public a wildfire adaptation toolkit to help businesses and homeowners prepare for and deal with pre- and post-fire impacts.

Relationship and Trust Building
Forging connections and building relationships and trust are essential for efforts to promote fire-adapted concepts at the community scale. In addition, community organizers often seek to connect to external partners in order to expand their capacity to restore forest health, improve species habitats, leverage existing capacities and resources, create educational and outreach programs and develop management plans for private landowners.

Projects and Practices
Fire-adapted actions are most easily visible in communities when fuels reduction and fire mitigation projects are actually carried out. This is where the communication and messaging combine with relationship and trust building to build enough collective will for changes in wildfire practice, such as prescribed burning. Organizers often coordinate activities like community wildfire protection workdays where landowners can sign up for home and landscape assessments and participate in fuels reduction activities.

Co-management of Fire Risk
Wildfire risk occurs at various scales and under different social, ecological and political contexts both in communities and across landscapes. An important aspect of changed practice is moving toward shared responsibility of wildfire risk, or co-management. Cutting across jurisdictional various scales and social and ecological contexts is a key focus of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy, which seeks solutions to wildfire management issues and provides direction for wildfire practice in the United States. Across the fire landscape, communities are working toward co-management of fire risk using a number of approaches, such as incorporating cultural values in community decision-making and practice or managing at the watershed scale.

Summary and Conclusions
We think of fire adaptation in communities in fire-prone landscapes in the United States as occurring through these four kinds of practice: 1) communications and messaging, 2) relationship and trust-building, 3) projects and practices, and 4) co-management of fire risk. While these categories provide a framework for differentiating types of activities, they also enable us to develop an integrative perspective on community fire adaptation. For example, many communities are now hosting chipper and fuel reduction workdays, which are practices and projects that include substantive “communication and messaging” in the community. Events like these serve as an incubator for trust-building, which is foundational for co-management activities.

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Want to Buy a New Stove?

by Katie Dickinson, CSTPR Core Faculty Member

Think for a moment about the last meal you cooked. What kind of stove (or stoves) did you use? A gas range? An electric oven? A charcoal grill? A microwave? Maybe you even used an outdoor campfire.

For most of you reading this, the technologies you used to cook your last meal were probably fairly clean. Meeting your daily cooking needs does not expose you to harmful levels of household air pollution. But for nearly half of the world’s population, cooking and smoke exposure go hand in hand. Nearly three billion people worldwide rely on stoves that burn biomass, like wood and charcoal. Not eating is not an option, but exposure to household air pollution linked to these cooking practices can be deadly: nearly 4 million people die prematurely from diseases linked to smoke from cooking.

Photo: Ghanaian woman stirs rice cooked over improved woodstoves during “Prices, Peers, and Perceptions (P3)” project stove demonstration and marketing meeting.

Looking at the problem from this angle, it’s difficult to understand why people would choose to continue to cook over open fires and other polluting biomass stoves. But a little more reflection might remind you that changing behavior and adopting new practices is hard for all of us, for a multitude of reasons, and that many potential barriers exist to spreading the adoption of even the most promising new practices and technologies.

What if I told you that the stove you were using was bad for your family’s health, and that from now on you should only cook using a fancy new gadget that used some sort of specially designed fuel capsules? I imagine you’d have a few questions before you’d rush out to buy one of these “improved” stoves:

  • Where can I get one of these stoves? Is it available in my area?
  • How much does it cost?
  • Where do I get the pellet fuel?
  • How does it work?
  • Can I cook all of the same dishes on it that I’m used to preparing?
  • Does the food taste the same if it’s prepared on this new stove?
  • Does it cook food faster or slower than my current stove?
  • Will it fit in my kitchen?
  • If it breaks, who will fix it?
  • Do I know other people who have used these new stoves? What do they think of these gadgets?

These and other questions are currently facing households in Northern Ghana who are participating in the Prices, Peers, and Perceptions (P3) improved cookstove study. Since 2013, I’ve been working with colleagues at CU Boulder, NCAR, and the Navrongo Health Research Center in Ghana, to better understand how use of cleaner stoves could be scaled up in this region. This year, our interdisciplinary, international research team has partnered with a small Ghanaian NGO, the Organization for Indigenous Initiatives and Sustainability (ORGIIS), to implement a new set of interventions offering households different types of improved cookstoves at different prices.

In March, ORGIIS began the first set of interventions with study participants from the rural areas of our study region, the Kassena-Nankana Districts on Ghana’s northern border. ORGIIS holds small meetings in rural communities, inviting six households at a time to come and try out two different types of improved woodstoves, which use the same fuels households are used to but should produce less smoke. After the meeting, each participant is given an option to buy up to two stoves of either type. Because we are interested in learning about households’ willingness to pay for these stoves, the prices are randomized across different groups. In some meetings, households can get the stoves for free, while in other communities, participants must pay lower or higher prices for their stoves, though all households get a substantial discount over the stoves’ market price. (The full price of the more basic stove, called the Greenway Jumbo, is about $33, while the fancier ACE1 stove, which also includes a USB charging port and a small LED light, costs about $75.)

In this video, you can see ORGIIS and NHRC staff demonstrating these two stoves to study participants at a community meeting.

The other factor we are exploring is whether having social contacts that have experience with these stoves makes participants more or less likely to buy them. About half of our 300 rural P3 participants are from communities that were included in our earlier REACCTING cookstove study, which involved free distribution of similar stoves, while the other half are from different communities without much exposure to these stoves. We’ll be comparing stove purchasing and stove use choices for these “peer” and “non-peer” groups, and seeing how both prices and peers’ experience affect perceptions of these new stoves and their quality.

The rural intervention meetings will wrap up in April, and our team will visit Navrongo in May to plan an additional set of interventions that will offer liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) stoves to participants in the more urban central area of the study districts. While the challenge of cleaner cooking won’t be solved overnight, we hope that learning more about the factors that influence households’ choices will help point the way towards cleaner home environments and healthier communities.

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How One Professor is Finding the Funny in Climate Change

March 22, 2017

by John Fialka

We have rising sea levels, world-record warming, acidifying oceans, an approaching food crisis and a president who is determined to cut any federal budget that is aimed at mitigating climate change. Is there anything that’s funny about this?

That’s a question about human behavior that Maxwell Boykoff, an associate professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is studying because he thinks humor may bring more people closer to understanding the threats and potential solutions to the problem of climate change.

He and a colleague, Beth Osnes, have produced “Creative Climate Communications,” a class for graduating seniors majoring in environmental science that probes their fears about climate change and stresses the need for explaining policies that can cope with it.

Much of the literature about climate change is focused on the year 2050, a time when scientists predict rising oceans may begin to threaten many of the nation’s coastal cities and states like Florida. By then, graduating seniors will be 55 years old, squarely in the middle of this mess, perhaps struggling with a collapsing economy and wild weather while trying to put children through college.

Boykoff, who is 43 and has a doctorate in environmental studies, wanted to set up what he calls a “living laboratory” to examine what his students think about this. So he built a course that involves producing annual comedy shows involving stand-up comics, skits and short videos to explore the humorous side of climate change.

“At first there was almost mutiny,” Boykoff recalled. “They felt you’re [tasking] us to take a very serious issue and find funny in there.” To talk lightly about “scientifically grounded evidence”? This is impossible, they told him.

But Boykoff insisted that they would all learn something because communicating with other people about solutions to climate change is becoming extremely difficult. “Expressions of doom and gloom don’t help open conversations” that are increasingly necessary to finding solutions.

He cited statistics showing newspaper coverage of climate change is declining, except for stories about the Trump administration’s latest actions. He argued that people use climate denial to avoid thinking about needed changes and told students, “You may be able to use humor to meet people where they are.” Read more …

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A Fork in the Road: Jack Stilgoe Considers the Future with Self-Driving Cars

by Alison Gilchrist, CSTPR Science Writing Intern

When you imagine a future with self-driving cars, what do you picture? Are you sliding into your own Tesla Model S, or are you calling up Driverless Cars Company X for a ride? Do the cars circle campuses and downtown streets until summoned? Or do they quietly return to driveways and parking lots, ready to be woken up when needed? For all of Elon Musk’s confidence, it is still unclear how self-driving cars will fit into or reshape our society.

Jack Stilgoe, visiting professor from the University College of London, became increasingly interested in self-driving cars after a crash in 2016 resulted in the driver’s death and reawakened some doubts about the technology.

“It’s a bit of a morbid interest,” laughed Stilgoe, “But people like me are extremely interested in accidents because they show the reality of technology, not just the shiny public image.”

Stilgoe is visiting the CIRES Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR) for a year to research how driverless cars are being developed, how they are being governed and how they are being perceived by the public.

“I’m interested in the novel aspects of the science of self-driving cars, and how they relate to machine learning and artificial intelligence,” said Stilgoe. “This is the particular thing that has enabled self-driving cars to suddenly go from seeming completely impossible, about 10 years ago, to now seeming sort of inevitable.”

But, Stilgoe said, as with all emerging exciting technologies, there are questions we should all be asking about how self-driving cars are emerging and whose interests they serve. For example, what is not being talked about? And who should we, the public, trust to tell us the truth?

Stilgoe pointed to some past examples of exciting technological advancements we can draw lessons from. The emergence of cars—normal, driver-required cars—is a good analogy to the impacts that self-driving cars might have.

“When cars emerged at the start of the twentieth century, they radically reshaped social norms and the structure and fabric of our cities, in ways that people didn’t anticipate at the time,” said Stilgoe. “I think we need to do better at anticipating the impact of self-driving cars, because the promises are just as big as they were for regular cars back in the 1900s.”

Stilgoe also referred to agriculture biotechnology, which many expected would revolutionize the food system. In various ways it did, but not all of the claimed benefits came to fruition, and many people were skeptical of the benefits that were touted by agriculture companies. Stilgoe makes the point that not all of the claims of people and companies touting self-driving cars should be taken at face value.

In his noontime seminar, Stilgoe will discuss some of the different directions that widespread adoption of driverless cars could take in the future. He believes that the philosophy and design of machine learning algorithms will shape the future one way or another.

“Self-driving cars are seen by some engineers as just like a game of chess, with a machine learning to do it as well as or even better than humans,” explained Stilgoe. “That leads you to a hubristic model, where you say that anything that the world can throw at me, I can navigate as a self-driving car.”

He juxtaposes this with a model that assumes the self-driving cars are not good at reacting to unexpected events, leading to a future that has separate routes for self-driving cars, or a future that requires “smart roads”.

Both of these models of the future raise philosophical and political questions, which Stilgoe will discuss during his seminar at CSTPR on March 22nd, 2017. The talk is from noon to 1:00 pm, and is free and open to the public. CSTPR is located at 1333 Grandview Avenue, Boulder. Directions to CSTPR.

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ITG 2017 Comedy & Climate Change Video Winners Announced

Humor is a tool underutilized, and comedy has the power to effectively connect with people about climate change issues.

Inside the Greenhouse held a competition to harness the powers of climate comedy through compelling, resonant and meaningful videos.

The winning videos will be shown at Inside the Greenhouse’s ‘Stand Up for Climate Change’ event on Friday, March 17 at 7PM.

First Place
‘The Summit’ (Australia)
by Giovanni Fusetti and Tejopala Rawls

Runner Up
‘Alternate Science (Vol. 1)’ (USA)
by Monty Hempel

Third Place Runner Up
‘Dear Donald Trump’ (Austria)
by Philip Moran and Elias James Manning-Moran

Honorable Mention
‘Climate Change Communicators Infomercial!’ (USA)
by Travis Axe, Elise Evans, Elizabeth Lev, Chris Reeve, and Jeremy Wainscott

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‘Stand Up for Climate Change’ Event to Fuse the Sober Topic of Climate Change With Humor

Colorado Arts and Sciences Magazine
March 2017

by Clint Talbott

Climate change is about as amusing as death, but the gallows can inspire a kind of humor. Consider this, from late-night jokester Conan O’Brien:

“Yesterday, a group of scientists warned that because of global warming, sea levels will rise so much that parts of New Jersey will be under water. The bad news? Parts of New Jersey won’t be under water.”

Rising sea level is no laughing matter. Teasing New Jersey, however, is. Such humor can help those with different perspectives find common ground, at least to the extent that they laugh together.

That’s a rationale for “Stand Up for Climate Change: An Experiment With Creative Climate Comedy,” a comedy showcase scheduled for 7 p.m., Friday, March 17, in the Old Main Chapel at the University of Colorado Boulder. The event is free and open to the public.

The event’s organizers contend that humor is underutilized in climate-change discourse and that comedy has the “power to connect people” on this topic.

Friday’s event will include stand-up comedy, sketch and situational comedy. Also, there’s a video competition featuring videos from students in this semester’s “Creative Climate Communications” course and from contenders elsewhere.

The course, taught by Associate Professors Max Boykoff of environmental studies and Beth Osnes of theatre and dance, is part of CU Boulder’s Inside the Greenhouse project. Inside the Greenhouse describes itself as a “collective of professors, students, scholars, practitioners” who creatively frame climate-change issues via video, theatre, dance and writing.

Inside the Greenhouse, founded by Osnes, Boykoff and Rebecca Safran, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, is an interdisciplinary project. It reflects the fact that climate-change discourse can amount to little more than a dueling fusillade of talking points.

“People keep throwing scientific information at people, thinking that’s going to change their behavior, and we see time and time again that it doesn’t,” Osnes recently told Colorado Public Radio.

Comedy is another way to communicate, Osnes added. “Comedy has been taking on serious issues for a long time,” Osnes said. Bringing her background in the stage to bear, she cited “Lysistrata,” the comedy by the Greek playwright Aristophanes, who wryly advanced a “preposterous idea” for the Greeks to solve a big problem, the Peloponnesian War:

Lysistrata, a strong woman, convinces the women of Greece to stop having sex with their husbands until the men forge peace with Sparta.

“Through comedy, we can introduce preposterous ideas that then can become reality and can become a better version of our shared humanity,” Osnes said, adding that Lysistrata’s idea was adopted by war-weary Liberian women in 2003, and that this apparently preposterous idea helped end a war.

In the CU Boulder Creative Climate Communications class, the goal is for students to identify and expose incongruities in climate discourse, “not in a way that seeks to humiliate, but in a way that seeks to share our common challenges and our foibles.”

“We’re seeking to make these issues more relevant, more meaningful, more accessible for more audiences through humor,” Boykoff told CPR.

Students themselves say the assignment is rewarding and also fun. The winning entry in last year’s video competition was a skit called “Weathergirl Goes Rogue.” It began with a routine weather report and escalated as the TV meteorologist’s recapitulation of key climate trends was met with the anchor’s inane banter. Read more …

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Environment and the Media

by Gesa Luedecke and Maxwell T. Boykoff

The International Encyclopedia of Geography (2017)
D. Richardson, N. Castree, M. F. Goodchild, A. Kobayashi, W. Liu, and R. A. Marston (Eds.) [pdf]

Excerpt: Media range from entertainment to news media, spanning traditional or mass media such as television, films, books, flyers, newspapers, magazines, and radio, as well as new media such as the Internet in general, Web 2.0, and social media. Traditional media rely on one-to-many (often monodirectional) communications and are sometimes referred to as “mass media,” whereas new or social media involve many-to-many, more interactive, webs of communications. Since the 1990s, the shift from traditional to new media has signaled substantive changes in how people access and interact with information, who has access to it, and who are considered “authorized” definers (e.g., actors with more power and influence than others) of the various dimensions of environmental issues. It is argued that new and social media have democratizing influences, as these channels of communication often offer a platform for more people to become content producers, and therefore have the potential to more readily shape the public agenda.

In all media, actors such as publishers, editors, journalists, and other content producers such as online bloggers generate, interpret, and communicate images, information, and imaginaries for varied forms of consumption. These “media representations” are therefore critical inputs to what becomes public discourse on today’s environmental issues.

As an example, climate change as a highly politicized media topic, especially in the United States, illustrates how (powerful) groups with diverging political ideologies, worldviews, or economic interests heavily influence the public debate on climate change. Recent studies on worldwide media coverage of climate change (Boykoff et al. 2015; see Figure 1), as well as on climate discourse and the interconnection of media, politics, and public opinion, suggest that media agendas match public agendas on the perception of climate change and policy implications (Hmielowski et al. 2014; Brulle, Carmichael, and Jenkins 2010; McCright and Dunlap 2011; Boykoff and Roberts 2007; Boykoff and Boykoff 2004; Weingart and Engels 2000). Through a web of interactions, the media have thereby influenced a range of processes from formal environmental policy to informal notions of public understanding about the environment. Read more …

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Science Policy in a Changed Political Landscape: Not All Bad News

by Steve Vanderheiden, CSTPR Core Faculty Member

The first two months of 2017 have brought good and bad news regarding United States efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions, illustrating an evolving relationship between science and policy in domestic climate change governance that portents some heightened future conflicts but also new points of potential convergence and consensus over mitigation actions.

Of course, changes in the executive branch have garnered the most attention, signaling an increasing reluctance to use federal powers to reduce greenhouse gases, along with decreasing reliance upon and support for policy-relevant science.  President Trump, who cast climate change as a “hoax” and promised to “cancel” the Paris Agreement while on the campaign trail, maintained this hostile posture toward science-based policy by appointing climate skeptics Myron Ebell to head the EPA’s transition and Scott Pruitt as EPA Administrator.  Pruitt, in turn, has begun to staff the agency with harsh critics of climate science and environmental regulation in Ryan Jackson and Byron Brown, prompting Coral Davenport to observe that “Mr. Pruitt seems intent on building an E.P.A. leadership that is fundamentally at odds with the career officials, scientists and employees who carry out the agency’s missions (Davenport 2017a).”

Within the past week alone, president Trump has issued executive orders to Pruitt to begin the process of dismantling the two Obama administration programs that promise to control CO2 emissions in the Clean Power Plan and automobile fuel economy requirements, and threatened to challenge California’s pioneering climate policy efforts by cancelling the regulatory waiver that allows it to impose more demanding automobile air pollution standards than are mandated under federal law.  Following on the heels of gag orders against EPA and other government scientists, revisions to agency websites to remove links to scientific reports and references to “science-based” pollution control standards, concerns about scrubbing critical scientific research data and budget proposals to slash staffing at EPA and NOAA, this week’s new orders contribute toward general expectations for an administration bent on rollback of regulatory standards and undermining the capacity of executive agencies for making science-based policy (Harmon 2017).

Lost amidst the rising alarm about threats to scientific research data or capacity and diminished role for science in climate policy, however, were several glimpses that suggest momentum shifting in the opposite direction than is on display in electoral or political fortunes.  Pruitt, in January testimony to Congress prior to his confirmation, rejected his own as well as his boss’s rhetoric about climate science being a hoax, acknowledging that human activities contribute “in some manner” to climate change.  While his actions suggest hostility to climate policy efforts, and he would later question whether this anthropogenic contribution to climate change came through CO2 emissions,  this apparent rhetorical shift in a key science policy stance central to his agency’s mission portents a delegitimation of climate skepticism, even among ideologically and politically hostile officials (Davenport 2017b).  Resistance to mitigation imperatives is more difficult on economic or ethical grounds than through the denial of impacts or anthropogenic causes, making Pruitt’s acknowledgement significant for narrowing science policy discourses to conflict over issues more favorable to the kind of meaningful action that his appointments and policy decisions actively resist.  Insofar as US neoliberal antiregulatory politics has largely relied upon climate skepticism to unify its political coalitions and justify its policy actions,  this discursive shift away from outright skepticism and toward economic or geopolitical considerations to maintain such coalitions, their splintering or a realignment among mitigation action opponents may presage the waning power of organized opposition to regulatory climate policy action (Antonio and Brulle 2011).

Additionally, perceived threats against science positions in executive agencies, funding for future scientific research, and concerns about the accessibility and integrity of scientific data have led to an upswing of science policy advocacy, from new initiatives like the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative in making data more secure and accessible to the political mobilization of scientists and pro-science groups to advocate for the interests of scientific research and science-based policy, to efforts at recruitment of scientists to run for public office and to call attention to threats against the scientific enterprise. While the threats responsible for this mobilization are real and concerning, they also assisted in overcoming the inertia against more effective forms of political mobilization and have begun to counteract entrenched apolitical norms in many science disciplines. Such actions could help to stem the tide against science-based policy in the short term as well as allowing for more effective advocacy in the long run as defensively politicized persons and groups remain mobilized after current threats have passed.

Finally, the February release of a carbon tax proposal by several senior GOP establishment figures, led by James Baker, George Schultz and Henry Paulson, illustrates the potential for coalition-building between center-right pragmatists and progressive environmentalists around carbon pricing. Spatial voting models (see below) illustrate new opportunities for consensus around solutions that appeal to moderates alienated by further shifts to the right by Congress and the new administration, where opportunities for bipartisanship around effective climate policies have up to now been elusive. Electoral motives to remain closer to the median voter could provide incentives to break with increasingly polarized Congressional party leadership, and members from purple states like Colorado seek to balance their ideological affinities and campaign finance loyalties with electoral realities. Given the need under administrative law to replace rather than simply repealing the Clean Power Plan, such a proposal provides political cover for members seeking to deny Obama credit for reducing power plant emissions while utilizing enough market logic to appeal to party economic orthodoxy. Despite the short-term ascendancy of clearly hostile opponents of any form of climate policy action, the US may be closer to a viable majority coalition is support of national carbon pricing that it has ever been.

One must not be too sanguine about openings for future coalition-building and opportunities for future progress in science policy domains like those around climate change mitigation, for their recent appearance owes to the seriousness of the pernicious threat to which they are responses. Nonetheless, political science counsels an alternative formulation of Newton’s Law: that political actions are often accompanied by equal and opposite reactions, and threats to science-based policy appear to have generated several new and potentially important sources of advocacy or reductions in previously entrenched obstacles to cooperation on its behalf.

Antonio, Robert J. and Robert J. Brulle (2011). “The Unbearable Lightness of Politics: Climate Change Denial and Political Polarization,” Sociological Quarterly 52(2): 195-202.

Davenport, Coral (2017a). “E.P.A. Head Stacks Agency With Climate Change Skeptics,” The New York Times (online edition), 7 March 2017.

Davenport, Coral (2017b). “E.P.A. Chief Doubts Consensus View of Climate Change,” The New York Times (online edition), 9 Match 2017.

Harmon, Amy (2017). “Activists Rush to Save Government Science Data — If They Can Find It,” The New York Times (online edition), 6 March 2017.

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Inconvenient Mistruths: Justin Farrell Talks About the Spreading of Misinformation on Climate Change

by Alison Gilchrist, CSTPR Science Writing Intern

A lie is more convincing if it’s backed up by multiple sources. For the many organizations deliberately sowing mistrust of climate science, this was clearly a lesson taken to heart. Justin Farrell, a visiting professor from Yale currently stationed at the CIRES Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR), has been studying how the seemingly unconnected organizations distributing misinformation about climate change are actually part of a broader network, a network that has managed its information flow to be as convincing as possible.

In 2012, Farrell had a hunch – he thought that organizations spreading misinformation about climate change were probably working together to create a cohesive message. He decided to try using social network analysis to confirm this theory.

“I tried to look at it as objectively as I could,” said Farrell. “I said: ‘Let’s trace the connections between organizations who are involved in spreading misinformation about climate change.’”

Farrell focused on Exxon and the Koch family foundations, prominent corporations involved in spreading of misinformation. He was especially interested in identifying the organizations that received money from Exxon or the Koch foundations, which justified their connection in his recreated network. He also looked at who was sitting on the boards of every organization in the network to try and find the individuals who linked two or more organizations.

“I was really trying to get a handle on the cohesiveness of this movement,” said Farrell. “Instead of blaming one organization, let’s understand how it’s structured. Let’s understand who’s more powerful, who has the most connections.”

This “bird’s eye view” of the network is a valuable tool in understanding the movement to deny climate change.

“Money really has power within this movement, but not in the sense of providing resources, like advertising and things, it more signifies the cohesiveness of the movement,” said Farrell. “You start seeing an inner core of organizations—they’re funded by the same sources, sit on the same boards, that sort of thing. This means they are able to organize each other more effectively.”

How do these connections, and specifically the receipt of money, change the messages that an organization disseminates? Farrell collected all publicly available writings from the organizations in his network, a collection that includes web pages, pamphlets, and other written material, between 1993 and 2013. He used machine-learning methods—essentially helping the computer to identify patterns hidden to us—to characterize themes in the writing disseminated by these groups. These themes included temperature trends, human health—even Al Gore.

“Over time, organizations who received money differed from organizations who didn’t,” said Farrell. Organizations receiving money tended to write about the same themes at the same time, suggesting that they were being directed to focus on particular things.

On Wednesday, March 15 Farrell will discuss his research on this topic, including the machine learning methods he developed to analyze the massive amount of textual data (see Nature Climate Change and PNAS). The talk is at CSTPR from noon- 1:00 pm, and is free and open to the public.  CSTPR is located at 1333 Grandview Avenue, Boulder. Directions to CSTPR.

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Marisa McNatt Receives AAAS 2017 Poster Award

CSTPR Graduate Student Marisa McNatt received Honorable Mention in the Social Sciences category for the 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Student Poster Competition, held at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston, MA in February. For the award, Marisa will be recognized in the March 24, 2017 issue of Science and on the AAAS Annual Meeting website. At the AAAS meeting, which featured the theme “Serving Society Through Science Policy,” Marisa presented a poster based on her dissertation research on policy lessons for U.S. offshore wind farm development. The poster, titled Case-Study Examples of U.S. Offshore Wind Farm Policy Outcomes: The Role of Science Coproduction, includes a timeline of significant case-study events based on qualitative data coding, and key findings, such as the finding that the coproduction of knowledge, or knowledge generated by scientists, policy-makers, and stakeholders, is more likely to result in effective and timely offshore wind policy than science and data produced in isolation. Marisa’s AAAS conference attendance was supported by a Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) Graduate Student Travel Award and an Environmental Studies Program Travel Award. Congrats Marisa!

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Ogmius, Newsletter of CSTPR, Issue 46 is Now Out

Issue #46, Winter 2017

This issue of Ogmius features a discussion of water allocation in Australia and the Netherlands by CSTPR core faculty member Steve Vanderheiden. It also includes a profile of CSTPR alum Joel Gratz and CSTPR Visitor Julia Schubert. Feedback welcome!

Priority Schemes for Water Allocation in Australia
and the Netherlands

What can states do when their surface waters run short of the flows needed to satisfy water right schemes, and some valid claimants will need to be denied access? Such is a likely scenario under conditions in which climate change is expected to exacerbate the magnitude and frequency of drought seen across the American west in recent years. Australia and the Netherlands have each developed priority schemes for dealing with severe water shortages, identifying a hierarchy among water claims that supersedes systems governing allocation during normal flow periods.

The Dutch, who are renowned for their efficiency in managing both water surpluses and shortages, have developed an allocation scheme that recognizes the priority of some categories of water use over others, as well as among uses with those categories. Of highest priority are the Category 1 “water safety and prevention of irreversible damage” uses that include stability of the nation’s water defenses as the highest priority use, followed by subsidence of peat grounds and the prevention of irreversible damage to ecosystems. Since all three are non-extractive uses, the national legal recognition of this category as of highest value requires that some water be left within river basins even in cases of severe drought, prioritizing these to all extractive uses. Read more …

Founder of OpenSnow Creates 14er Forecast App

Meteorologist Joel Gratz takes weather prediction off the beaten path. Gratz, founder of the skier-beloved forecast company OpenSnow and alumnus of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR) at the University of Colorado Boulder, recently created a new app for iPhones that provides forecasts for hikers of Colorado’s highest peaks. Gratz graduated from CU Boulder in three years with both an M.S. in Environmental Studies and an MBA. His new app, OpenSummit, delivers hourly temperature, wind, precipitation and lightning forecasts for every mountain in Colorado over 14,000 feet. The app is also synced with Instagram, so users can see for themselves the recent conditions at each summit. OpenSummit launched in September 2016, so summer 2017 will be its first ever 14er season.

“This was always kind of in the back of my mind, to help with forecasts for outdoorsy folks, but it’s just until recently that we’ve had the time and money to put into a new app and a new service,” says Gratz. “Eventually we want to provide forecasts for all the trails, not just 14ers.” Read more …

Scientists Informing Congress: How Julia Schubert Uses Geoengineering Policy as a Case Study

How do you study the ways in which scientific expertise is brought into the process of policy making? And how do you capture its impact? One possibility is conducting a case study of policy-making in the works that is heavily dependent on politicians reaching out to scientists for their expertise. Julia Schubert, visiting scholar with the CIRES Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR), is doing exactly this.

Schubert comes to CSTPR from the Forum Internationale Wissenschaft in Bonn, Germany on a Fulbright Fellowship. As a doctoral student and sociologist, she is interested in the relationship between political entities and the types of scientific expertise they draw on. For her dissertation, geoengineering in United States politics serves as the empirical case study. Read more …

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The UN Needs Science Advice Now More Than Ever

The UN’s Scientific Advisory Board has done pioneering work. If it is not renewed, policy will suffer

by CSTPR Faculty Affiliate, Susan Avery and Maria Ivanova

“Science makes policy out of brick, not straw,” the Scientific Advisory Board to the United Nations secretary-general wrote in its summary report in September 2016. Twenty-six of us, scientists from a range of disciplines and countries, had worked for more than two years to provide advice on science, technology and innovation for sustainable development to the UN secretary-general.

The goal was to articulate scientific input as the then secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, explored potential policies to address complex and interdependent problems and to point out effective responses. The board advised on issues ranging from the data revolution and the role of science in the Sustainable Development Goals to a Delphi study that identified major “scientific concerns about the future of people and the planet”.

At the time of writing, however, Ban’s successor, the incoming UN secretary-general António Guterres, has been silent on the board’s future. It is imperative that he retain this institutional innovation and strengthen its role and collaborations with UN agencies.

Governments across the world recognise the importance of science for development and for competitiveness. It can identify problems, formulate policies and monitor their implementation. Science, technology and innovation can help provide food and water security and access to energy, and are central to the response to climate change and biodiversity loss. They can identify ways to create jobs, reduce inequality, increase incomes and enhance health and well-being. They should be integral to policy debates and decisions, not an add-on.

The UN created its first Scientific Advisory Board only in 2013, when Ban acted on the recommendation of the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability. Co-chaired by the presidents of Finland and South Africa, Tarja Halonen and Jacob Zuma, the panel recommended the appointment of “a chief scientific adviser or a scientific advisory board with diverse knowledge and experience to advise [the secretary-general] and other organs of the UN”.

In September 2013, Ban established the board by appointing 13 women and 13 men from a broad range of disciplines (one withdrawal and one death have since reduced that number to 24). Much of the board’s work has been pioneering, as was anticipated by the process that created it.

The complexity and scope of contemporary global problems that the UN is expected to resolve require new approaches and closer linkages between science and policy. Science without policy can be scattered and even futile. Policy without science usually fails to accomplish its core goals and undermines confidence that future policy will be better. Read more …

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MeCCO Summary: Climate Change News Coverage Decreases in February

Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO)
February 2017 Summary

February 2017 saw climate change coverage decrease across the fifty sources in twenty-seven countries around planet Earth (see Figure 1). Coverage of political, scientific, ecological/meteorological, and cultural dimensions of climate change issues dropped 26% globally from the previous month and 23% from the previous February (2016). Compared to January 2017, this decrease was most pronounced in North America with a 55% dip. While the content of coverage in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom (UK), the United States (US) and around the world continued to place a steady focus on movements of the newly anointed Donald J. Trump Administration in the US (see Figure 2), media attention focused more frequently on a range of other political, social and economic threats and issues during the month of February. Trump Administration movements did not contribute to a bump in coverage overall in February; instead, it was more 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 in this month.

Figure 1. Media coverage of climate change or global warming in fifty sources across twenty-seven countries in seven different regions around the world through February 2017.

Within dominant political themes for the month, cabinet appointments and US Senate confirmation hearings dotted the February climate change coverage landscape. In particular, the mid-February 52-46 Senate confirmation of former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) kicked up a number of stories highlighting the controversy behind putting a “seasoned legal opponent of the agency” in charge. Stories also connected to cultural themes, covering protests of Pruitt’s nomination from current and former EPA employees, and from scientists at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting leading up to the confirmation hearing.

Figure 2. Word clouds showing the frequency of words invoked in media coverage of climate change or global warming in Australia (on top left), New Zealand (on top right), the United States (on bottom left) and in the United Kingdom (UK) (on bottom right) in February 2017. The data are from five Australian sources – the The Sydney Morning Herald, Courier Mail & Sunday Mail, The Australian, Daily Telegraph & Sunday Telegraph, and The Age – from three New Zealand sources – the New Zealand Herald, Dominion Post, and The Press – from five US sources – The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times – and from seven UK sources – the Daily Mail & Mail on Sunday, Guardian & The Observer, The Sun, the The Daily Telegraph & Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Mirror & Sunday Mirror, The Scotsman & Scotland on Sunday, and The Times & Sunday Times.

At the political and scientific interface, stories across India, Thailand and Japan in particular focused on carbon tax and new technologies to save energy. For example, a story from the Bangkok Post focused on how a country-wide regulatory shift in new air conditioning technology standards “could reduce the country’s power consumption by 10%”. Around the world, coverage also focused on US-based Trump Administration plans to weaken federal environmental regulations of many sorts. For instances, Hiroko Tabuchi from The New York Times wrote about Republican efforts to dismantle rules that block surface coal mining near US streams and Oliver Milman from The Guardian reported on efforts to target regulations that restrict drilling in US national parks and curb the release of methane. And Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis from The Washington Post wrote about Trump administration symbolic and material efforts to move forward on pipeline projects, in particular the Dakota Access Pipeline.

In ecological/meteorological news, stories about heatwaves, fire danger, floods and high temperatures popped up throughout the month around the world. Eryk Bagshaw, Megan Levy and Peter Hannam from The Sydney Morning Herald reported on a heat wave and extreme fire danger, with temperatures reaching 116°F (47°C) in parts of New South Wales, while Joseph Serna and Bettina Boxall from the Los Angeles Times described “epic rain and snow” in California in the month of February. Meanwhile, stories from The Nation in Pakistan (by Azal Zahir) and in The Times of India (by Harveer Dabas) connected threats to megafauna and flora due to rising temperatures and other climate-related pressures, hooked to high temperatures across Asia in February. And news from warming at the poles garnered media attention as well. For examples, Doyle Rice from USA Today covered new data from Antarctica revealing a new record high temperature on the continent, and Robin McKie from the The Observer reported on high Arctic temperatures and new data from the Boulder-based National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) showing record low ice extent in the region.

– report prepared by Max Boykoff, Kevin Andrews, Gesa Luedecke, Meaghan Daly and Ami Nacu-Schmidt

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The Ring of Engagement

by Jason Delborne, CSTPR Faculty Affiliate
Associate Professor of Science, Policy, and Society at North Carolina State University

Diagram above from Gene Drives on the Horizon: Advancing Science, Navigating Uncertainty, and Aligning Research with Public Values, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2016), page 132

Public engagement has become a key theme in the scientific community. At the AAAS meetings in February of this year, multiple panels focused on the ways that scientists could, and should engage with public audiences. There were tips about communication, lectures about how to engage with audiences that don’t trust scientists, and reminders that scientists have to speak up because “facts don’t speak for themselves.” The planned March for Science, which emerged from something like the scientific grassroots, has now been endorsed by scientific societies and the AAAS, itself. Engagement is in the air.

I applaud all this, or most of it, but I have some concerns. First, some of the excitement around engagement still draws from the deficit model of the public understanding of science. Second, few scientists are talking about the key design elements for engagement efforts. And third, while the outcome of the 2016 presidential election may inspire new attention to the failure of scientific elites to engage broad swaths of the United States, such a focus could also skew our vision for choosing who to engage about what.

The “deficit model” suggests that the best explanation for a lack of support or enthusiasm for science, the scientific community, and “science-based” decisions is a lack of knowledge by non-scientists. If the public – out there – could only understand our science, then they would agree with us! Engagement, under this narrative, becomes then a simple opportunity to teach others what we know so that they will support us (public funding for research) and agree with us (on policies that we see as aligned with scientific knowledge). To engage is to teach and to convince.

It’s not that the deficit model is completely wrong (Sturgis and Allum 2004), or that teaching and convincing are out of bounds for scientists, but I want to argue that engagement stemming from these premises misses a more important element. I like to use the metaphor of grasping hands when I describe engagement. When you grasp someone’s hand, two things happen. First, you touch each other to form a connection, and this connection enables a relationship that is different from reading scientific articles or learning from a website. Engagement is a human event, full of the social cues, personalities, and bodies of people. Second, when you grasp hands with someone else, you both become vulnerable to being moved. This does not mean that every engagement requires scientists to leave their knowledge behind and accept whatever perspectives or beliefs are offered to them, but it does suggest that worthwhile engagement should protect at least the possibility of movement by either or both parties.

This vulnerability connects to my second point about taking design seriously when approaching engagement. Vulnerability comes partly from an attitude of humility – which scientists might bring to many kinds of interactions with public audiences – but it is also a result of design. What is the purpose of engagement? If the purpose is to convince an audience that GMOs are safe or that climate change is real, then it is pretty difficult to grasp hands in any meaningful way. But if the purpose is to learn about how an audience understands your research, what questions they have, what they know that supports or contradicts your interpretations, then you are well on your way to some degree of vulnerability.

Design choices are strategic and they have consequences, so we might as well take them seriously. Here are some of the key questions I attempt to answer when I undertake an engagement activity:

  • What are the goals of engagement?
  • Who should be engaged, and what can we do to realize that ideal audience?
  • What information (including access to experts) would be most helpful to those who are engaged?
  • How can we facilitate the most respectful and meaningful exchange of ideas, perspectives, and information?
  • What are envisioned outcomes of engagement?
  • If engagement is meant to influence decision-making, how can we conduct engagement in a manner that connects to existing networks where such decisions are made?
  • How can this engagement allow for learning that influences future engagement?

The third topic I want to address is the potential for the rise to power of the Trump administration to both inspire and skew our attention to public engagement. On one hand, Trump’s electoral victory serves as a key argument for more thoughtful engagement by scientists, who are often painted as elites by media aligned with Trump’s base of support. Studies continue to show that scientists and the well-educated lean Democratic, a partisan reality on full display at the AAAS meeting in Boston. The question is what are we going to do about it?

One response is that we need to target those segments of the population that the Trump campaign activated to win the election. Scientists, who primarily inhabit universities and progressive urban centers, need to reach out to rural, conservative, white voters. What are their concerns, and how can we help them to see the utility of science? Might we even convince them to trust “our” facts? Could we engage them in a way that brings more of them into our professional field to bring a greater diversity of perspectives into our knowledge producing institutions? We can no longer afford for our universities, national laboratories, and regulatory agencies to be demonized by conservatives as liberal bastions, and what better way to counter this trend than to engage with the people we have failed to engage.

Yes. And maybe.

I am prepared to be challenged to engage with audiences of people who do not share many of my values or views of the world. I am supportive of the idea that engaging with new constituencies could be good for scientific credibility and broaden the horizon of scientific inquiry.

But I worry that it could be too easy to shift our meager engagement resources away from the marginalized groups who did not contribute to Trump’s electoral victory: people of color, immigrants, Muslims, the LGBTQ community, the urban poor, the homeless, and disabled persons. These are also communities that science has not historically served particularly well, or engaged with much passion and perseverance. And these are the communities that are more at risk under the proposed and emerging policies of the White House. My point is for the scientific community to avoid becoming fascinated by the need to engage the Trump voter at the expense of marginalized communities who do not have someone representing their interest in the most powerful office in the world.

Let engagement ring, but let it not be deafening.

Sturgis, P., & Allum, N. (2004). Science in society: re-evaluating the deficit model of public attitudes. Public Understanding of Science, 13(1), 55–74.

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No Laughing Matter? When It Comes To Climate Change, CU Boulder Show Begs To Differ

Max Boykoff and Beth Osnes will be live on NPR’s Colorado Matters at 10:05am on March 3, 2017

Climate Change is no laughing matter — unless it is. That’s the premise for a show, “Stand Up for Climate: An Experiment with Creative Climate Comedy,” which takes place March 17th at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Organizers say the event will feature  “a range of comedic approaches, including stand-up comedy, sketch and situational comedy, and improv…”  with the idea of bringing a different perspective to the subject. There’s also a short-video competition, like the one above. which won last year’s contest. This year, entries have come from as far away as England; the winning video will be aired during the show.

Co-producer Beth Osnes, an associate professor and director of graduate studies in CU’s theater department,  says comedy is “inherently risky,” and admits the show may not resonate with everyone in the audience. But she adds that the traditional, science-first, take on climate change isn’t the only way to reach people, and a comedic approach may lead to new avenues of engagement.

Osnes and Max Boykoff,  an assistant professor in the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, spoke with Colorado Matters host Nathan Heffel.

Audio from this interview will be available after noon Friday.

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Media Attention to Climate Change Dips

See February 2017 Global & National Scale Updates

The Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO) monitors fifty sources across twenty-five countries in seven different regions around the world. MeCCO assembles the data by accessing archives through the Lexis Nexis, Proquest and Factiva databases via the University of Colorado libraries. These fifty sources are selected through a decision processes involving weighting of three main factors:

  • geographical diversity (favoring a greater geographical range)
  • circulation (favoring higher circulating publications)
  • reliable access to archives over time (favoring those accessible consistently for longer periods of time)

World, Australia, Canada, India, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, United Kingdom, & United States

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More Than Scientists: Our Level of Empathy as a Society Will Be Challenged

Nancy Emery, University of Colorado Boulder
It’s not just about dealing with the weather directly. As never before, we will be challenged to support people who need help – who can’t “just turn up the air conditioning” – who’s very livelihood is going to be threatened by climate change. [video]

In this Inside the Greenhouse project, Fall semester ‘Climate and Film’ (ATLS 3519/EBIO 4460) students and Spring semester ‘Creative Climate Communication’ (ENVS3173/THTR4173) students, along with the More than Scientists campaign, create and produce a short video based on an interview of a climate scientist in the local Boulder area, depicting human/personal dimensions of their work.

These scientists work at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR), Wester Water Assessment(WWA), the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) and various other units at CU-Boulder (e.g. Atmospheric Sciences Department, Environmental Studies Program, Geography Department, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department).

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Stand Up for Climate Change: An Experiment With Creative Climate Comedy

Friday, March 17
at 7:00 PM

Old Main Auditorium
University of Colorado Boulder

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Humor is a tool underutilized, and comedy has the power to effectively connect with people about climate change issues. Our event is associated with the Spring 2017 ‘Creative Climate Communication’ course (ENVS3173/THTR4173) and the larger ‘Inside the Greenhouse’ project.

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Scientists Informing Congress: How Julia Schubert Uses Geoengineering Policy as a Case Study

by Alison Gilchrist, CSTPR Science Writing Intern

How do you study the ways in which scientific expertise is brought into the process of policy making? And how do you capture its impact? One possibility is conducting a case study of policy-making in the works that is heavily dependent on politicians reaching out to scientists for their expertise. Julia Schubert, visiting scholar with the CIRES Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR), is doing exactly this.

Schubert comes to CSTPR from the Forum Internationale Wissenschaft in Bonn, Germany on a Fulbright Fellowship. As a doctoral student and sociologist, she is interested in the relationship between political entities and the types of scientific expertise they draw on. For her dissertation, geoengineering in United States politics serves as the empirical case study.

Geoengineering refers to human intervention—specifically, deliberate and large-scale intervention—as a means to mitigate climate change. Examples include removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and solar radiation management, or the forced reflection of sunlight back to space. Since the 1990s, this field has received more attention from the United States government as politicians debate ways to combat the effects of climate change.

“CSTPR is a great place to study this corpus,” said Schubert. “I can reflect and contextualize my findings, and there is great expertise on the policy process in the U.S. I also plan to talk to people in the organizations who work on geoengineering here in Boulder.”

Geoengineering is publically controversial, due to the enormity of the intervention required—such human experiments with nature could be incredibly disruptive. However, as a technological solution it is politically attractive as it does not involve enforcing large-scale behavior changes that have been unpopular with voters.  Further, it would create strong ties with industry. Proponents of these measures also argue that these technologies would have low costs compared to enforcing substantial cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

Schubert describes her project as building on two dimensions of analysis. In one aspect of her work, she asks how different types of expertise aid in defining and framing the problems associated with geoengineering in various ways—that is, how science shapes the discussion. Schubert is also curious about the many ways this expertise effectively entered the decision-making process.

“I follow a communication-based perspective,” said Schubert. “On the one hand I want to know how the problem is addressed, how it is framed in the documents—on the other hand I am interested to see who is talking, which organizations or experts provide the relevant channels informing this policy process.”

In a noontime seminar, Schubert will discuss two specific types of expertise that have been instrumental in framing the political discussion on geoengineering: climate models and threshold values. Both types of expertise play a substantial but distinct role for the political decision-making process at hand. Climate models, or how we mathematically model the changing climate of the Earth, are hotly debated for their accuracy in predictions—they present climate change as a scientific challenge and were particularly relevant in the early discussions of the problem. Threshold values, on the other hand, are highly politicized, communicating climate change as an urgent political challenge.

Schubert will discuss her findings about how these two types of expertise aid in shaping the political discussion on geoengineering in her seminar titled “Addressing Climate Change as an Engineering Challenge: Scientific Expertise in U.S. Geoengineering Politics.” The talk will be held at noon on February 22nd, 2017 in the CSTPR conference room, 1333 Grandview Ave., Boulder (directions here). It is free and open to the public.

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More Than Scientists: All These Other Species Can’t Stop Their Own Extinction

It’s crazy how fast we’re changing things, and for Ariel Morrison at CIRES who sees other species struggling to adapt, it’s alarming: I don’t think we’re marching towards our own extinction, but lots of species are. [video]

In this Inside the Greenhouse project, Fall semester ‘Climate and Film’ (ATLS 3519/EBIO 4460) students and Spring semester ‘Creative Climate Communication’ (ENVS3173/THTR4173) students, along with the More than Scientists campaign, create and produce a short video based on an interview of a climate scientist in the local Boulder area, depicting human/personal dimensions of their work.

These scientists work at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR), Wester Water Assessment(WWA), the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) and various other units at CU-Boulder (e.g. Atmospheric Sciences Department, Environmental Studies Program, Geography Department, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department).

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Introducing CSTPR’s White Paper Series: A Snapshot of Commercial Space, An EU Fellowship Report

by Augusto González
Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR) White Paper
2017-01, 30 pp.

Colorado has a vibrant aerospace sector and tightly knit community of dynamic aerospace stakeholders from academia, government and industry, which provides an excellent environment to investigate the subject of this report. The report is based primarily on input gathered through face to face interviews, informal discussions and attendance at several relevant events, from August 15th to December 15th, 2016.

In so far as possible, I have tried to identify the sources for specific input reflected in the report. However, this is not always possible as, at times, the same idea has been echoed by several people or it has emerged from one of the numerous informal conversations.

There is, of course, a little bit of my own observations and perceptions, as well as a personal attempt at organising the main ideas emerging from my discussions. The final section reflects exclusively my own personal views.

There are excellent descriptions of the Colorado aerospace sector in the web pages of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation or those of the Colorado Office for Economic Development and International Trade.

In order to put this report into context, I would highlight that Colorado has nearly 170 businesses classified as aerospace companies, and more than 400 companies and suppliers providing space-related products and services. Direct employment in the aerospace cluster totals 25.120 private sector workers. Colorado ranks first in the U.S. in terms of aerospace employment as a percentage of total employment and second in total private-sector employment (Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation 2016).

Colorado boasts world-class universities and research intuitions that provide highly skilled workforce to aerospace industry and play a role of their own in designing, developing and running space missions. University of Colorado ranks first in the U.S. in terms of funding received from NASA.

Last but not least, the presence of several aerospace defence facilities and federal agencies contribute to the development of the aerospace industry as well as to the positive synergies between academia, industry and government.

In the words of Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Jay Lindell (2016a), Colorado’s Aerospace and Defence Champion, the key to the attractiveness of Colorado for aerospace companies is the favourable business climate (a notion that encompasses all elements that determine cost as well as ease of establishing and operating a business). Colorado competes well with Silicon Valley in terms of access to talent and living conditions in Colorado (not least its natural environment) are attractive to the highly educated type of people aerospace industry employs.

To conclude this introduction, I would like to pay special tribute to Dr Max Boykoff, Director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR), who was my faculty host during my stay in Boulder. CSTPR provides a unique cross-disciplinary space where researchers can pursue science-technology-policy endeavours to fulfil that mission to improve how science and technology policies and politics meet societal needs. As Dr Boykoff points out, data obtained from space is critically important for environmental sciences and essential in science-based policy formulation and decision making for environment as well as for climate change mitigation and adaptation; he believes it is important for CSTPR to reinforce its capacity to tap the potential of remote sensing big data analytics. Dr Boykoff concurs with the opinion that the demand for interpretative data products and services, many of which may have environmental applications, will continue to grow and this is likely to have a positive impact in the development of commercial space. Read the full report.

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Climate Change: The Discovery of a Grand Societal Challenge

by Julia Schubert
Fulbright Doctoral Visiting Scholar at CIRES Center for Science and Technology Policy Research
University of Colorado at Boulder

(Image above: Oldest series of weather maps in the United States. January 30, 1843. Produced by James Pollard Espy. Source: Image ID: wea05013, NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) Collection.)

Climate change is arguably one of the most prominent and pressing problems of our time. While the atomic threat dominated the 1960s, and awareness of environmental risks arose predominantly in the 1970s, anthropogenic climate change significantly shapes the beginning of the 21st century as its defining challenge. But how exactly was this issue of climate change discovered? How did it emerge as the epitome of a modern ‘Grand Societal Challenge’ as displayed in countless political pamphlets and organizational mission statements? And, going even further, how do societal problems in general arise?

The simple answer is: We fabricate them. Or, more precisely, they are historically and culturally contingent – building on observations shaping and institutions stabilizing them. These contingent and fragile problem ‘framings’ are thus defined by distinct societal (e.g. religious, scientific, political or economic) observations. And the assertiveness of these observations is in turn dependent on their stabilization in respective institutions, perpetuating a distinct problem-frame. Following this perspective, problems are far from being simply given. Retracing the diverse historical trajectories of climate change as a modern ‘Grand Challenge’, thus illustrates the fundamentally social construction of societal problems. This, of course, does not question or even regard the physical underpinnings of anthropogenic climate change. It rather emphasizes that we are fundamentally shaping its necessarily social reality and therein its configuration as a ‘Grand Societal Challenge’.

Changing and disruptive climatic conditions were observed as early as at the beginning of the 17th century (cf. Parker 2013), some scholars even argue for first observations of climatic change being made in antiquity (cf. Fleming 1998: 137). Importantly differing from modern observations of anthropogenic climate change, however, at the time only isolated catastrophic incidents were captured, rather than a global trend. These early disruptive climatic events such as ‘the year without a summer’ in 1814 were largely attributed to the sphere of the gods. Catastrophic climatic change, in its historical antecedent, was observed and stabilized as a religious problem (see also Hulme 2014: 12).

Wood Carving by Unknown Artist in Flammarion, C. (1888). L’atmosphère: Météorologie Populaire. Hachette. Source: Wikipedia.

For early and colonial America, climate change was a matter of national pride and an essential component of the emerging Republican national ideal. The vision was that clearing and cultivating the land would promote a warmer, less variable, and healthier climate. Thomas Jefferson was already a pronounced advocate of comprehensive meteorological measurements – yet without reliable instruments or sponsoring institutions (cf. Fleming 1998: 33). Only in the late 19th century scholars such as Svante Arrhenius (1896, 1908) and Nils Gustaf Ekholm (1901) began to systematically explore the relation of climate and society—tabulating, charting, and mapping their observations and the possibility of global anthropogenic climate change. The establishment of national weather services in Europe, Russia, and the United States allowed for the further standardization of climatic observations. Later, this led to international cooperation and even the establishment of global observation systems, significantly broadening its geographic scope (cf. Fleming 1998: 41). Thus, based on the invention of meteorological observation systems and statistical analysis, a first scientific picture of anthropogenic climate change had been stabilized, discovering and addressing it as a physical phenomenon. A pressing problem, however, was not yet in sight.

Arrangement of the wind instruments on the roof of the Headquarters Building of the Meteorological Service of the United States Signal Service. Source: Image ID: wea01316, NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) Collection, 1880, Archival Photograph by Mr. Steve Nicklas, NOS, NGS.

It was not before the 1950s, that global warming appeared on the public agenda as a first problematic version of anthropogenic climate change, immediately followed by the discussion of global cooling and the dawn of a new ice age in the 1970s. Again, scientific observation was of essence here and the cooling hypothesis was rather quickly rejected. At the end of the 20th century this problematic observation of global anthropogenic climate change was institutionalized – a final essential step in the discovery of anthropogenic climate change as a ‘Grand Societal Challenge’. Milestones in this certification of the problem as a global issue were, for example, the establishment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988 and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992.

Building on this institutionalization of climate change as a pressing societal problem, various responses were suggested as viable and legitimate: From the scientific challenge posed by the urgent need for better observation systems, or the political challenge of coordinating climate-friendly behavior, to the recently declared technological challenge of actively engineering the climate system to halt dangerous climate change – in each of these versions, climate change is defined as a distinct societal challenge.

Summing up, this short account of the discovery of climate change as a ‘Grand Societal Challenge’ illustrates the complex social presuppositions aiding in the historical evolution, emergence, and addressing of societal problems: Beginning with antecedent religious observations of catastrophic climatic variations, and initial meteorological measuring efforts driven by national political ideals, to the emergence of a first scientific picture of anthropogenic climate change, global warming (and cooling) finally emerged as a ‘Grand Societal Challenge’. Thus, throughout its history, the fragile problem of climate change is building on distinct observations that are in turn fundamentally bound to specific instruments, organizations and, more generally, a historically contingent problem-infrastructure.

Mauna Loa Observatory; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.


Arrhenius, S. (1896). XXXI. On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air Upon the Temperature of the Ground. The London, Edinburgh, and Dublin Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science, 41(251), 237–276.

Ekholm, N. (1901). On the Variations of the Climate of the Geological and Historical Past and Their Causes. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 27(117), 1–62.

Fleming, J. R. (1998). Historical perspectives on climate change. Oxford University Press.

Hulme, M. (2014). Can Science Fix Climate Change? A Case Against Climate Engineering.

Parker, G. (2013). Global crisis: war, climate change and catastrophe in the seventeenth century. New Haven: Yale University Press.

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New Monthly Summaries: News Media Focused on Political and Policy Dimensions of Climate Change

Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO)
January 2017 Summary

January ushered in a new era for many things, including media attention to climate change. As many around the world braced for a new phase of approaches to science and the environment by the United States (US) Trump administration – who took up power on January 20th – stories focused largely on political and policy dimensions of climate change this month.

Coverage of climate change and global warming increased most prominently in the US this month, with coverage up 13% from December 2016, and 117% from the previous January. Numbers across all sources in twenty-seven countries showed a 2% increase from December 2016 overall.

A larger majority of stories appearing in US media and around the world surrounded the election of Donald J. Trump in November 2016. Reverberations throughout the country and around the world kicked up coverage. Examples included stories on Trump’s first Executive Orders re-initiating Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipeline projects, and articles on how funding would be curtailed in key federal agencies. Actions, and threats like these, sparked media attention.

To illustrate, Ian Austen and Clifford Krauss from The New York Times reported how for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump’s “revival of Keystone XL upsets a balancing act”. Stephen Mufson and Brady Dennis at The Washington Post reported on how the White House website’s energy pages, which went up within moments of Trump’s inauguration, removed references to combating climate change, a topic that had been featured prominently on the site under President Barack Obama. Betsy McKay from The Wall Street Journal reported that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it recently postponed a gathering it had planned to hold next month on the effects of climate change on health, and Coral Davenport from The New York Times reported on a freeze on federal grant spending at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Departments of the Interior, Agriculture and Health and Human Services as well as other government agencies.

Stories in January 2017 about Trump nominations for key posts in the administration – particularly for Secretary of State (former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson), EPA Administrator (Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt), Secretary of the Department of Interior (Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke) and Secretary of the Department of Energy (former Texas Governor Rick Perry) – focused mainly on worrisome dimensions of these appointments for those who care about climate and environmental protection, justice and human well-being among other things. Moreover, some media pieces also addressed cultural dimensions regarding how climate concerns were voiced in Women’s marches across the world on January 21st, and (mainly in US coverage) how ‘alt’ Twitter accounts cropped up from US National Park Services and other US agency spin-offs to communicate #climatefacts and dismay about Trump Administration plans for shifts in science, environment and climate policy engagements.

So as Barack Obama and his administration vacated the White House, media attention was paid to Donald Trump’s and his aides’ promises for swift and aggressive action to dismantle and block Obama’s climate-related policies and actions, such as incorporating the social cost of carbon to project planning and Clean Power plan regulations. Media treatments also covered how Trump administration behaviors served to embolden Republican legislative officials in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, where the elimination of regulations on coal mining near streams and rules to reduce methane emissions were said to be prioritized in the next Congressional sessions. On January 4, Chelsea Harvey from The Washington Post wrote “As a new Congress convenes this week, regulatory reform is the rage, and the upshot seems to be that at least a few of President Obama’s environmental regulations could be dismantled quickly by the Republican Congress, with President-elect Donald Trump’s approval”. Read more …

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Media Coverage of Climate Change Just Updated Through January 2017: Global and National Scales

Updated through January 2017
*Japan & Spain Updated through December 2016

The Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO) monitors fifty sources across twenty-five countries in seven different regions around the world. MeCCO assembles the data by accessing archives through the Lexis Nexis, Proquest and Factiva databases via the University of Colorado libraries. These fifty sources are selected through a decision processes involving weighting of three main factors:

  • geographical diversity (favoring a greater geographical range)
  • circulation (favoring higher circulating publications)
  • reliable access to archives over time (favoring those accessible consistently for longer periods of time)

World, Australia, Canada, India, *Japan, New Zealand, *Spain, United Kingdom, & United States

Figure Citation
Gifford, L., Luedecke, G., McAllister, L., Nacu-Schmidt, A., Andrews, K., Boykoff, M., and Daly, M. (2017). World Newspaper Coverage of Climate Change or Global Warming, 2004-2017. Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Web. [Date of access.]

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The Climate Fight Isn’t Just About Facts

by Alexander Lee

High Country News
February 3, 2017

Five years ago, I hiked to the toe of the East Fork Glacier in Alaska’s Denali National Park. I was on my way to climb a small peak in the Alaska Range and had tracked down a photo taken in the 1920s by one of the park’s first geologists. Lining up the mountain skyline with the photo, I scrambled around until I found the exact spot where Stephen Capps stood to take the picture some 90 years earlier. The glacier had retreated nearly a mile since then.

I am an environmental philosopher, and have also worked as a glacial researcher, backcountry guide and naturalist. Seeing the dramatic disappearance of the East Fork Glacier was one of many intimate experiences I have had with a warming world.

So how do I reconcile the overwhelming evidence that the world’s atmosphere is being disrupted with the perception of the 30 percent of Americans who do not believe in climate change?

Here’s a thought experiment: If I say that there are 10 M&Ms in a bowl, and then I count the 10 M&Ms right before your eyes, you would have to “believe” me, right?

Many scientists aim to persuade climate skeptics by counting M&Ms — graphs of CO2 concentration, temperature records, and other scientifically observable measurements.

So let’s count: The United States Geological Survey has been measuring Alaska’s Gulkana and Wolverine glaciers for 50 years — the longest continuous glacier research program in North America. Both show the kind of retreat emblematic of significant regional climate change. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that Alaska is losing roughly 75 billion tons of ice annually. That’s a lot of M&Ms.

If the current preponderance of evidence fails to convince skeptics of climate change, then the issue we face is not about facts or evidence, but rather about values — about our call to heal the world.

Nearly 300 years ago, the philosopher David Hume warned in his influential work, A Treatise on Human Nature, against making claims about how the world should be strictly from statements about how the world is. If, for example, I say, “Extensive deforestation has decimated the truffula tree population,” I am not actually saying anything about whether or not the world ought to have truffula trees, or why we should change our behavior in order to protect those truffula trees. The connection between facts and values — what Hume calls a “new relation or affirmation” — needs to get us from the description of deforestation to any prescription for preservation. I could, for instance, defend the intrinsic value of the tree or argue that perpetuating extinction is wrong. Philosophers call this the “is-ought” problem. Read more …

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Anti-Immigrant Populism & Climate Change Denial

by Steve Vanderheiden

The Critique
January 15, 2017

As United States president-elect Donald Trump prepares his agenda for his first 100 days in office, for which he has promised and signaled significant change, analysts and pundits are left to speculate which of his various policy themes stressed during the campaign will be given priority, which will result in genuine change rather than posturing and theatrics or encounter successful resistance, and which will be relegated to campaigning rather than governing. Based on his own repeated climate denial, that of his appointee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, his promise to rejuvenate the coal sector, as well as his rhetoric in the weeks leading up to Inauguration Day, two predictions seem safe to make: the incoming Trump administration will at least try to (1) further restrict immigration (given his recurring promises to build the border wall, threats against sanctuary cities, and demonization of immigrants) and (2) to roll back the Obama administration’s efforts to slow the U.S. contribution toward climate change, as well as participate in cooperative international efforts to bring about the same result.

Taken individually, each of these policy agenda items ought to be concerning to many, but in combination they raise the specter of mounting hostility towards the increasingly pressing imperative to receive those expected to be displaced by climate change (often called “climate refugees”) by the country that has historically received the majority of political refugees. With a Trump administration aiming to unravel the previous administration’s fragile environmental legacy, climate change impacts like sea level rise and catastrophic flooding and drought should be expected to manifest earlier than previously anticipated. This will require of those vulnerable persons most likely to be directly affected by these policy changes that they adapt more urgently than ever before to a changing climate. The last option for many—according to Norman Myers, over 200 million will be displaced by climate change by 2050[i]—will be climate-induced migration, as small islands, coastal cities, and drought-vulnerable regions become uninhabitable.

Preparing for this eventuality requires a radical rethinking of national borders and membership, with environmental migrants threatening a tenfold increase in the number of persons seeking resettlement, compared to the already-beleaguered refugee resettlement system designed for traditional conflict refugees [See Gibney. In an era characterized by threats to deport and block the immigration of all members of a major world religion, braggadocio about making Mexico pay for a largely symbolic southern border wall, and conspiratorial economic and political isolationism fueled by fear of external threats, borders appear more likely to be restricted and fortified than opened to admit waves of environmental migrants, amidst efforts to reserve the privileges of membership in affluent societies to an increasingly vast minority.

And yet, other actions likely to be undertaken by the president-elect threaten to accelerate the need for such reform while also undermining its feasibility. Ironically, the same sort of insular populism and isolationism behind Brexit in Britain and Trump in the U.S. fuel and feed off immigration pressures that will only increase as anthropogenic climate change continues unabated. Having dismissed climate science as a hoax promulgated by the Chinese during the presidential campaign, Trump’s nominees for EPA Administrator and Secretary of State signal a profound hostility toward decarbonization efforts and a desire to further entrench the nation in a fossil fuel-based energy infrastructure into the foreseeable future. Insofar as climate change drives environmental migration, and a Trump presidency is likely to accelerate climate change, the toxic combination of anti-immigration posturing and climate change denial is likely to bring this combination of forces to a head. In the short run, Trumpism may feed the sources of its populist resentment well enough to maintain its power, but the blend of inward-focused xenophobia combined with global ambitions to open previously restricted sources of oil and find new sources of demand for coal for exploitation are ultimately unsustainable. Border walls cannot slow environmental change, and will eventually fail to stop those that are likely to be increasingly imperiled by it. Read more …

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More Than Scientists: An Ark Floating in Space, Keeping All its Plants, Animals, Us Safe

An ark, floating in the middle of space, keeping all its plants, animals, us safe and alive – Earth – To Christy McCain of CU Boulder, studying biodiversity, we are the sentient ones that should be taking care of it for all these different species. [video]

In this Inside the Greenhouse project, Fall semester ‘Climate and Film’ (ATLS 3519/EBIO 4460) students and Spring semester ‘Creative Climate Communication’ (ENVS3173/THTR4173) students, along with the More than Scientists campaign, create and produce a short video based on an interview of a climate scientist in the local Boulder area, depicting human/personal dimensions of their work.

These scientists work at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR), Wester Water Assessment(WWA), the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) and various other units at CU-Boulder (e.g. Atmospheric Sciences Department, Environmental Studies Program, Geography Department, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department).

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AAAS “Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering” 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: February 14, 2017

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.

Please submit a one-page statement explaining the importance of the workshop to your career development and a one-page resume to by February 14, 2017.

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
April 2-5, 2017

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 year’s workshop will take place on April 2-5, 2017.

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Joel Gratz, Founder of OpenSnow Creates 14er Forecast App

by Abigail Ahlert, CSTPR Science Writing Intern

Meteorologist Joel Gratz takes weather prediction off the beaten path. Gratz, founder of the skier-beloved forecast company OpenSnow and alumnus of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR) at the University of Colorado Boulder, recently created a new app for iPhones that provides forecasts for hikers of Colorado’s highest peaks. Gratz graduated from CU Boulder in three years with both an M.S. in Environmental Studies and an MBA. His new app, OpenSummit, delivers hourly temperature, wind, precipitation and lightning forecasts for every mountain in Colorado over 14,000 feet. The app is also synced with Instagram, so users can see for themselves the recent conditions at each summit. OpenSummit launched in September 2016, so summer 2017 will be its first ever 14er season.

“This was always kind of in the back of my mind, to help with forecasts for outdoorsy folks, but it’s just until recently that we’ve had the time and money to put into a new app and a new service,” says Gratz. “Eventually we want to provide forecasts for all the trails, not just 14ers.”

OpenSummit aims to help eager hikers find ideal days to climb the big peaks, giving them more enjoyable and safer conditions. Hiking above tree line, as all of these hikes require, presents a severe risk of lightning strikes. According to the National Park Service, “Each year in Rocky Mountain National Park people are injured—sometimes killed—by lightning.” The National Lightning Safety Institute ranks Colorado as 3rd most deadly for lightning strikes behind Florida and Texas. From 1990-2003, 39 people died from lightning strikes in Colorado.

To work against these risks, OpenSummit repackages publicly available forecast data for hikers to easily access and understand. “Almost all of the data somehow starts with the National Weather Service and with the government, so it’s really just building upon decades of work that’s taxpayer funded,” says Gratz. He describes the missions of OpenSummit and OpenSnow as “specialization”, saying that the “National Weather Service, rightly so, is focused on people and property protection and potentially large events that affect large numbers of people. But the number of people that are hiking 14ers, while important, is relatively small compared to the number of people driving or traveling or living in Colorado. So, this is just solving a problem that I didn’t find being addressed by the National Weather Service or by other private weather companies. “

Indeed, Gratz is no stranger to filling forecast niches. His powder forecasts started as an email chain to his friends in 2007 and transformed into OpenSnow by 2011. OpenSnow provides mountain-specific forecasts, webcams, and snow reports for hundreds of ski destinations across the globe. While it’s difficult to know the impacts of these forecasts on ski resort turn out, Gratz is confident in the reach of OpenSnow. “In a lot of the locations where we’re the strongest—here in Colorado and in Utah and Tahoe—our forecasters are looked at as the main local forecasters for those mountain regions…And just by the number of people that are using our service and the number of partners that are advertising with us, my gut feeling is that we have a pretty good influence.” The OpenSnow app and website see about 2 million visitors each ski season and have over 40,000 likes on Facebook.

While OpenSnow has established itself as a reliable source of winter weather predictions, mountain forecasting almost always presents unique challenges. Local knowledge and experience can go a long way in better forecasting, and this benefits regions like Colorado and Utah where OpenSnow has forecasters on the ground. But the organization also produces snowfall predictions for ski resorts in Europe, Canada and Japan, relying almost solely on weather model data. Gratz notes that even over the last nine years, weather models have greatly improved as researchers have refined model physics and parameterizations, and higher resolution runs have become possible. “Because of the higher resolution ensembles, we’re able to take some of the ensemble data and weight it a little more than the operational runs, which try to smooth out the peaks and valleys. So while we may miss out on some of the extreme events, what we’re not going to do, hopefully, is come up with big misses. Like telling someone it’s going to snow a foot and then 6 hours later drop that forecast down to 2 inches,” says Gratz, adding with a laugh, “Because that really makes people mad, me included.”

Looking forward, the future of mountain ski resorts is uncertain in the face of climate change. Organizations such as Protect Our Winters and the National Ski Areas Association (both headquartered in Colorado) currently work to educate outdoor enthusiasts about the threat of climate change. Increasing temperatures in mountain regions could potentially decrease snowpack levels and ski season length, placing ski resorts at economic risk. Referring to the impact of climate change on powder days, Gratz says, “People ask me a lot about this. The answer, like most things, is multi-faceted. One, ski areas are expanding into summer sports, which is intelligent beyond climate change because it’s better to have a 12-month business than a 6-month business…Two, I share with people locally, looking at climate change studies and weather stations, that temperatures have gone up, but there’s really no trend in precipitation here in Colorado. But with increased temperatures and equal precipitation we can make reasonable assumptions that potentially you would get more rain in the shoulder seasons [generally late spring and fall], or at least potentially earlier snowmelt and more drought when it’s warmer with more evaporation.”

Gratz explains that the ski industry has a particularly complicated relationship with greenhouse gas emissions, since its activities often contribute to the problem. “I have a personal qualm about this because all of us skiers are getting in our cars and driving all over the place to go chase powder,” says Gratz. “Some of us are riding in snowcats to go chase powder, some of us are getting in helicopters to go ski powder, a lot of us are flying all over the world to go ski powder. I mean, I’m one of them—I went to Japan last year and it was awesome—so I have a personal difficulty lecturing people about what to do.”

Feeling caught in a tough position, Gratz skirts around the reprimands and sticks to educating skiers about observable trends in the mountains. On any given day, his role is part scientist, part businessman and part communicator—a balance that he developed during his time as a master’s student at CSTPR. “I was able to continue to focus on science, but be exposed to policy and be exposed to business and be exposed to people who were trying to integrate a lot of those things,” says Gratz of his time at CSTPR. “So I wasn’t pigeonholed into creating a better equation. I wasn’t pigeonholed into just writing policy briefs. I wasn’t just doing financial analysis. It kind of allowed me to do it all and throw it all together. And for me that’s exactly what I wanted, and effectively what I do every day.”

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Towards a Science and Technology Policy Fellowship Program for Colorado State Policymaking

The Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado Boulder is leading a strategic planning process for a Science and Technology Policy Fellows (STPF) Program within the Colorado State Legislature and Executive Branch Agencies.

The intended program will place highly trained PhD-level scientists and engineers in one-year placements with decision-makers to provide an inhouse source of evidence-based information and a resource for targeted policy-relevant research. Fellows will learn the intricacies of the state policy-making process, be exposed to opportunities for science to inform decisions, and develop a deeper appreciation for Colorado’s science and technology needs. The program’s ultimate goal is to help foster a decision-making arena informed by evidence-based information relevant to emerging and current policy issues. Throughout 2017, this effort will develop the strategic plan for the program by engaging partners within and beyond the University of Colorado, including key collaborators with experience working with the Colorado legislature. Read more …

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ITG Comedy and Climate Change Short Video Competition

Standing Up for Climate: An Experiment with Creative Climate Comedy
(co-sponsored by The Center of the American West)

1st place: $400 prize
2nd place: $250
3rd place: $100

Competition Details

Humor is a tool underutilized in the area of climate change; yet comedy has power to effectively connect people, information, ideas, and new ways of thinking/acting.

In this call, we seek to harness the powers of climate comedy through compelling, resonant and meaningful VIDEOS – up to 3 minutes in length – to meet people where they are, and open them up to new and creative engagement. We are especially interested in pieces that deal with issues related to the American West.

The winning entry will receive a cash prize, and be shown during the upcoming ‘Stand Up for Climate: An Experiment with Creative Climate Comedy’ night on March 17 on the University of Colorado campus in Boulder, Colorado. The event will feature a range of comedic approaches, including stand-up comedy, sketch and situational comedy, and improv.

The primary audience will be University students along with members of the community in Boulder, Colorado (no age restrictions will be in place).

More Information

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Drivers of adaptation: Responses to weather- and climate-related hazards in 60 local governments in the Intermountain Western U.S.

by Lisa Dilling, Elise Pizzi, John Berggren, Ashwin Ravikumar, and Krister Andersson

Environment and Planning A, 2017

Abstract: Cities are key sites of action for adaptation to climate change. However, there are a wide variety of responses to hazards at the municipal level. Why do communities take adaptive action in the face of weather- and climate-related risk? We studied what cities are doing in response to existing natural hazards, such as floods, droughts, and blizzards as an analog for understanding the drivers of adaptive behavior toward climate change risks. We conducted a survey of 60 U.S. municipalities followed by six in-depth case studies in the intermountain west states of Colorado, Wyoming and Utah that regularly experience weather and climate extreme events. Our analysis shows that perception of risk and external factors such as planning requirements and availability of funding stand out as important drivers. Nevertheless, political action is rarely driven by a single factor or event. Overall, our results suggest that multiple factors interact or act in combination to produce an enabling environment for action in the face of weather- and climate-related risk. Read more …

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Beyond Boulder: Students Video Polar Bears to Teach About Climate Change

CU Boulder Today
January 2017

Graduate student Barbara MacFerrin had never seen a bear in the wild in Colorado. In November, she went to the Arctic and saw a dozen polar bears.

As part of a team led by Jennifer Kay, assistant professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (ATOC) at CU Boulder, they spent a week on the Arctic tundra making educational videos to help teach students about climate science.

MacFerrin, who is working toward a master’s degree in the ATLAS Institute’s Technology, Media and Society program, was the team’s videographer. Seeing polar bears in their habitat was a highlight personally and professionally for MacFerrin, who has developed an interest in addressing the impacts of climate change on Arctic and alpine communities through her videos and photographs.

“The whole experience of going to the Arctic and seeing the polar bears and the northern lights was so rewarding,” she said. “At the same time I felt despondent. The bears were clearly hungry and wanted to be out on the sea ice hunting, but the ice was late forming this year. We witnessed a polar bear cannibalizing the remains of another, which is something that happens when they’re stuck on land with limited food resources.”

Kay’s team traveled to Churchill, Manitoba—known as the polar bear capital of the world—where each fall polar bears outnumber people when the bears gather along the shores of Hudson Bay to wait for sea ice to form. Listed as a threatened species, polar bears depend on sea ice to hunt for seals, but because the Arctic is rapidly warming, their hunting grounds are dwindling.

The 5-minute videos explore specific climate science learning goals for non-science majors. The team is making two versions of the videos: one with polar bears and one without. Using the videos, the team will explore the following questions: Does incorporating polar bears into the classroom help with student engagement? Does including polar bears as an emotional hook improve student learning of core science concepts?

An atmospheric scientist, Kay is a fellow at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), a research institute sponsored jointly by CU Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to study Earth systems.

Kay’s team collaborated with Polar Bears International, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to conserve polar bears and the sea ice they depend on. The trip was funded by a grant awarded to Kay as a National Science Foundation CAREER Award recipient. Read more …

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Elite News Coverage of Climate Change

by Maxwell Boykoff and Gesa Luedecke

Oxford Research Encyclopedia, Climate Science
December 2016

During the past three decades, elite news media have become influential translators of climate change linking science, policy, and the citizenry. Historical trends in public discourse—shaped in significant part by elite media—demonstrate news media’s critical role in shaping public perception and the level of concern towards climate change. Media representations of climate change and global warming are embedded in social, cultural, political, and economic dimensions that influence individual-level processes such as everyday journalistic practices. Media have a strong influence on policy decision-making, attitudes, perspectives, intentions, and behavioral change, but those connections can be challenging to pinpoint; consequently, examinations of elite news coverage of climate change, particularly in recent decades, have sought to gain a stronger understanding of these complex and dynamic webs of interactions. In so doing, research has more effectively traced how media have taken on varied roles in the climate change debate, from watch dogs to lap dogs to guard dogs in the public sphere. Within these areas of research, psychological aspects of media influence have been relatively underemphasized. However, interdisciplinary and problem-focused research investigations of elite media coverage stand to advance considerations of public awareness, discourse, and engagement. Elite news media critically contribute to public discourse and policy priorities through their “mediating” and interpretative influences. Therefore, a review of examinations of these dynamics illuminate the bridging role of elite news coverage of climate change between formal science and policy, and everyday citizens in the public sphere. Read more …

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More Than Scientists: The First Step is Building Stronger Communities

Against a backdrop of accelerating climate effects, some deep changes are taking place culturally as well as operationally in our communities. As someone who’s very worried about the world we’re leaving our kids, Alan Townsend believes our first focus needs to be on community efforts. [video]

In this Inside the Greenhouse project, Fall semester ‘Climate and Film’ (ATLS 3519/EBIO 4460) students and Spring semester ‘Creative Climate Communication’ (ENVS3173/THTR4173) students, along with the More than Scientists campaign, create and produce a short video based on an interview of a climate scientist in the local Boulder area, depicting human/personal dimensions of their work.

These scientists work at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR), Wester Water Assessment(WWA), the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) and various other units at CU-Boulder (e.g. Atmospheric Sciences Department, Environmental Studies Program, Geography Department, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department).

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Changing Weather and Climate in Northern Ghana

Comparison of Local Perceptions with Meteorological and Land Cover Data

by K. L. Dickinson, A. J. Monaghan, I. J. Rivera, L. Hu, E. Kanyomse, R. Alirigia, J. Adoctor, R. E. Kaspar, A. R. Oduro, and C. Wiedinmyer

Regional Environmental Change
December 26, 2016

Abstract: Local perspectives on changing weather and climate and analyses of meteorological data represent two different but potentially complementary ways of knowing about the local-scale impacts of global climate change. This paper uses quantitative social survey data from the Kassena and Nankana Districts of Northern Ghana and the best available meteorological records to examine recent changes in weather patterns for this region. The most commonly mentioned changes perceived by respondents include changes in the timing or predictability of rains, and overall drier conditions. Both of these changes are corroborated by precipitation datasets: The onset of the peak rainy season has shifted progressively later over the past decade, by up to a month, and the rainy season has been drier over the past 3–5 years compared to the past 10–35 years, mainly due to lower rainfall during peak months (June and July). Many respondents also said that conditions had become windier, and we find that this perception varies spatially within the districts, but no meteorological data are available for this climate parameter in this region. The common perception that deforestation is responsible for observed changes in weather patterns is partly supported by Landsat imagery indicating a reduction in dense vegetation in recent decades. This comparison highlights some of the potential benefits and challenges involved in giving more voice to community perspectives in the co-production of knowledge on global climate change and its regional impacts. Read more …

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Post-US Election & International Climate Talks: Climate Change Media Coverage Levels Off

Post-US Election & International Climate Talks: Climate Change Media Coverage Levels Off – Stay tuned for 2017 trends

Updated through December 2016

The Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO) monitors fifty sources across twenty-five countries in seven different regions around the world. MeCCO assembles the data by accessing archives through the Lexis Nexis, Proquest and Factiva databases via the University of Colorado libraries. These fifty sources are selected through a decision processes involving weighting of three main factors:

  • geographical diversity (favoring a greater geographical range)
  • circulation (favoring higher circulating publications)
  • reliable access to archives over time (favoring those accessible consistently for longer periods of time)

World, Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, Spain, United Kingdom, & United States

Figure Citation
Daly, M., Gifford, L., Luedecke, G., McAllister, L., Nacu-Schmidt, A., Andrews, K., and Boykoff, M. (2016). World Newspaper Coverage of Climate Change or Global Warming, 2004-2016. Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Web. [Date of access.]

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What’s Cooking in Ghana?

CSTPR research examines human behavior and cookstove use in West Africa

December 29, 2016

Close to half the world’s population cooks over an open fire every day. That’s hard on human health—people cooking over an open fire breathe in smoke and gases that can damage their lungs. Burning biomass is also bad for the environment, contributing to poor air quality and the production of black carbon, as well as deforestation. Making the transition to cleaner cooking practices is a process that intrigues Katie Dickinson, a research scientist with CIRES and the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at CU Boulder, and a project scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Part of Dickinson’s work explores how people in the developing world make this shift, and she’s spent the past few years traveling back and forth to West Africa, to study the use of cookstoves in northern Ghana.

The question of what drives human behavior is one of the basic questions at the center of Dickinson’s research. “Our first project, which was from 2013 to 2016, studied 200 households in rural northern Ghana,” says Dickinson. “We gave them two different types of cookstoves and analyzed how much they liked them, and used them, and whether they prefered them to traditional cooking methods.” They found that while the participants liked the stoves and used them regularly, lowering exposure to some pollutants, most of the households also continued to cook over open fires. But their research does suggest that people in developing nations could see benefits to their health by using these improved cooking stoves. “Now,” says Dickinson, “What we want to do is see what some of the barriers are to adoption of these stoves.”

Her next project, which is just starting, is called “Prices, Peers and Perceptions: Improved Cookstove Research in Ghana.” Her team, which is working in close conjunction with the Navrongo Health Research Center, part of the Ghana Health Service, has funding from the National Science Foundation and other sources to understand why people choose to adopt new technology. And this project will also expand beyond just rural areas, where wood, crop residue and charcoal are the main fuel sources, to urban areas, where residents use charcoal and liquified petroleum gas.

She and her team will be studying three variables in particular: Price—how variations in the amount households are asked to pay for a stove affects whether people want or use these products; peers—whether having a neighbor with a stove influences purchase and use; and perceptions—how both the prices and the exposure to the new stoves via peers affect people’s perceptions of those stoves. “There are lots of dynamics between these three elements. We want to know what all three say about whether someone wants a new stove and if they stop using the old one,” explains Dickinson. Read more …

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Priority Schemes for Water Allocation in Australia and the Netherlands

by Steve Vanderheiden

What can states do when their surface waters run short of the flows needed to satisfy water right schemes, and some valid claimants will need to be denied access?  Such is a likely scenario under conditions in which climate change is expected to exacerbate the magnitude and frequency of drought seen across the American west in recent years.  Australia and the Netherlands have each developed priority schemes for dealing with severe water shortages, identifying a hierarchy among water claims that supersedes systems governing allocation during normal flow periods.

The Dutch, who are renowned for their efficiency in managing both water surpluses and shortages, have developed an allocation scheme that recognizes the priority of some categories of water use over others, as well as among uses with those categories.  Of highest priority are the Category 1 “water safety and prevention of irreversible damage” uses that include stability of the nation’s water defenses as the highest priority use, followed by subsidence of peat grounds and the prevention of irreversible damage to ecosystems.  Since all three are non-extractive uses, the national legal recognition of this category as of highest value requires that some water be left within river basins even in cases of severe drought, prioritizing these to all extractive uses.

Category 2 “utilities” uses include the provision of drinking water first and production of energy second, except when “the supply of energy is not at risk,” in which case further energy production becomes a category 4 use under the scheme.  In Category 3 are two “small-scale, high-quality” uses of water available after Category 1 and 2 uses are satisfied, including “sprinkling” of “crops that are threatened by a total crop failure” due to drought and where “a small amount of water could prevent major damage,” elevating it above general agricultural uses in Category 4, with all remaining uses relegated to Category 4, and with regional officials charged with determining priorities within the category.  Remaining uses include major economic uses (shipping, industry, irrigation for agriculture, and fishing) as well as water recreation and environmental flows not involving irreversible damage.

The Dutch scheme reflects a prioritization for security and critical ecological interests within Category 1, basic human needs within Category 2, and higher and low value economic and recreational values in Categories 3 and 4, mirroring principles found in the natural resource justice literature.  As such, it represents the most fully developed water allocation priority system for addressing water scarcity, albeit one for a region that is more accustomed to dealing with having too much rather than too little surface water, and within a water governance system that is quite different from U.S. riparian law.

Another innovative priority scheme has been developed in a system that more closely resembles the U.S. in terms of its system or water rights and recent experiences with severe drought.  In response to recent severe drought conditions and in anticipation of further water shortages that exceed its ability to recognize historical water rights, Australia has adopted a rationing scheme that seeks to protect “critical human water needs” (CHWN), defined in terms of the “minimum amount of water needed to meet basic human needs.”  Under the Murry-Darling Basin Plan, for example, New South Wales requires 61GL, Victoria requires 77GL, and South Australia requires 204GL to satisfy CHWN, trumping water right claims under Tier 2 “very low water availability” periods as well as Tier 3 “extreme and unprecedented conditions” for water quality or quantity.  While not as developed as the Dutch category system, the prioritization of CHWN over routine legal water claims during drought periods represents an innovative reform designed to cope with environmental change through normative criteria that supersede and modify legal rights to water.

Elements of an ad hoc priority scheme began to develop under California’s recent drought and subsequent water emergency, in which municipal water districts faced mandatory reductions in use while rationing efforts did not require similar reductions from the state’s agricultural sector.  However, these allocation decisions were not made in the deliberate manner and according to the priority principled used in developing the Dutch category scheme, and do not trigger mandatory “water sharing” responses capable of trumping water rights, as in Australia.

In anticipation of climate change placing increasing strain upon standard schemes of water rights in the future and of water allocation decisions becoming a key component of routine adaptation to such change, these innovative approaches to water governance offer instructive cases for how we in the American West might meet future water supply challenges.  Along with an Australian water scientist and a Dutch philosopher and engineer, I am studying these two priority schemes for insights into how the value choices that they embody get identified and operationalized, as well as how various stakeholders are included in processes by which such schemes get developed and implemented.  Our goals is to understand how water governance systems may adapt to water shortages while maintaining commitments to equitable, sustainable, and efficient water uses.

Photo above: The Murrumbidgee River near Hay in New South Wales. Credit: Arthur Mostead.

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Boulder Faculty Assembly Pass Resolution Calling for CU Engagement on Climate Change

In the December meeting of the Boulder Faculty Assembly at the University of Colorado, an overwhelming majority (29-1 w one abstention) passed a resolution calling on the University of Colorado to address climate change. In the contemporary environmental, political, social, economic and cultural landscape in Colorado, in the United States and on planet Earth, CU faculty deemed it important to publicly acknowledge that the climate is changing and the humans play a role in those change, and also state that urgent action is needed now to address anticipated future changes and consequences. This resolution was passed in the context of similar demands for action from leading businesses, universities, governments, and civil society.

Boulder Faculty Assembly Resolution to Address Climate Change (BFA-R-120116)

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Learn More About Climate Presents: Global Agreements and Local Solutions

by Leah Goldfarb, CSTPR Visiting Scholar

How can we effectively communicate environmental policy decisions and legitimately leave people with a sense of agency and optimism? This was the question C3 Boulder: Climate Culture Collaborative asked at the closing of the Paris COP 21(the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UN’s agreement on Climate Change) meeting in December 2015. To do this, I decided to write a play called “Hotel Climate” and many friends pitched in to preform it at a local bar. The core idea of the play was that participants of the COP 21 were checking out of a hotel in Paris, and as they departed they explained their countries’ commitments and their thoughts going forward. The end of the play explained that while the tally of the final commitments did not assure the maximum 2 ° C warming agreed upon in the official accord, the COP21 meeting did potentially put us on track for doing this in the future. To illustrate this point, a parallel was drawn using the Montreal Protocol for limiting ozone-destroying compounds. The original agreement was not enough (it was the Amendments to the Protocol that made it effective), but the original Protocol was a necessary first step.

Katya Hafich (CU’s K12 and Community Outreach Program Manager at the Office for Outreach and Engagement) was in the audience that night and asked if I would like to join a team she was assembling to communicate climate change concepts to the wider public. The resulting video “Global Agreements and Local Solutions”, which is presented by Learn More About Climate is here. Barbara Macferrin, a graduate Research Assistant at University of Colorado Boulder, helped Katya to write the script and choose many of the key images to communicate this concept; Ross Taylor, a Visiting Professor in Journalism, created the video.

As we believe that we need to widely communicate issues around climate, we designed a video that would be accessible to an audience with a middle school level of education. Using a concept designed by Ross, we appeal first to our senses before describing an environmental policy problem and solution (stopping ozone destruction), and then relating that solution to the current challenge of climate change. While environmental educators do not commonly use this approach, we believe it may gain wider acceptance in the future.

In the interest of wider distribution, Learn More About Climate has made our video (and others like it) publically available. If you do decide to use one of these videos, it would be greatly appreciated if you could contact Katya, as it helps us to track its distribution. Please feel free to leave comments on the video on the Vimeo video page, where you can also download the video.



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Ogmius, Newsletter of CSTPR, Issue 45 is Now Out

Issue #45, Fall 2016

This issue of Ogmius describes several new and ongoing initiatives at CSTPR including our recently created Radford Byerly, Jr. Award in Science and Technology Policy. It features articles by our two new writing interns, Abigail Ahlert and Alison Gilchrist. Feedback welcome!

2017 Radford Byerly, Jr. Award in Science and Technology Policy

In 2002, testifying before the Committee on Science in the U.S. House of Representatives in a hearing on ‘New Directions for Climate Research and Technology Initiatives’, Rad Byerly quipped “Politics is not a dirty word. In a democracy it is how we resolve conflicts of values.” This articulate and insightful comment pierced the mood, and illustrated Rad’s keen ability to step up and confront vexing U.S. science-policy challenges. Rad passed away last January after an impressive career that included a postdoctoral fellowship at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (JILA) at CU Boulder, and more than twenty years as staff on and ultimately Director of the Science Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. Read more …

Prometheus, Past and Present by Abigail Ahlert, CSTPR Writing Intern

In 2004, blogging was in its infancy. According to Google Trends, online interest in blogs was at a mere 16% of its eventual peak in 2009. Social networks that help people share their blogs today were years away from popularity. It was at this time that Shep Ryen, a student at the University of Colorado’s Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR), created the blog “Prometheus”. Ryen, who now holds a position at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the Natural Resources and Environment Team, started Prometheus as a term project for one of his graduate courses in science policy offered by CSTPR. Prometheus was—and is today—designed as an informal outlet for news, information, and opinion on science and technology policy. Read more …

Prometheus 2.0 and Our Common Future by Max Boykoff, CSTPR Director

We here in the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR) recognize that we are in both urgent and opportune times. Science, technology, and policy issues are as pressing, dynamically changing and important as ever. As evidence of this, former White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director and Science Advisor (1998-2001) Neal Lane recently issued a strong call to the next U.S. President to place ‘laser focus’ on science and technology policy. Read more …

How Do Science and Technology Affect Policymaking? How Does Policymaking Affect Science and Technology? by Abigail Ahlert, CSTPR Writing Intern

For the past 12 years, the Graduate Certificate in Science and Technology Policy program has been helping people explore these questions and more. The goal of the program is to prepare graduate students for careers at the interface of science, technology, and decision making. Certificate program students strive to understand the broad societal context of science and technology, as well as gain insight to the methodologies of policy analysis. The program has graduated 27 students and has 27 currently enrolled. Courses that satisfy the program’s 18-credit requirement span environmental science, economics, law and philosophy. Recently, an informal survey of current and former students was conducted to gauge satisfaction with the certificate program. The survey spans the perspectives of students who have participated in the program as early as 2004 and as recently as this year. Read more …

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Prices, Peers and Perceptions: Studying a Community’s Adoption of Cleaner Cookware


by Alison Gilchrist, CSTPR Writing Intern

Three billion people, a little over half the world’s population, cook over open fires every day. Those of us with access to microwaves, toasters, rice cookers and waffle irons might not be able to truly grasp what that means for the health of people doing the cooking without such appliances, let alone what it means for the environment to be burning so much solid fuel.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the exposure to smoke from cooking is responsible for about four million premature deaths a year. Much of the health burden of open fire cooking falls on the women and children, who are in the house while food is being prepared. There are also serious environmental effects, both on the regional scale (poor air quality) and on a much larger scale (the production of black carbon, a serious contributor to climate change). Moreover, the reliance on renewable fuels means greater deforestation in regions where open fires are primarily used for cooking.

Katie Dickinson, a Research Scientist with the CIRES Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR), studies how this situation could be improved by a shift to cleaner cooking.

“There are a lot of different options out there,” she says “An open fire isn’t the only way to cook, there are a lot of technological alternatives. But it turns out that finding a technology that works, that is appropriate for a particular culture and their cooking needs, and then getting people to change behaviors towards that technology—there are a lot of steps in there that are very tricky.”

Katie undertook a major project on this topic in 2013in Ghana that recently wrapped up. Now, she has a grant to do a follow-up study in the same area.

In 2013, Katie started working with a team of researchers from CU-Boulder, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and Ghana’s Navrongo Health Research Centre (NHRC) on an intervention project with funding from the NSF’s Dynamics of Coupled Natural Human Systems program and an EPA STAR grant. This study was called Research of Emissions, Air quality, Climate, and Cooking Technologies in Northern Ghana (REACCTING). Two hundred households were randomly selected from the district and were randomly assigned into one of four groups: a group that received two Gyapa cookstoves, a group that received two Philips cookstoves, a group that received one of each, and a control group. The Gyapa stove was specially designed for the study and is appropriate for cooking some of the Ghanaian meal staples; the Philips stove comes with a battery powered fan and is more expensive but potentially cleaner. Both are still wood-burning, but are more efficient than a traditional “three stone stove” (think campfire).

The households were surveyed about how much they liked the stoves and how much they used them. Katie’s group also took objective measurements of how often the stoves were being used, as well as data about what dishes were being cooked with them. They also studied environmental exposure to particulate matter and carbon monoxide, to determine whether the new cook stoves impacted air quality. Finally, they took blood samples from people in the households to study biomarkers that might provide insight about the health impacts of different stoves.

Overall the participants liked the stoves, and used them regularly, although neither of the improved stoves was a perfect fit for the type of cooking and culture in the community—most of the households continued to cook over open fires in parallel. However, households that got the improved stoves did have a lower exposure to some pollutants. This is promising data that suggests improved cooking stoves could have positive health impacts in developing nations.

“As somebody who has always wanted to do interdisciplinary work, I hold this work up as a pinnacle of that kind of study,” says Katie. “I don’t need to be an expert in stove use monitors, because I can rely on an excellent team.”

But as an economist, Katie is even more excited about the follow-up study she will conduct over the next few years. It will build on the past work, and will ask whether people actually buy these cleaner-burning stoves.

“This is a sign of the adoption of technology change,” says Katie. A stove given as a gift is much appreciated, but whether people consider them worth the price is still an open question.

Prices, Peers and Perceptions (P3) was designed to look at how prices and peers—that is, knowing people who have used the stoves before—influence perceptions of the stoves and the likelihood that the stoves are actually purchased.

A new group of participants will be selected based on whether they know people who have used the stoves before, and the experiment will be designed to test whether hearing about the stove influences how much they will spend for it.

The first step was to set an appropriate price, which led to the first field work for this project—an auction. Women were invited to bid for new stoves (updated versions from the first study) in order for Katie’s group to pick a price that would entice some buyers and dissuade others. If the stoves are too cheap, everybody buys one—if the stoves are too expensive, nobody does. If they are priced just right, it’s possible to look at whether other variables influence buying habits.

The auction has informed the price levels that Katie’s group will set for the stoves in the current study, and team members from the NHRC will help monitor who actually buys the stoves and whether the stoves are used. For this phase, Katie’s team is also working with a local NGO that will market the stoves.  Her team hopes the research will inform efforts to improve lives and livelihoods in the area.

The goal of the project is to identify which factors are important for changing cooking behaviors and promoting adoption of cleaner stoves. These projects can help us understand what will convince communities to switch to cleaner technology, and may affect the way in which stoves like these are introduced into regions where open fires are still the norm. Hopefully this will decrease exposure to pollutants from solid fuel, and even decrease the environmental burden of wood burning. Stay tuned for updates on Katie’s most recent trip to Ghana and the future of this project!

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Inside the Greenhouse Newsletter, Issue #6


Issue 6 | December 2016
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Already in the Anthropocene, and entering into the Trumpocene on planet Earth, we find it more important than ever to work to meet people where they are and ‘re-tell climate change stories’ from a range of perspectives, thereby providing opportunities to make sense of 21st century changes in the climate. Moreover, we are more determined than ever to help students build confidence and competence in order to deepen our understanding of how to effectively address issues associated with climate change.

The chosen name of our project – Inside the Greenhouse – acknowledges that, to varying degrees, we are all implicated in, part of, and responsible for greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. So in our efforts we treat this ‘greenhouse’ as a living laboratory, an intentional place for growing new ideas and evaluating possibilities to confront climate change through a range of creative communication approaches.

This Fall has been a wonderfully productive time Inside the Greenhouse. Read below for some samplings of our activities and ongoing commitments. Also, your support is critical as we collectively more forward. Please visit our donation page to provide a tax-deductible gift. Any amount helps.

Up with hope,
Beth Osnes, Max Boykoff Rebecca Safran
(Inside the Greenhouse co-directors)

Course Spotlight

Our Film and Climate Change class: an update from the end of the eighth term
by Rebecca Safran

It is hard to believe we’re nearing the end of the eighth semester of the class on Film and Climate Change! As this newsletter goes out, the students are busily preparing their final film project which will be showcased at our annual Climate Change and Film Festival (Friday, December 9th, 5 – 8 pm, in Atlas 100 on the CU Boulder campus, open to all!).  We have had a busy term and the students have been great from start to finish.

I have had the great fortune to work alongside Ben Crawford and Barbara MacFerrin this term, two star students from the 2015 Film and Climate Change class. We ask a lot of our students; their first film project – a self-reflection piece modeled after the StoryCorps project – is due two weeks into the term. This gets their feet wet with filming and editing and most importantly the art of storytelling. Read more …

Collaboration Highlight

For the past three semesters, Inside the Greenhouse has collaborated with the innovative More Than Scientists (MTS) project, primarily through our class activities and composition works. The MTS project features climate scientists in their own words, capturing on they think and feel about climate change. MTS works to show that scientists aren’t just studying the world, by they are also living in it.

Groups of students in our courses have taken advantage of the high concentration of climate scientists in our local area, and have interviewed researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, National Renewable Energy Laboratories, the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research, and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) and various other units at CU-Boulder (e.g. Atmospheric Sciences Department, Environmental Studies Program, Geography Department, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department) to depict a human and personal motivations behind their work in short-form videos. Read more …

Alum Spotlight

Meridith Richter is a senior Technology, Arts, and Media major and Computer Science minor who was an Inside the Greenhouse intern for the summer of 2016. During that summer, she documented the mounting of an original Inside the Greenhouse performance through CU’s Science Discovery camp.

“What are those black clouds with sad faces on them?” Meridith asked an eleven-year-old participant of SHINE: A Musical Performance for Youth Authored Resilience. They were looking down at the massive, hand-painted timeline the kids at the camp had created to illustrate the history of the Earth. It starts 300 million years ago in the Pennsylvanian Period, where the kids have painted trees and vines to portray a lush, vegetation-covered planet. The timeline moves through each subsequent period all the way to the present, where the ominously dark clouds in question hover over towering smokestacks and sputtering cars. Read more …

Read entire issue …

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A Conversation with Max Boykoff: Climate Change and the Media


Boulder Magazine
Winter/Spring 2016-2017

How much do you really know about climate change? And where does your information come from? For most of us, media is our primary source of what we know about the topic. And most of the information contained in media reporting comes more from specific events, personalities, and pro and con discussions than from research papers or specific analyses by the scientists intimately involved in climate study. The impact of media on the climate-change debate impacts policy and the progress of change, and even our everyday experiences with the topic.

The University of Colorado’s Max Boykoff is an expert in the study of how media impacts the climate-science debate. An assistant professor in the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, his perceptive insights help unravel the interaction between media and the public discussions surrounding climate change.

Tom Brock interviewed Dr. Boykoff in his office on the CU campus on Oct. 20, 2016.

Boulder Magazine: Climate change can be an overwhelming topic to many people. Your study of the interface between climate change and public perceptions is fascinating. Please help our readers understand what you do. You describe your field of research as “the cultural politics of climate change.” What does that mean?

Max Boykoff: Cultural politics refers to the movement from formal climate science and policy into people’s everyday lives. How decision-making priorities and discussions within science and policy translate into everyday people’s attitudes, intentions, perspectives, beliefs and behaviors about climate change. And how those public attitudes then feed back into the formal processes.

So, to what I do. Over time I’ve looked at how media influences public discussion that takes place. I’ve analyzed major network coverage of climate change, and print coverage of climate change in different countries to get a sense of what kinds of issues find traction in the public sphere and which others may be overlooked, and what the effects of that might be.

You’ve talked about forces that impact public understanding of climate change. What are those?

The production of media content is a huge process in and of itself. The decisions that are made, for example, from the very beginning determine the introduction of these topics into the public sphere.

In the public sphere, there are other issues fighting for attention. Look at the [recent presidential] debates. A lot of people I work with who look at public attitudes and interactions were really hoping that the climate change question would be posed, and that there would be a way to address one of the most important issues of the 21st century. It didn’t get on the air. And that can be attributed in part to this demand for things that seem to be of acute public concern—jobs, economy, health care. You know, that holy trinity of concern. So, longer-term issues like climate change fight for attention in the public sphere.

Your research discusses different “actors”, like celebrities and dramatic climate events, that steer the climate conversation. Can you elaborate?

Different practices and pressures within journalism help to shape what becomes the story. If there is a charismatic personality that can drive the story forward, that can help as a news hook into telling stories more readily over others. Like Hurricane Matthew, to the extent that that can be attributed to climate change, was a hook that could sensitize certain audiences to these issues.

And there are other hooks. Certain authority figures, celebrities, what they say and pay attention to has much greater influence than the everyday citizen. Even though the academic is working on these issues, when celebrities have something to say, it can resonate with certain audiences much more than others.

So, you see the conversation about climate change being driven by instances, rather than intellectual curiosity or public concern about climate change?

Good question. I don’t think it’s possible, really, to pick them apart. However I do think you are onto something. There are events that trigger, and fight for attention, or they can be overwhelmed by other issues and not get attention. Those trigger events certainly play a big part in what gets into the public arena of scientific information. It could be new reports or studies coming out; it could be political events and information—the Paris climate talks garnered more coverage; cultural events, a variety of films and other cultural and social movements that feed into coverage; and finally meteorological and ecological events themselves. But it is clear events garner a great deal more coverage than those slow, impressive bits of scientific enterprise such as ice melt research.

One of your projects has been to track global newspaper coverage of climate change and climate events. The number of global articles has really sort of dropped off since 2010. Why is that?

It dropped off dramatically in 2009, and it’s been making a steady but slow comeback again over the last couple of years. Our team takes a set of indicators, 50 different publications across 25 countries, to give us a sense of the ebb and flow of coverage. There can be a lot of reasons for decline—the newsroom itself shrinking, funding for specialists or journalists that cover the complexities, the nuance of certain issues like climate change. There can be other things, like climate fatigue in the public arena. The high watermark was 2009 with the Copenhagen talks, but there was a big drop-off that can be attributed to the economic meltdown, the global meltdown. It’s been up overall over the last year or year and a half. Read more …

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More Than Scientists: Nature’s Support Systems and Us


As an ecosystem biogeochemist at the University of Colorado Boulder, Eve Hinckley of CU Boulder studies the Earth’s life support systems, how they cycle naturally and how they’re affected by human development. Listen in as she tells us about her work and how she thinks about climate change. [video]

In this Inside the Greenhouse project, Fall semester ‘Climate and Film’ (ATLS 3519/EBIO 4460) students and Spring semester ‘Creative Climate Communication’ (ENVS3173/THTR4173) students, along with the More than Scientists campaign, create and produce a short video based on an interview of a climate scientist in the local Boulder area, depicting human/personal dimensions of their work.

These scientists work at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR), Wester Water Assessment(WWA), the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) and various other units at CU-Boulder (e.g. Atmospheric Sciences Department, Environmental Studies Program, Geography Department, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department).

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CU and the Boulder Climate Commitment


by Abigail Ahlert, CSTPR Science Writing Intern

While Americans come to terms with divisive national politics, there’s still a lot of hope in city-scale climate action. This December, the Boulder City Council is expected to formally adopt the Boulder Climate Commitment (BCC), and leveraging local knowledge and engagement from the University of Colorado will be an important factor in its success.

The main goal of the climate plan is to reduce Boulder’s greenhouse gas emissions to at least 80% below 2005 levels by 2050. The BCC energy objective is to ensure that 100% of Boulder’s energy comes from renewable sources by 2030, with 50% or more of that created locally.

Through conservation programs that focus on outdoor irrigation and recycling efforts, the BCC aims to reduce emissions from waste management by 2% and reduce water usage by almost 20%. The BCC also plans for the planting of 1,500 trees per year by 2050 in order to protect Boulder’s urban ecosystem.

The University of Colorado Boulder (CU) is taking advantage of multiple opportunities to coordinate with the BCC, including the implementation of energy efficient facility upgrades. For example, the athletic facility completed in April 2016 has 2,604 solar panels which generate about 1,200 MWh of power per year. CU is also continuing its support of public transit resources and student “Energy Green Teams” that outreach to the University community about sustainability.

In addition to these projects, the City of Boulder hopes to utilize CU’s academic resources for climate planning. During the week of October 10, Brett KenCairn, Senior Environmental Planner for the City of Boulder, and Dr. Sarah Thomas met with CU faculty and students to discuss the BCC.

Students and faculty agree that their engagement in the BCC is productive, considering the important role that the University plays in Boulder’s culture. “CU is a large part of the Boulder community and as academics we like to solve problems. It’s a natural fit to bring in the tremendous talent from all parts of campus to the issue of climate change and starting with our local government makes a huge amount of good sense,” says Dr. Rebecca Jo Safran, Associate Professor in CU’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

However, the BCC also brings to light some of Boulder’s most pressing problems. A leading concern among members of the University is the relationship between greenhouse gas emissions from commuters and Boulder’s relentlessly climbing housing costs. In 2012, 17% of Boulder’s transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions came from non-resident employees. While this is still less than what was emitted by Boulder residents, there is worry that emissions from non-residents will continue to climb. Dr. Shelly Miller, Professor of Mechanical Engineering in CU’s Environmental Engineering Program, says, “I think it will be difficult to do anything meaningful with housing and transportation. People cannot afford to live in Boulder and so commute and people like their cars and don’t want to be inconvenienced by increasing bus and bike ridership initiatives…just look at what happened when they changed the bike lanes on Folsom earlier this year,” referring to the recent backlash to bike lane expansion designed by Boulder’s Living Lab.

The issues of housing and transportation also raise crucial questions of justice. “In terms of challenges, I think the questions are how to do this in an equitable way, one that doesn’t further marginalize and push out the non-wealthy. This is not an impossibility—as some might argue—but rather requires us to rethink what implicit or explicit biases might be smuggled into ideas of ‘our values’, ‘our way of life’, ‘our quality of life’ in Boulder,” says Dr. Emily Yeh, Chair of CU’s Geography Department. The City of Boulder recently introduced the Just Transition Collaborative to address these issues.

Despite concerns, there is hope among faculty and students that Boulder can become a success story and example of climate action. The sentiment seems to be that Boulder has the resources to limit its greenhouse gas emissions, and thus the obligation to do so. Michael Rush, a graduate research assistant in CU’s Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering Department, says, “Boulder must be an example of climate action for other cities…This country has a proud tradition of ‘laboratories of democracy’ wherein individual states or communities test new and innovative policies before they are enacted on the national level. Boulder can show the world that it is possible to reverse antiquated housing laws, eliminate unsustainable transit habits, and update energy policy to lay the foundation for long-term ecological sustainability.”

Rush is particularly excited about the Boulder Energy Challenge—grant money that the City of Boulder has offered to fund sustainability projects. These grants were last offered in 2014, and an application period for a new round of grants will open at the end of November. The City also hopes to host an “Energy Futures” summit in 2017.

The October BCC meetings made it clear that Boulder is a small city uniquely equipped to limit its greenhouse gas emissions, but that it will also face new and complex challenges in the process.

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The ‘get on with it’ Conference of Parties meeting in Marrakech


by Max Boykoff

Partly in the shadow of the recent US election of Donald J. Trump, the United Nations Climate Negotiations here in Marrakech have pressed forward in the face of the existential threat of 21st century climate change. As US Secretary of State John Kerry put it (albeit vaguely) in his talk, “even the strongest skeptics must recognize that something disturbing is happening”. Possible double-entendres aside, Kerry provided a decidedly determined view of the work ahead. His comments were consistent with those of US delegates and observers throughout the Conference of Parties meeting (‘the COP’).

cop22_2US Secretary of State John Kerry at the Conference of Parties meeting on November 16th

After all, going into the 2016 Marrakech round, this has interchangeably been called the ‘COP of action’, the ‘COP of implementation’ and the like. While some of this could be discounted as mind over matter, it is also an indication of the strong momentum that has built since the meeting in Paris nearly a year ago. As the Paris round of talks in December 2015 was dubbed the ‘end of the beginning of work’, Marrakech marks the opening of high-level talks in the next chapter of this global story.

Riding a wave of productivity, punctuated by international progress to curtail aviation emissions (agreed in Montreal, Canada Oct 6) and hydrochloroflurocarbons (agreed in Kigali, Rwanda Oct 15), along with the ‘entry into force’ of the Paris Agreement on November 4, delegates and observers have set to work on the implementation elements of the Paris Agreement. These centrally include policy measures involving climate finance, loss and damage and rules on reviewing pledges. Within this milieu, actors from the US voiced enthusiasm for business, industry, government and civil society to continue to keep pace with these development, and not to squander opportunities to move forward with the global community.

cop22_3Senior climate and energy advisor Brian Deese participates in a side event with Deb Markowitz Secretary of Natural Resources for Vermont, and Diane Holdorf from Kellogg Corporation, moderated by World Resources Institute Global Energy Director Jennifer Layke on November 15th

Donald J. Trump may swim into these waters as a big fish (representing the US and approximately 16% of global greenhouse gas emissions). However, he will have to make some careful calculations as to whether it is wiser to swim with these strong currents, or to swim upstream against them.

cop22_4Despite the US being apparently turned upside down by the recent elections, members of the US delegation here in Marrakech have pressed forward with international climate policy cooperation

Representing the University of Colorado and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), I have presented on three different panels during the week, hosted by Climate Outreach, the International Environmental Communication Association and EcoArts Connections. These have been opportunities to share work from research projects including the Media and Climate Change Observatory and Inside the Greenhouse, as well as from my own ongoing research in cultural politics and climate change. In addition, this has been an opportunity to listen, learn and connect with researchers, practitioners and delegates engaged in intersecting work at the climate science-policy and public interface.

cop22_5Speaking on Tuesday, Nov 15th about the Media and Climate Change Observatory in the International Environmental Communication Association side event on ‘Communicating Climate Change: Engaging Communities through the Arts, Media, Messages, & Mediation’ in the Climate Change Studio

As talks wrap up here in Marrakech, the work clearly continues. There won’t be a second chance to get this right and time is not on our side.

cop22_6United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon addresses the COP in a wrap-up plenary session on November 17th

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Max Boykoff on Global Climate Talks: Moving Ahead


KGNU Science Show, How on Earth
November 15, 2016

Max Boykoff – Global Climate Talks – Moving Ahead With or Without US
Listen to Podcast

While the world has held climate talks for 22 years (This is COP – Conference of the Parties — 22) and the Kyoto Protocol talks about climate change have been held for 12 years, this year’s October’s climate talks in Paris mark the first time that  “entry into force” has been achieved.  You might think of “entry into force” as the time when a critical number of nations are ready to develop global treaties regarding climate and pollution and its effects around the world.  The 1st world meeting ever to talk about “Entry into Force” on climate issues is taking place right now, in Marrakech, Morocco.  200 nations have gathered to discuss these issues.  The meetings began just before the US elections.  Now Donald Trump is President Elect, and he has signaled that he will pull back from many of the nation’s current plans to reduce pollution and combat climate change.

To find out how this affects the world climate talks, up next we talk with Max Boykoff, speaking via Skype from the world climate talks in Marrakech Morocco.  Max Boykoff is a scientist at CU Boulder and director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, which is part of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Studies at CU-Boulder.  He’s the author of a book on climate science and social response, titled, “Who Speaks for the Climate?”  

Host/Producer/Engineer: Shelley Schlender


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U.S. Offshore Wind Energy Policy


Lessons Learned at the Local and State Levels from the Nation’s First Offshore Wind Farm

by Marisa McNatt

In addition to potentially reducing U.S. carbon emissions, the available energy from U.S. offshore wind resources is twice as large as the electricity demand for the United States, even after accounting for currently available offshore wind technology and land-use and environmental exclusions, (Musial et al., 2016). But, actually tapping into the rich, carbon-free energy resource in the U.S. has proven immensely difficult. Since the early 2000s, a complex array of political, social, economic and other factors have blocked more than 70 offshore wind farms proposed for U.S. coastal waters.

I’m studying these barriers to developing U.S. offshore wind farms, as a Ph.D. candidate in Environmental Studies at CU Boulder, with the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research. The U.S. realized its first offshore wind farm in September 2016, located in the Atlantic Ocean, about three miles southeast of Block Island, Rhode Island. The completion of the 30-megawatt capacity, 5-turbine Block Island Wind Farm by developer Deepwater Wind, was a historic moment for the nation, and provides the opportunity to research what made this project successful.

That it has taken so long for the U.S. to harness energy from an offshore wind farm appears somewhat surprising, when you look at the European Union (EU). Many Europeans, particularly those living near the coast of the UK, Denmark, and Germany have been producing electricity with energy from wind at sea since the world’s first offshore wind farm was constructed off the coast of Denmark in 1991. In 2015, 11 European countries had a total of 3,230 turbines, comprising more than 70 offshore wind farms, installed and connected to the grid (European Wind Energy Association, 2016). The European example demonstrates, of course, that it’s possible to construct massive power facilities in the ocean.

On the other hand, just because it can be done, doesn’t mean it’s easy — there’s nothing small, inexpensive or simple about an offshore wind farm. A single offshore turbine, including the blades, tower, rotor and foundation can cost about $12 million, have a collective mass well over 1,000 tons, and can stand twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty. Besides the turbines and foundation, an offshore wind farm requires miles of undersea cable and substations to connect electricity generated from the wind farm to the grid, specialized vessels with gigantic cranes to assemble the turbines, a multitude of support vessels and a knowledgeable crew that must account for extreme sea and weather conditions. Before a developer can even think about construction, there’s an enormous number of studies that must be done to mitigate the impact of an offshore wind farm on human and environmental communities, including research on animals that live in the seafloor, migratory mammals and birds, vessel traffic, fishing areas, and more. In the U.S., a developer must obtain a multitude of municipal, state, and federal permits that comply with the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Endangered Species Act, to name a few. While addressing these many development components, a developer must also attract investors to finance a project and think about a range of stakeholder issues.

Without a doubt, offshore wind development clearly requires long-term policy support and clear strategy to be successful — that’s primarily why the industry has taken off in Europe, and not in the U.S. The UK and Germany, for example, have mostly maintained political support for offshore wind development for about two decades, despite changes in political regime. In recent years, in spite of the fossil fuel industry receiving billions in subsidies under the Obama Administration, the U.S. federal government has built up strong political will and goals for offshore wind, such as conducting baseline studies, auctioning off parcels of the ocean for commercial wind leases, and creating offshore wind task forces that include stakeholder representatives from various states.

Although there are many reasons to advance responsible offshore wind development — the industry could bring numerous jobs and economic development to the U.S. and lower electricity prices in some regions for the long term — having strong climate change policies doesn’t hurt. As an example, a recently published report from the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of the Interior, on a national strategy for offshore wind, states that the U.S. federal and state policy environment has “evolved to include stronger directives and incentives … for the reduction of greenhouse gases and the expansion of renewable energy in which offshore wind can play a significant part.” However, with Trump as the new president, the level of federal support for the industry is not as certain.

In contrast to the National Strategy for Offshore Wind, Trump has campaigned that he will revoke the Paris agreement that binds countries to emission target goals, as well as Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which includes advancing job creation in the renewable energy industry, according to a November 2016 New York Times article. Trump has also named Myron Ebell, a known climate change contrarian, as the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency. On the other hand, the federal production tax credit for wind power, set to expire in 2019, does offer near-term federal policy certainty for the industry, and the Trump campaign has not expressed interest in dismantling policies for renewable energy, according to a news source for the utilities industry.

Additionally, there is room for advancing responsible offshore wind development at the state- and municipal-levels — the primary focus of my research. Admittedly, I didn’t begin studying offshore wind policy merely because I was zealous about the industry itself; as learned in Environmental Studies, there are many paths and concerns when addressing problems at the human-environment interface, for instance, a technology fix is not the only way to address a problem like climate change. It was only after learning more about the story of offshore wind in the U.S., as compared to Europe, and the potential benefits that offshore wind offers for human and environmental communities, that it became my dissertation topic.

Specifically, I’m studying offshore wind through the lens of science-policy theories and tenets and other tools used to research the complex policy process. A primary principle of studying the policy process is to always remember that policies are driven and formed by far more than one, or a few factors. Rather, contextual conditions, like geographic and cultural conditions, as well as a vast network of human beings — with many and differing values, norms and goals and resources and strategies — drive policy.

As an example, the “Not In My Backyard” (NIMBY) syndrome, or negative public opinion of an offshore wind farm proposed for a nearby location because of view obstruction, hasn’t proven to be the primary barrier to the industry in the U.S. in most cases. Many know the story of powerful elites blocking the Cape Wind Farm proposed for the Nantucket Sound, because of how it would affect the view. However, research indicates favorable public opinion of other proposed, offshore wind farms. A robust survey conducted by the Center for Carbon-free Power Integration at the University of Delaware found that 77 percent of Atlantic City residents lean toward, or firmly support the in-view offshore wind farm, Fishermen’s Energy, proposed for construction off the coast of Atlantic City, New Jersey (Bates & Firestone, 2014). A poll conducted in 2011 by the Atlantic Wind Connection found that in three states, the majority of voters support the development of wind power off the coast of their respective states: Delaware (82 percent), Maryland (77 percent), and New Jersey (78 percent).

Rather than public opinion as the main driver, my case-study research on offshore wind farm development in New Jersey, as compared to Rhode Island indicates that at the municipal- and state-levels, how science and information is produced and used, the involvement of local knowledge and public engagement, how broad networks of stakeholders collaborate, and who is in a position of power and when are strong indicators as to whether or not an offshore wind project will be developed.

As an example, both New Jersey and Rhode Island produced detailed reports that specified best locations for offshore wind development off the coast of their respective states and the necessity of developing offshore wind farms for the states to meet their respective wind energy goals. Despite millions of dollars spent on offshore wind energy research, New Jersey has not installed an offshore wind farm, whereas Rhode Island has succeeded in constructing the nation’s first offshore wind farm.

A primary science-policy tenet is that how science and information affects policy is anything but simple and linear. In other words, we don’t live in a world where “more and better science,” alone, results in knowing what specific decisions to make and better policies; policies are driven by values, as much as they are driven by the huge pool of information that exists on nearly every topic. Take abortion, for example: could there ever be enough science to make the majority agree on pro-life, or pro-choice? (Pielke, 2003). Additionally, in some situations, science and knowledge coproduced — or generated by scientists, decision-makers, and local experts — is more likely to have a substantial and meaningful impact on policy-outcomes than science produced solely by scientists.

In terms of my case-studies, preliminary research indicates that these theories and tenets hold true. The New Jersey baseline studies on offshore wind were largely produced in isolation, by third party researchers, whereas offshore wind studies in Rhode Island involved substantial collaboration between scientists, decision-makers, fishermen, tribes, the local town council, and many other groups. Preliminary research findings also show a combination of factors matter for offshore wind development outcomes, including firm support from the state governor and state legislature in tandem with the coproduction of knowledge. As an example, when Rhode Island was conducting collaborative offshore wind studies, former Republican Governor of Rhode Island, Donald Carcieri, wrote letters to the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission, urging the Commission’s support of a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) between the local utility company and the local offshore wind developer, Deepwater Wind. At that time, Rhode Island also passed legislation that supported the PPA. Without a PPA, an offshore wind project is not financially feasible.

Additionally, the specific strategies of those in a position of power also matter. Many rightly state that current Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie (R) is the reason the Fishermen’s Energy Wind Farm has been blocked. In May 2016, Christie passed legislation that effectively inhibited Fishermen’s Energy from obtaining a Power Purchase Agreement. However, former New Jersey Governor Codey (D) and former New Jersey Governor Corzine (D) supported offshore wind development from 2004 through 2010, by establishing target goals and providing funding for the industry. This supports the notion that although governor support may be necessary for an offshore wind farm to succeed, it doesn’t guarantee it, placing focus on the governor’s strategies, instead.

In conducting this research, my hope is not to see every U.S. ocean horizon dotted with wind farms. My hope, instead, is that my research might contribute to a better understanding of how offshore wind policies are made, particularly at the state and local levels. Near the end of October, as part of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Offshore Wind Power Conference, a conference that brought together a wide range of people associated with the industry, from academics, to developers, to state governors and congressmen, I had the opportunity to collaborate and see our nation’s first offshore wind farm.

On a cloudy and brisk New England day, we rode a high-speed ferry to the Block Island Wind Farm. I let the excitement get the best of me, and unnecessarily stood outside the cabin of the boat not long after departing, to ensure I had a decent spot to see the farm. After nearly a half hour, the offshore wind farm finally appeared as tiny specks in the distance. I snatched my phone from my pocket and began taking photos. By the time the boat was close enough to the wind farm for a decent picture, in a bit of irony, my phone abruptly powered down, perhaps due to the combination of the cold and salt water exposure.

Without a camera to engage my mind in taking pictures, I spent some time reflecting instead. What a wonder it is, I thought, that while I wasn’t organized enough to remember packing my nice camera for this trip, those involved in planning the Block Island Wind Farm managed to organize hundreds of different people, groups and institutions, allowing the project to meet with success. I thought about how phenomenal it is that human beings (myself, not included) have figured out how to build these enormous, stoic structures at sea that capture its powerful winds to run towns and cities, in the same harsh ocean environment that perhaps caused my phone to suddenly power down.

I realized too, looking away from the wind farm, that there is something so beautiful about just seeing the ocean and clouds that drift and seem to touch the sea’s surface, dotted only by a ship in the distance.  Is that wrong, I think, to enjoy that view, too?  No. I remember that this deep appreciation of multiple, and even conflicting perspectives is perfectly normal, as policies are created not just by complicated organizations and institutions, but also by complicated individuals with a range of values — making it even more amazing that so many distinct people, groups, and agencies did collaborate to make the Block Island Offshore Wind Farm a reality.  On other hand, although one must account for a range of values in the policy process, a primary tenet of the policy process is that decision-makers, institutions, individuals and others should always strive to create policy that upholds human dignity — for as many diverse individuals and groups of people as possible — and environmental sustainability.  Human dignity can be thought of as one’s ability to obtain respect, psychological and physical wellbeing, skill and financial stability, among other values, and environmental sustainability can be thought of as preserving our natural resources, important intrinsically and necessary for obtaining human dignity.  Thus, when a community, or state perceives responsible offshore wind as a way to advance human dignity for many and environmental sustainability, perhaps lessons learned from studying the Block Island Offshore Wind Farm stakeholder processes will offer inspiration and support.

The Block Island Farm is expected to begin generating electricity for the New England grid in a few weeks, just before Thanksgiving, and when operating at full capacity, will supply enough electricity to power 17,000 homes.

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