What Will Happen When a Self-Driving Car Kills a Bystander?

by CSTPR Visiting Scholar, Jack Stilgoe

The Guardian
June 24, 2017

As a social scientist researching emerging technologies, I am fascinated by the bumps, scrapes and abrupt turns of self-driving cars as they accelerate towards the market. Here is a technology whose algorithms are learning how to behave in the wild. For the rest of us to make sense of the opportunities, we need to get beneath the hyper-optimistic story offered by the would-be disruptors. This is why accidents are so important. They shatter the veneer, forcing society and its innovators to confront the very real uncertainties of technology.

In May last year, a crash in Florida made Joshua Brown the first casualty of a self-driving car. His Tesla Model S, in Autopilot mode, failed to see a truck that was crossing his path. Without slowing, his car drove between the wheels of the trailer at 74mph. The Tesla’s roof was torn off and Brown died instantly. Purely by chance, nobody else was harmed.

I have already written about the report earlier this year from the National Highways Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a body whose responsibilities include issuing product recalls for defective cars. The NHTSA report largely exonerated Tesla, blaming the driver for failing to understand the technology’s limits. This week, the other group investigating the crash, the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB), released its own reports.

The NTSB is an independent body originally set up to investigate plane crashes. It is one reason why the airline industry’s safety record is so good and, more importantly, has improved so quickly over the last few decades. The NTSB’s job is not to lay blame but to find out what happened, so that the chances of things happening again can be reduced.

The 500-plus pages of NTSB reports include interviews, weather reports, blood tests and a detailed autopsy of the Tesla autopilot system. There is a gruesome medical report of the injuries sustained to the driver’s head as his car passed under the truck, and a transcript from the only witness to have come forward. The witness was surprised that the car was travelling so quickly before and after the crash. He reported seeing:

A white cloud, like just a big white explosion… and the car came out from under that trailer and it was bouncing…I didn’t even know… it was a Tesla until the highway patrol lady interviewed me two weeks later…. She said it’s a Tesla and it has Autopilot, and I didn’t know they had that in those cars.

The car kept going because nobody was in control.

The easy explanation for the crash is that the truck driver was in the wrong place, moving slowly across a road that he didn’t have time to cross. However, a human driver might still have been able to swerve or brake. We know from data Tesla gave to the NTSB that the brakes were never applied. We also know that Brown’s 40-minute journey consisted of two and a half minutes of conventional driving followed by 37 and a half minutes of hands-free Autopilot. While in Autopilot mode, he touched the wheel every five minutes or so in response to the car’s warnings, but spent 37 minutes with his hands off the wheel. There was no evidence Brown was watching a Harry Potter film, as was widely reported after the crash, but an SD card found in the car did contain tunes from the Harry Potter soundtrack. Read more …

Jack Stilgoe is a senior lecturer in the department of Science and Technology Studies at University College London. He teaches courses on science and technology policy, responsible science and innovation and the governance of emerging technologies.

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Rural–Urban Differences in Cooking Practices and Exposures in Northern Ghana

by Wiedinmyer, C., K. Dickinson, R. Piedrahita, E. Kanyomse, E. Coffey, M. Hannigan, R. Alirigia, and A. Oduro

Environmental Research Letters
Volume 12, Number 6 (2017)

Abstract: Key differences between urban and rural populations can influence the adoption and impacts of new cooking technologies and fuels. We examine these differences among urban and rural households that are part of the REACCTING study in Northern Ghana. While urban and rural populations in the study area all use multiple stoves, the types of stoves and fuels differ, with urban participants more likely to use charcoal and LPG while rural households rely primarily on wood. Further, rural and urban households tend to use different stoves/fuels to cook the same dishes—for example, the staple porridge Tuo Zaafi (TZ) is primarily cooked over wood fires in rural areas and charcoal stoves in urban settings. This suggests that fuel availability and ability to purchase fuel may be a stronger predictor of fuel choice than cultural preferences alone. Ambient concentrations of air pollutants also differ in these two types of areas, with urban areas having pollutant hot spots to which residents can be exposed and rural areas having more homogeneous and lower pollutant concentrations. Further, exposures to carbon monoxide and particulate matter differ in magnitude and in timing between urban and rural study participants, suggesting different behaviors and sources of exposures. The results from this analysis highlight important disparities between urban and rural populations of a single region and imply that such a characterization is needed to successfully implement and assess the impacts of household energy interventions. Read more …

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Notes from the Field in Ethiopia: From Top-Down Mapping to Bottom-Up Solutions

Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre Internship Program
by Katie Chambers
Ethiopia, June 2017

Katie is a PhD student in Environmental Engineering with a focus on Engineering for Developing Communities. In Ethiopia, Katie will be developing flood inundation maps for communities downstream of hydroelectric dams. These maps will guide the development of Early Warning Early Action frameworks for the Ethiopian Red Cross Society and IFRC. Her environmental engineering research investigates the comparative vulnerabilities and resilience of different types of sanitation systems found in resource-limited communities, as well as the tradeoffs made when prioritizing resilience in system selection.

These past couple weeks have been full of meetings that have taken me across Addis Ababa to coordinate the project’s organizational stakeholders, including the Ethiopian Red Cross Society, Ministry of Water, National Meteorological Agency, Netherlands Red Cross, Canadian Red Cross, Awash River Basin Authorities, and (of course) the Climate Centre. Each organization has an interest in my work, ranging from existing projects in the Awash River Basin to using my findings to help develop a countrywide disaster response framework. While this coordination adds to my summer’s workload, knowing that I have the support, encouragement, and interest of so many individuals and organizations has given me the confidence and reassurance that the project will be successful and impactful.

With site visits and community-based research beginning next week, I am making the transition from office to field work. The transition isn’t only a shift in the work I’m performing, but a shift in mentality. A recurrent lesson through all my development classes and fieldwork is the importance of community participation. As engineers and development practitioners, we’re sometimes so focused on solving a problem that we forget to engage with the very people we’re trying to solve the problem for. Case studies have shown that even perfectly designed systems failed when communities were not actively engaged throughout the project process. For example, researchers from CU Boulder found that during the post-disaster shelter reconstruction following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, latrines were installed attached to homes. While the toilets were structurally sound and functional, they went unused due to homeowners’ fears that they would cause bad odors in the house (Jordan, Javernick-Will, & Amadei, 2015).

The flood models developed in the project’s first phase are not the solution to the problem my summer work addresses. Disaster preparedness plans should be informed by bottom-up participatory approaches, with models to guide planning. This allows for a more realistic approach, guided by a community’s identification of priorities and threats. The coming weeks will be busy, filled with fieldwork and the refinement of the flood models. Apologies for the lack of pictures accompanying this blog post, but with fieldwork coming up I’ll be sure to make up for it!

Jordan, E., Javernick-Will, A., and Amadei, B. (2015). Post-disaster reconstruction: lessons from Nagapattinam district, India. Development in Practice, 25(4), 518–534.

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MeCCO Monthly Summary: Trump and Paris Climate Agreement Consumes Cultural Coverage of Climate Change

Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO)
May 2017 Summary

May 2017 coverage of climate change and global warming increased compared to the previous month, as overall coverage across all sources in twenty-eight countries showed an approximate 10 percent increase compared to April 2017. Coverage of political, scientific, ecological/meteorological, and cultural dimensions of climate change increased most prominently in Africa and Asia, which saw 31 percent and 28 percent increases in coverage, respectively. Europe and North American also saw modest month-to-month increases in coverage, while the Middle East, Oceania, and South America all showed slight decreases compared to the previous month. Europe (142%), Oceania (81%), and Asia (22%) all increased coverage of climate change compared to May 2016. Overall, coverage across all sources in twenty-eight countries decreased approximately 43 percent compared to May 2016

With an overall increase in coverage, political themes in May 2017 continued to focus on the United States’ involvement with the Paris Climate Agreement. The Hindustan Times reported on the uncertainty surrounding the Trump Administration’s decision on whether or not to withdraw from the Agreement and cited the Group of Seven (G7) meeting in Italy as a key date in the overall decision process. Another article in the Manila Bulletin considered the impacts of a U.S withdrawal from the Agreement and described the mounting pressure on the Trump Administration from international leaders to stay the course. Other political coverage focused on the response of international leaders to a U.S. abdication. Indrani Bagchi of The Times of India reported on a renewed partnership between Germany and India, which has helped to reaffirm each countries’ commitment to emissions reductions under the Paris Agreement in the face of a U.S. withdrawal.

Coverage of scientific and ecological dimensions of climate change in May 2017 centered on a number of new reports on carbon emissions. Henry Fountain at The New York Times summarized a recent academic study that details drastic changes to the carbon cycle in Arctic and near-Arctic regions as a result of a warming climate. The new study suggests that due to warming temperatures, these regions are shifting away from a net sink or “storehouse” of carbon to a net source of carbon emissions. Chelsea Harvey at The Washington Post also drew from new analyses by the Climate Action Tracker on the progress China and India have made in meeting their emissions reductions goals under the Paris Climate Agreement. Overall, the two countries are on track to exceed their climate pledges while the current trajectory U.S. emissions reductions lags behind.

The Trump Administration and the Paris Climate Agreement also consumed cultural coverage of climate change in May 2017, continuing an ongoing trend. Alexandra Zavis of the The Los Angeles Times wrote about President Trump’s visit with Pope Francis, who provided the President with a copy of his 2015 encyclical that called for global collective action to address climate change. Another article, this time in the Des Moines Register, summarizes a recent report on activists and law enforcement officials focused on the Dakota Access Pipeline. The report describes how an international security firm targeted protesters opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline with military-style counter-terrorism measures and closely collaborated with law enforcement authorities in five U.S. states.

Figure Caption: Word frequency in climate change and global warming coverage in April 2017 from four Indian newspapers (left) and five US newspapers (right). For India: The Indian Express, The Hindu, the Hindustan Times, and The Times of India. For US: The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times.

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

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Perceptions of the Effects of Floods and Droughts on Livelihoods: Lessons from Arid Kenya

Product of CSTPR’s Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre (RCRCCC) internship program

by Amy Quandt and Yunus Antony Kimathi

International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management
Vol. 9 Issue: 03, pp.337-351 (2017)

The purpose of this paper is to understand how people practicing natural resource-based livelihoods in arid Kenya perceive that their livelihoods are being affected by floods and droughts and how to integrate these local perceptions of impacts into larger-scale climate change adaptation initiatives and policy.

In Isiolo County, Kenya, 270 households were surveyed in seven communities, six focus group discussions were held and a document review was conducted.

Findings: The major livelihood practiced in Isiolo is pastoralism (71 per cent), but agriculture and non-agro-pastoral activities also play an important role, with 53 per cent of the respondents practicing more than one type of livelihood. In Isiolo, floods have a large impact on agriculture (193 respondents out of 270), while droughts impact both agriculture (104 respondents) and livestock (120 respondents), and more specifically, cattle-keeping (70 respondents). Read more …

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Barn Swallow Research in China

Rebecca Safran (co-founder of CSTPR’s Inside the Greenhouse project), along with Liz Scordato (a post-doc in the Safran Lab), travelled to China in May 2017 to meet up with Dr. Liu Yu.

They are traveling with Dr. Emilio Pagani-Núñez, a research scientist at Sun Yat-sen University. Both Liu Yu and Emilio work on barn swallow populations in other parts of China and are part of our larger collaborative team.

Click on the links below to read about their research and travels in China!

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Notes from the Field in Ethiopia: Engineering Meets Humanitarian Action

Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre Internship Program
by Katie Chambers
Ethiopia, June 2017

Katie is a PhD student in Environmental Engineering with a focus on Engineering for Developing Communities. In Ethiopia, Katie will be developing flood inundation maps for communities downstream of hydroelectric dams. These maps will guide the development of Early Warning Early Action frameworks for the Ethiopian Red Cross Society and IFRC. Her environmental engineering research investigates the comparative vulnerabilities and resilience of different types of sanitation systems found in resource-limited communities, as well as the tradeoffs made when prioritizing resilience in system selection.

The sound of distant thunder echoes through my fifth-floor office in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, and the city traffic has come to a standstill as rain saturates the ground below. The rainy season has just started in Ethiopia and will continue until August. Locals warn me to expect rain every day, but that “it is nothing compared to the rain in the United States”. With the rainy season comes hope of a break from the drought that has affected much of East Africa, but also the potential of floods impacting vulnerable communities. My project as an intern with the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre this summer aims to address issues surrounding flooding and consists of two main objectives, to (1) develop inundation models to determine the extent of flooding on downstream communities and (2) develop a forecast-based contingency plan for the Red Cross to link the level of risk with the actions needed to protect communities from floods.

The project specifically looks at the Awash River and flooding downstream of Koka Dam, Ethiopia’s oldest hydroelectric dam, with the potential to expand the project to an additional dam currently in construction.

The first phase of the project consists of flood inundation mapping using HEC-GeoRAS, a software that combines HEC-RAS (a program that models water flow through natural and man-made channels) and ArcGIS (a program for the management, analysis, and display of geographic information).

The results are produced in a geospatial context, which allows users to determine the extent of flooding and predicted impacts to downstream communities. Controlled water releases from Koka Dam and precipitation during rainfall events both contribute to the water flow in the Awash River. Contribution of the dam release and the heavy predication to flooding need to be clarified. These different contributing factors have led to the proposal of three flood modeling scenarios for the Awash River: (1) water release exclusively from Koka Dam, (2) water exclusively from rainfall, and (3) both water release from Koka Dam and rainfall. Read more …

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Navigating Climate Change – A Communications Challenge by Max Boykoff

[video] 40:14

The realization that climate change is bound to deeply disrupt our future hasn’t set in yet in the US, in large part due to a longstanding propaganda campaign by the fossil fuel lobby to sew doubt. CU Boulder professor Max Boykoff reports on creative ways of communicating climate science and policy.

Organized by the Jefferson County chapter of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society (CRES). CRES features several local monthly speaker series throughout the state, provides speakers, experts, workshops and weighs in on state energy policy.

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More than Scientists: Quitting is a Privilege

Quitting is a privilege
Phaedra Pezzullo, University of Colorado Boulder

We have a lot of admiration for Phaedra’s approach:
“I think quitting is a privilege. If you listen to the people most impacted by environmental disasters and climate disasters, they don’t have the privilege to quit, they have to keep working. I find a lot of hope in the people who get up every day and try to make a difference, because what is our alternative?”

Because really, what *is* the alternative? [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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CSTPR 2016 Annual Report

January 1 – December 31, 2016
Full Annual Report [pdf]

Working to improve how science & technology policies address societal needs through research, education and service

The Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR) was established within CIRES in 2001 to conduct research, education, and outreach at the interface of science, technology, and the needs of decision makers in public and private settings. The Center’s vision is to serve as a resource for science and technology decision makers and those providing the education of future decision makers.  Our mission is to improve how science and technology policies address societal needs, through research, education and service.

As 2017 begins, it is a great opportunity to reflect on our accomplishments and ongoing endeavors here in the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR). In these urgent and opportune times, CSTPR core faculty, staff, postdocs, graduate and undergraduate students have constructively addressed many pressing, dynamically changing and important science, technology, and policy issues before us. These efforts have further been invigorated by visitors we have hosted during 2016, who have contributed to furthering our CSTPR mission. Through research, teaching and service projects to improve our understandings of how the quality of decision-making can catalyze and enhance webs of interaction between science, technology, politics, policy and society, members of the CSTPR community have engaged in a range of activities that are outlined in the pages that follow here.

Collectively, we in CSTPR have identified four priority areas of engagement with our ongoing work:

  1. Science and Technology Policy: we forge ahead with analyses of decisions at the science-policy interface, including making public and private investments in science and technology, governing the usability of scientific information, and critically engaging the scientific and technical construction of emerging issues.
  2. Innovations in Governance and Sustainability: we continue to study innovations in governance and the complexity of sustainability challenges, including the development of new institutions that transcend conventional political boundaries or bring actors together in new ways, new tools and experimental interventions for inducing behavioral change or enabling participation in decision making, and new forms of association in the creation and protection of collective goods.
  3. Drivers of Risk Management Decisions: we move ahead with interrogations regarding how individuals and institutions – at local, regional, national, and international scales – make decisions to respond and adapt to perceived risks, and what factors promote or inhibit effective decision making.
  4. Communication and Societal Change: we press forward with experimentation and critical analyses of communication strategies and engagement in varying cultural, political and societal contexts.

You’ll spot imprints of these key themes among the highlights noted in this report, through our ongoing investment in the Science and Technology Policy graduate certificate program, the revamped Prometheus 2.0 blog, our brownbag seminar series, the American Association for the Advancement of Science Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering (AAAS CASE) workshop student competition, and the CU-Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre internship program. These are just some of the many important commitments that we have made in 2016 that continue into this year and beyond.

From my vantage point as Director of CSTPR, I am very proud of our CSTPR efforts to develop, maintain and continue active collaborations so that scientific work finds traction in science-policy and public arenas at CU Boulder and beyond. I hope you will enjoy reading through this report and getting a sense of our accomplishments from 2016, and our activities going forward.

Max Boykoff, Director
Annual Report [pdf]

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More Than Scientists: So what’s our story going to be?

Rebecca Safran, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado Boulder

There have been many moments in human history when people have come together and created revolutionary change for the better. There have also been many human civilizations that have fallen because of massive changes in climate. So Rebecca asks, what’s our story going to be? [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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New Data for Old Problems

by Justin Farrell, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Yale University

What should social scientific research look like in this so-called age of “big” data, where everything is connected, and seemingly everything is digitized? Here I want to briefly reflect on some of the promises of new data and research methods, and consider the ways that we might integrate these computational approaches with traditional qualitative fieldwork. My main claim is that while the Internet has certainly transformed the world, our methods for understanding and explaining social life have not kept pace.

We live our life in a huge connected network. We check emails, make cell phone calls, text our friends, swipe our credit cards, communicate on social media, post videos, send money, or purchase our goods. Almost every transaction is recorded digitally, as doctors create digital records of our health, stores log our buying patterns, and so on, and so forth. Until recently, these behaviors—such as a simple phone call or simple store purchase—were not easily traceable. These digital “breadcrumbs” were not gathered. There were no digital timestamps or digital text duplicates of a handwritten note, or a cash exchange. Of course, this raises ethical concerns about privacy, of which certainly need to be front and center as scholars working outside of the private sector figure out how to incorporate this data into research for the public good.

In addition to the things we use everyday, such as cell phones, tablets, and computers, there is also a burgeoning “Internet of Things” that provides opportunities for data collection to inform social scientific study. Examples might include environmental monitoring commonly used in other fields, such as sensors for water quality, atmospheric and soil conditions, movements of wildlife, earthquake and tsunami sensors, gas and wind turbine sensors measuring efficiency and cleanliness of energy. All of these (can and should) be of use for social research. Or consider human health, such as heart monitors or movement monitors, all of which provide real-time streams of data and can be monitored and collected remotely. All of these types of data are much more accurate than conducting a survey to ask for self-reports.

On top of all of this new data that is created and recorded every day is the digitization of old information, such as books, newspapers, photographs, speeches, television programs, websites, and any other written or spoken word. For example, Google is currently archiving all books ever written. They write, “Our ultimate goal is to work with publishers and libraries to create a comprehensive, searchable, virtual card catalog of all books in all languages that helps users discover new books and publishers discover new readers.” Google has now scanned more than 25 million books, available to read, search, and analyze.

Or consider the Internet Archive, where you can search this history of more than 286 billion historical web pages (!!!), 3.3 million movies, or 200 terabytes of government material. Still more, consider the HathiTrust, a large-scale collaboration between dozens of universities and libraries, who has archived tens of millions of books and articles that are all full-text searchable.

This flood of new data is exciting, and must be taken advantage of by folks in academia. Our methods training must adapt—especially to include text analysis and network analysis—not because of an obsession with the shiny new objects, or because it is trendy, but because it is our responsibility as researchers to use the best data available in service of our research questions, theories, and applied solutions.

To conclude, I want to provide a few concrete examples. The first is a study I conducted to map out in great detail, and at full-scale, the climate change counter-movement. Drawing on some of the sources described above, I collected every text ever written from every climate contrarian organization (more than 39 million words), as well as mapping out the entire social network of organization and individuals with ties to the movement. You can read these papers here:

Farrell, Justin. 2016. “Network Structure and Influence of the Climate Change Counter Movement”, Nature Climate Change 6(4), 370-374.

Farrell, Justin. 2016. “Corporate Funding and Ideological Polarization about Climate Change”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113(1), 92-97.

The second is from my recent book on environmental conflict, where I paired the data and methods described above with in-depth qualitative fieldwork. My goal was to discover something new about the nature of conflict over environmental science, as well as to show how traditional ethnographic fieldwork can provide ground truth, working in tandem with computational methods.

Farrell, Justin. 2015. The Battle for Yellowstone: Morality and the Sacred Roots of Environmental Conflict. Princeton University Press.

In the end, we must use all the tools at our disposal in order to continue to move forward to creatively address the problems at the intersection of society, politics, and environmental science.

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Navigating with Intention: CSTPR alumnus Bets McNie talks about her career and future

by Alison Gilchrist, CSTPR Science Writing Intern

Elizabeth “Bets” McNie was part of the first ever graduate student cohort at the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR). She knows that CSTPR is a special place.

“Being part of the community here was the best part,” says McNie. “I’m still really good friends with a lot of the students who were in my cohort. There’s a sense that the people here ‘get’ the importance of the science-policy nexus, and that’s one of the things that really appeals to me.”

McNie has studied the connections between science and policy ever since. During her PhD, McNie studied how a program called The Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessment (RISA) produces usable data for decision makers. These studies showed her how difficult it can be to cross the stormy waters between scientists and policy-makers, but how important it is to cross those waters.

“CSTPR made me appreciate how complex the landscape is between science and policy, and how it needs to be navigated with intention,” said McNie. “It’s not simply about producing the information and plopping it on someone’s desk in a glossy brochure. It’s really about working intentionally with the intended users of the information to try and produce information that they can use and will use.”

She says that “navigating with intention” requires that those two groups of people, the scientists and the users of the science, interact frequently and work to understand each other’s capabilities and limitations.

McNie had navigating experience before joining her PhD cohort at CSTPR—but in a very different context. After graduating from the California State University Maritime Academy, she worked as a U.S. Merchant Marine Officer on containerships, oil tankers, and offshore oil-drilling rigs. She also worked as a training officer and lecturer at her alma mater.

“Teaching has been my passion,” McNie says about her career so far, and it shows. Her explanation of how to navigate with sextants makes even a landlubber like myself feel more confident about stepping onto a ship.

McNie left CSTPR with her PhD and worked at Purdue University before returning to Boulder to join Western Water Assessment, where she works currently. Western Water tries to produce usable climate information for users in the Rocky Mountain West. They aim to connect scientists to decision makers so that users of the data that the scientists produce can specify what kind of data is most helpful. There are times when the scientist can’t produce the information that the decision makers want, so the scientists will propose what they can do instead.

“It’s an iterative, back-and-forth dialogue between researchers and decision makers,” says McNie. “I love the colleagues I get to work with at Western Water. They’re passionate about creating climate information that people can work with.”

Ever navigating with intention, however, McNie will be taking a tenure-track job at the California State University Maritime Academy. She’ll be teaching in the department of Marine Transportation and will continue to do research on usable science, but in the maritime industry. Although this is a job she was elated to take, she’s sad to leave CSTPR behind.

“This is a special place. I have a lot of fond memories here, and I’ve had the opportunity to work with really great people here.”

She hopes to continue collaborating with people from CSTPR, and she will continue to spread the word that CSTPR is a community of like-minded people who really understand the science-policy nexus.

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Inside the Greenhouse Newsletter, Issue #7

Issue 7 | May 2017
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As this critical year unfolds, we at Inside the Greenhouse are as determined as ever to work to meet people where they are and ‘re-tell climate change stories’ from a range of perspectives. Through this commitment we seek to help make sense of 21st century climate challenges. As a key part of our ongoing efforts, we remain steadfast in our commitment to help students build confidence and competence in order to deepen our understanding of how to effectively address issues associated with climate change.

So far in 2017, among many research, teaching and other endeavors, students in our Spring semester course carried out 2017 ‘Stand Up for Climate’ comedy night experiment, culminating in a live performance at historical Old Main Theater on the campus of the University of Colorado (CU) Boulder in March. Along with this event, we successfully carried out our 2017 International Comedy & Climate Change Video Competition in collaboration with the Center of the American West. Also, our students successfully conducted ten more interviews for the More Than Scientists (MTS) project, featuring important scholars and practitioners in the Boulder area. Inside the Greenhouse participants have now produced more than three dozen interviews through this collaboration. And, through a new partnership with Boulder-based Recycled Runway, students from our Spring course were matched with Recycled Runway youth designers to tell their stories of material choices and motivations through short videos of sustainable fashion sewn in with creative expression. Recycled Runway, a program dubbed ‘teens transforming trash’, held their impressive 8th annual fashion showcase at the sold-out Boulder Theater on April 18th. For an after show gathering, on May 7th Inside the Greenhouse then hosted Recycled Runway for film showings at the CU Museum of Natural History (see below for more about the event).

As we continue to carry out these projects through wonderful collaborations and partnerships linking campus and community as well as the local with the global, support from you is vital.

Please visit our donation page to provide a tax-deductible gift. Any amount helps us as we move forward with our work.

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

Course Spotlight
This Spring 2017 semester at CU Boulder, Beth Osnes and Max Boykoff co-taught the second course in our two course Inside the Greenhouse series. The interdisciplinary course is called ‘Creative Climate Communications’ and is cross-listed between the Environmental Studies program, the Department of Theatre and Dance, and the CU Boulder Atlas Institute. Garrett Rue (alum from the 2012 Inside the Greenhouse course) helped as our Teaching Assistant while Barbara McFerrin (alum from the 2014-2015 Inside the Greenhouse course series) worked as our More Than Scientists composition coordinator and general Adobe Premier mentor. And intern Tara Riedl joined us from the Arts and Sciences Support of Education through Technology (ASSETT) to facilitate the Green Suits your City project. Read more …

Event Highlight
On a Sunday afternoon, local middle and high school fashion designers came to see the premiere of short films about them and their artistic process. Hosted by the CU Museum of Natural History, on May 7, 2017 students in the Creative Climate Communication Course joined designers and their families to share the films they had made chronicling the process of each young designed and highlighting the product—an outfit made entirely of recycled materials. This event included thirty-three 2-minute films, featuring young designers who participated in the Recycled Runway Fashion Show at the Boulder Theatre and featuring the process and the larger Recycled Runway endeavor. At the wildly successful April 18 sold-out event at the Boulder Theater in Boulder, Colorado, young designers presented their original garments that were comprised of found and recycled materials. The event at the Boulder Theatre brought out the community in full force to celebrate this innovate approach towards sustainable living. Read more …

Alum Spotlight

Each newsletter we feature past students from our two-course series. This issue, we feature Ben Crawford, who took Rebecca Safran’s Fall 2015 course and then returned in Fall 2016 as a Teaching Assistant for the class. Ben offers some comments and reflections on his experience Inside the Greenhouse, in his own words:

Ben Crawford
My work with inside the greenhouse has been a huge catalyst in shaping the direction I want to go in life. I’ve always been incredibly interested in science communication, especially as it grows increasingly important in modern society. But in the past, my sole medium of communication was through writing. Inside the Greenhouse, through its Film and Climate change course, has provided me with an invaluable skill set that allows me the opportunity to communicate science through another, very powerful, medium; film. Read more …

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CSTPR Students and Researchers Moving on to New Positions

Several CSTPR graduate students who recently received their degrees, as well as two of our research scientists, will be moving on to new faculty or research positions. We are glad that their time at CSTPR helped prepare them for the next stage of their careers and wish them the best of luck!

Meaghan Daly (Ph.D. CU ENVS 2016) is now a Research Fellow with the ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council) Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at the Sustainability Research Institute at the School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, UK.

Katie Dickinson (Ph.D. Duke University 2008, current CSTPR Research Scientist) accepted a faculty position in the Colorado School of Public Health’s Environmental and Occupational Health department.

Elizabeth Koebele (Ph.D. CU ENVS 2017) will begin a new position July 1 as Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Nevada Reno.

Lydia A. Lawhon (Ph.D. CU ENVS 2016) is an Instructor in the Masters of Environment Program at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Lucy McAllister (Ph.D. CU ENVS 2017) recently accepted a position starting August 1 as a Core Visiting Assistant Professor/Core Renewal Fellow in Environmental Studies at Boston College.

Elizabeth “Bets” McNie (Ph.D. CU ENVS 2008, most recently Western Water Assessment Evaluation Coordinator) has taken a tenure track position at the California State University Maritime Academy in Vallejo, CA (her alma mater).

Amy Quandt (Ph.D. CU ENVS 2017, 2013 Red Cross intern) accepted the position of Global Coordinator with the LandPKS (Land Potential Knowledge System) project, a collaboration between the University of Colorado and New Mexico State University.

Jessica Rich (Ph.D. University of North Carolina 2016, current CSTPR Research Scientist) has accepted a position starting September 1 as an Assistant Professor in the Communications and Environmental Studies departments at Merrimack College (Massachusetts).

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Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?: Collaborative Governance on the Colorado River

by Elizabeth Koebele

The Colorado River weaves through the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico, providing water for over 40 million people, 5.5 million acres of irrigated farmland, and countless environmental and recreational assets along the way (United States Bureau of Reclamation 2012). Images of the mighty Colorado rushing through steep desert canyons and filling massive storage reservoirs can make the river’s flow seem limitless.

In reality, however, the Colorado River is largely over-allocated, meaning that more water has been promised to users than typically flows down the river each year (Kenney 2009). Now, climate change and a rapidly growing human population are exacerbating water shortages in the region, making the development of effective strategies to manage the Colorado River one of today’s most pressing challenges.

Conversations about water management in the American West tend to start from the same premise: here, “whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting” (United States Bureau of Reclamation 2017). As there’s less of the Colorado River to go around for the diverse users that depend on it, greater conflict seems imminent. Threats of impending “water wars” over the Colorado have become so forged into the region’s collective mindset that they’ve started to show up as plotlines for popular dystopian fiction novels, like Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife.

Fortunately, a core group of public and private water professionals, academics, journalists, and river enthusiasts have started to push back against these narratives of insurmountable conflict. In an attempt to find a more sustainable answer to the region’s water woes, these folks are promoting management approaches that help stakeholders find common ground and incorporate the flexibility necessary to cope with greater water supply variability. Although their specifics vary, these approaches hold a core tenet in common: any good solution must incentivize people to share, collaborate, and negotiate creatively rather than divisively (Fleck 2016; Limerick, 2016).

Called collaborative governance processes by academics, such approaches typically convene diverse stakeholders to build trust, share knowledge, and develop consensus-oriented management actions (Ansell and Gash, 2008; Emerson et al., 2012; Gerlak et al., 2013). While these approaches may require more time and financial resources than traditional, top-down policymaking processes, scholars and practitioners alike claim that they can generate more legitimate management strategies that result in greater resource sustainability with widespread benefits.

Collaborative governance experiments have begun to crop up across the Colorado River Basin. For instance, the state of Colorado recently led a 10-year “Basin Roundtable” process in which diverse stakeholders collaboratively assessed their water needs and potential solutions, leading to the production of Colorado’s first statewide water plan. Across the Basin, four water providers and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation collaboratively developed and funded the Colorado River System Conservation Pilot Program, which financially incentivizes voluntary water conservation actions to raise water levels in the region’s major reservoirs. Collaboration has even caught-on internationally: in 2012, the U.S. and Mexico signed a landmark agreement that outlined pilot collaborative actions for better managing the transboundary river while also reviving the desiccated Colorado River Delta.

Determining the effects of these programs and policies will ultimately require a test of time. For now, however, they suggest that collaboration is a promising—and necessary—alternative to the “water is for fighting” mindset that has dominated Colorado River management for so long.

This post is based on research conducted by Dr. Elizabeth Koebele for her dissertation project “Collaborative Water Governance in the Colorado River Basin: Understanding Coalition Dynamics and Processes of Policy Change.” Please contact Elizabeth at elizabeth.koebele@colorado.edu for more information and related publications.

Photo caption: Lake Mead’s “bathtub ring” demonstrates the effects of long-term drought and increased demand on the Colorado River. Photo Credit: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.


United States Bureau of Reclamation, 2012. “Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study: Executive Summary.”

Kenney, Douglas, 2009. “The Colorado River: What Prospect for “a River No More”?” In River Basin Trajectories: Societies, Environments, and Development, ed. F. Molle and P. Wester. Wallingford, U.K.: CAB International. 123-46.

United States Bureau of Reclamation, 2017. “Whiskey Is for Drinking, Water Is for Fighting!”, (January 23, 2017).

Fleck, John, 2016. Water Is for Fighting Over: And Other Myths About Water in the West. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.

Limerick, Patricia Nelson, 2016. Ditch in Time: The City, the West and Water. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing.

Ansell, Chris, and Alison Gash, 2008. “Collaborative Governance in Theory and Practice.” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 18 (4):543-71.

Emerson, Kirk, Tina Nabatchi, and Stephen Balogh, 2012. “An Integrative Framework for Collaborative Governance.” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 22 (1):1-29.

Gerlak, Andrea K., Tanya Heikkila, and Mark Lubell, 2013. “The Promise and Performance of Collaborative Governance.” In Oxford Handbook of U.S. Environmental Policy, ed. S. Kamieniecki and M. E. Kraft. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 413-34.

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MeCCO Monthly Summary for April 2017

Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO)
April 2017 Summary

April 2017 coverage of climate change and global warming decreased compared to the previous month, as coverage across all sources in twenty-eight countries showed an approximate 7% decrease compared to March 2017. Coverage of political, scientific, ecological/meteorological, and cultural dimensions of climate change decreased most prominently in Oceania, which saw more than a 20% decrease compared to the previous month. Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North America and South America all saw modest month-to-month decreases in coverage, while Africa (140%) was the only region to increase its coverage of climate change compared to March 2017. Overall, coverage across all sources in twenty-eight countries decreased approximately 25% compared to April 2016.

Despite an overall decrease in coverage, political themes in April 2017 focused on the Trump Administration’s dispositions towards the Paris Climate Agreement. Coral Davenport of The New York Times reported that Mr. Trump intends to make a decision before the Group of Seven (G7) meeting in May 2017 on whether or not the US will follow through with its commitments under the Agreement. Ms. Davenport suggested that Mr. Trump’s policy advisors are urging him to keep the US committed, while Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis at The Washington Post reported on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Chief Scott Pruitt’s recent comments suggesting the U.S. should withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. Both articles highlighted the uncertainty surrounding the US President’s forthcoming decision and the conflicting advice coming from different parties within the Administration.

Coverage of scientific and ecological dimensions of climate change in April 2017 centered on a number of new and recurrent reports of environmental degradation attributed to global climate change. As examples, several articles (see The Guardian and The New York Times) highlighted the recent and drastic changes to the Slims River in Northern Canada, which lost its water source to another nearby river during a period of intense melting affecting one of Canada’s largest glaciers. Jeremy Hance of The Guardian also summarized three recent academic studies that describe and document the negative impacts of climate change on Earth’s ecological processes and living organisms.

Spanning the boundaries of cultural, scientific, and political dimensions of climate change, both the ‘March for Science’ and the ‘People’s Climate March’ garnered significant coverage in April 2017. The ‘March for Science’ included a large demonstration in Washington D.C., but similar protests took place in hundreds of cities across the U.S. and around the world (see The New York Times). The Bangkok Post reported that Australia, New Zealand, and Germany also saw large turnouts as part of the ‘March for Science’. Another article in The Hindu by D. Balasubramanian described the important role of science and technology in India’s continued development and called for similar marches in India to support rational, evidence-based decision making.

Coverage also focused on the ‘People’s Climate March’, which took place April 29th, 2017. While the ‘People’s Climate March’ differed in topics, strategies and scope compared to the ‘March for Science’, there was some undeniable overlap between the two events (see The Washington Post). Nonetheless, each event garnered significant coverage in April 2017 that further underscored the dimensional intersections of science, culture and politics.

Figure Caption: Word frequency in climate change and global warming coverage in April 2017 from four Indian newspapers (left) and five US newspapers (right). For India: The Indian Express, The Hindu, the Hindustan Times, and The Times of India. For US: The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times.

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

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Science Won’t Save Colorado’s Mule Deer

by Abigail Ahlert, CSTPR Science Writing Intern

Decisions about wildlife management are often framed as scientific conflicts instead of political ones. In the case of Colorado’s mule deer, this is ineffective. It misrepresents science and keeps policymakers from making informed decisions.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) says that the state is about 110,000 mule deer short of a healthy population size. In an experimental effort to recover the deer population, CPW is moving ahead with predator control plans that would sanction the hunting of 15 mountain lions and 25 bears in the Piceance Basin and the Upper Arkansas River, despite widespread public opposition. Researchers have published multiple open letters criticizing the scientific foundation of the predator control plans. Environmental and animal rights organizations such as the National Wildlife Federation and the Humane Society of the United States have come out against CPW’s actions. On April 12th, the conservation non-profits WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, one of CPW’s predator control collaborators.

Science as a weapon or a shield

Critics say that the predator control plans are a poor application of scientific research. One opposition letter points out specific problems with their experiment design and statistical approach. Others claim that CPW’s scientific integrity is corrupted by their financial dependence on hunting licenses. Opponents of CPW are using science as a weapon against policy decisions.

CPW maintains that scientists don’t fully understand why the deer population is falling. They say that monitored predator culling is a way of gathering more information. “We’re in the business of learning,” said Jeff Ver Steeg, CPW’s Assistant Director for Research, Policy and Planning. “We are proposing to act in the form of research. We haven’t assumed [that the cause of the declining deer population] is predation. We haven’t assumed it isn’t.” They responded to the above-mentioned opposition letter by pointing out areas of scientific uncertainty in the critiques of the authors. CPW is using science as a shield to defend their choices.

The downfalls

One of CPW’s commissioners, Chris Castilian, said, “Our main motivation is to get to the bottom of the deer declines we’ve seen. … More science is always better.” Experience suggests that this hope is not only false but also exploitive of scientific research.

Science is not effective as a weapon or a shield. For example, both sides are trying establish themselves as the objective part of the story; this is clear from the accusations of corruption and the response of a CPW researcher (“We’re biologists. We don’t think about things in terms of economics — to a fault”). We assume that impartial science can provide infallible guidance. But science alone, no matter how objective, will never be able to show us the right choice. Science provides information, but it doesn’t answer the question, What should we do?

Additionally, both CPW and those against the predator control plans are targeting scientific uncertainties as weaknesses in the other’s argument. This will not settle the debate because science will always come with uncertainties. As science policy author Daniel Sarewitz writes in reference to climate change, “…more research and more facts often make a conflict worse by providing support to competing sides in the debate, and by distracting decision-makers and the public from the underlying, political disagreement.” Waiting for perfect scientific consensus on how human interventions impact mule deer populations only hinders our ability to make informed decisions with available data.

That available data, even with its uncertainty, is necessary in the decision-making process. But it can only be used productively after the social and political framework of a problem is addressed.

Changing the approach

When we draw back the curtain on scientific disagreement, we see how values are an unavoidable part of the problem. Some believe that culling is an inhumane practice. Killing predators betrays their idea of ethical environmental protection. Some think that living amongst undisturbed nature is a fundamental part of what it means to live in Colorado, and that killing predators degrades this authenticity. Others may accept culling as means to an end in our current wildlife conservation approach. It and other environmental interventions maintain Colorado’s hunting opportunities, and many people have built family traditions and social groups around this aspect of Coloradoan culture. These are differences in values, not scientific understanding.

The mule deer controversy also draws in one of Colorado’s largest value conflicts: oil and gas development. This is a divisive topic, which intersects issues of economic growth, land rights and the gaping political divide between Colorado’s urban centers and rural parts of the state. Critics of the predator control plans suggest that habitat degradation associated with oil and gas activities could be negatively affecting the deer population more so than predators. Connections between energy development and environmental decisions, such as mule deer population control, will almost always present a tangle of competing financial and social priorities.

This tangle can be manageable but not when veiled behind science. Two steps must be taken before science can contribute to the problem of the declining deer population. To begin, we must collect a transparent record of mule deer stakeholders and their values. Who has a vested interest in mule deer? Why? The answers to these questions will help us better understand the mule deer issue without first dragging science through the political dirt.

Next, we must formulate concrete goals. There should be frank policy discussions of options to meet stakeholder needs. The political system is made for these kinds of fights. Only after the moral punches have been thrown can science inform decision-making, because the question will have changed from What should we do? to How can we do this?

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AAAS “CASE” Workshop Reflections by Caroline Havrilla

Each year CSTPR hosts a competition to send two CU Boulder students to Washington, DC to attend the AAAS “Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering” workshop.

During the workshop portion, the winners learned about the structure and organization of Congress, the federal budget and appropriations processes, and tools for effective science communication and civic engagement. In addition, the winners participated in interactive seminars about policy-making and communication.

Below are comments by Caroline Havrilla about this year’s workshop. Read also comments by the other AAAS “CASE” winner, Adalyn Fyhrie.

Participating in the 2017 AAAS Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering (CASE) Workshop in Washington, D.C. was a truly transformative experience for me as a scientist. The three‐day workshop was a thought‐provoking crash course in science policy, in the company of a diverse cohort of scientists from around the country, and exposed me to the complex world of policymaking. Each day of the workshop was jam‐packed with a cohesive line‐up of sessions with talks from speakers who shared with us their expertise on a wide range of topics in science policy. We learned about policymaking, the federal budget process, and importantly, how scientists can advocate for science and contribute to decision making within the science policy realm.

One consistent message throughout the workshop was the important distinction between “policy for science” and “science for policy.” Policy for science mostly refers to the federal budget process and the allocation of federal funds to scientific research and development. Science for policy, on the other hand, is the process whereby scientists communicate science to policymakers to inform policy-­making. During the CASE workshop, my cohort first learned about policy for science, mainly focusing on the many challenges of the federal budget process, and how these challenges impact science. One particularly striking issue we were exposed to concerned the balance, or perhaps more fittingly, the imbalance, between mandatory and discretionary spending in the US federal budget. Mandatory spending, comprised of entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, makes up about two thirds of the circa $4.1 trillion US federal budget. Discretionary spending on the other hand, makes up only a third of the federal budget. Because there is bipartisan opposition to cutting entitlement programs, when the budget needs to be trimmed, cuts are made to the non-­defense discretionary budget, which is already a fairly small slice of the budgetary pie. Unfortunately, this is the category in funding for scientific organizations like NSF, NASA, and the EPA fall, making those programs vulnerable to budget cuts when their activities are not deemed “necessary” spending. For me, learning about this aspect of the federal budget process brought into perspective the overarching challenges of continued federal science funding, and made it clear that effective advocacy for science is critical.

After learning about the intricacies of policy for science, we turned our focus science for policy, and how to become more effective science communicators. According to many of the science policy officials we met with in Washington, scientists often miss out on valuable opportunities to effectively communicate their science for policy because their messages often misalign with the needs of policymakers. This misalignment often results from fundamental differences in what information science and policy spheres incorporate into their decision making processes. Policymakers often make decisions based on big‐picture, culturally‐based value systems, while, in contrast, scientists typically make decisions based on highly specific, data‐based evidence. Scientists can more effectively communicate with policymakers by 1) recognizing this communication barrier exists, and 2) incorporating storytelling and discussions of the applications and benefits of their research to addressing broader societal issues. Science is only one small piece of the decision making process, but by aligning research to economic, environmental, and societal outcomes, we can better advocate for incorporation of science into policymaking. On Hill Visit Day, the last day of the CASE workshop, my cohort members and I had the incredible opportunity to visit the Hill and advocate for scientific research with Congressional members and their staffers. With the help of the AAAS staff and our Hill guide, Heather Bené (staff member at CU’s Office of Government Relations), we had the opportunity to practice communicating our science and advocating for the incorporation of basic and applied scientific research into policymaking.

I am tremendously thankful to the the University of Colorado Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR), the Center for STEM Learning, and Graduate School for sponsoring my participation in the CASE workshop and look forward to incorporating science policy in my future career.

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AAAS “CASE” Workshop Reflections by Adalyn Fyhrie

Each year CSTPR hosts a competition to send two CU Boulder students to Washington, DC to attend the AAAS “Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering” workshop.

During the workshop portion, the winners learned about the structure and organization of Congress, the federal budget and appropriations processes, and tools for effective science communication and civic engagement. In addition, the winners participated in interactive seminars about policy-making and communication.

Below are comments by Adalyn Fyhrie about this year’s workshop.

I reached the end of two and a half days invigorated, inspired, and exhausted. I left with more questions than I had arrived with, which I took as a sign of the intensity and breadth of knowledge that I had been exposed to. The CASE workshop provided discussions with an impressive lineup of experts in the field of science policy, from members of Congress to employees of national science agencies. Each moment and every speaker was an opportunity to crack the world of science policy open and I was not about to let that chance go to waste.

I was impressed to learn about the breadth of science policy that is present in our nation’s capitol. For starters, “science policy” has different definitions — there is science for policy (using science to make policy decisions that are backed by scientific facts) and policy for science (making policy that provides scientific funding and support for research and development). The CASE workshop focused on policy for science, how it is made, and how to advocate for it.

The workshop also exposed me to the wide variety of people who contribute to policy for science. Going in, I knew that members of Congress were important to science policy (they are the ones making the policies, after all), but the CASE workshop demonstrated that they are just the tip of the iceberg. Among many other contributors, there are also scientists who are employed to provide reports and briefings on science-related matters for members of government, employees of national science agencies, and scientists who come for a single day to advocate for science funding. During the CASE workshop I fit into the final category (scientist/advocate), but I had a lot of learning to do before I felt ready to meet with our members of Congress and their staff on the final day of the workshop.

In order to effectively advocate for policy for science, we had to first understand how policy is made and the essence of the mechanics of government. The two biggest takeaways for me were: first, that government doesn’t work the way it appears to in the news or during election time (it is, in general, much less partisan). Second, that governance is much more emotional than logical (stories can be more effective than facts). Honestly, these were counterintuitive to me, especially the importance of stories instead of facts in getting policy to pass. Many scientists (and I am no exception) want to solve problems with logic and facts, but this is not the most effective way to advocate for science and science funding to Congress. People respond to stories, and that is what we had to deliver.

I started the workshop with a tenuous idea of what science policy was and how one could get involved with it as a career. By the last day, I was meeting with members of Congress and their staff and requesting continued funding of the sciences in the upcoming budget. The CASE workshop gave me confidence in my abilities as a science advocate and insight into the myriad of career options in science policy.

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Lauren Gifford Receives First Radford Byerly, Jr. Award in Science and Technology Policy

Rad Byerly, Jr., passed away last year after an impressive career that included more than twenty years as staff on and ultimately Director of the Science Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

He also was Director of the Center for Space and Geosciences Policy at CU Boulder.  Rad spent the last years of his career with the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR) at CU Boulder, where he was known as a mentor, adviser and friend with a wicked sense of humor.

CSTPR launched the Radford Byerly, Jr. Award in Science and Technology Policy in recognition of Rad’s contributions to and impact on the CSTPR community.  Thanks to several generous donations CSTPR was able to offer a $1500 award to a graduate student this year. (We are soliciting donations for future awards here.)

Following a selection process, Lauren Gifford was chosen to receive the first Byerly award.

Biography: Lauren Gifford is a PhD candidate in Geography at CU Boulder. Her research explores the intersection of global climate change policy, conservation, markets and justice. Her dissertation asks how, and by whom, climate and conservation policies are enacted– with a focus on forest carbon offset development in Maine and Peru. She is an appointed member of the City of Boulder’s Human Relations Commission, is a long-time environmental justice advocate, and has been an active participant in the United Nations climate change negotiation process. She holds an MA in Environmental Studies from Dartmouth College and a BA in Communications from American University.

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Recycled Runway Challenges Colorado’s Youth to Design Eco-Friendly Haute Couture

303 Magazine
April 21, 2017

Now in its eighth year, The Common Threads Creative Lab’s Recycled Runway has become a staple event for the community’s fashionable and eco-conscious youth. During Tuesday’s sold-out show, more than 30 young designers strutted the stage at The Boulder Theater, wearing outfits made of freezer bags, parts of old shoes, suitcase lining and sunglass lenses. Flashes of silvery braces lit up the room as the middle and high school students proudly showed dozens of screaming fans what had taken each of them months to create. “The girls really grow through this process,” said attendee, Laurie Snyder. “It has meant a lot to Olivia to have the support of her friends, the mentors in the program and her teachers at Centennial Middle School.” Snyder’s daughter, Olivia, won Best Design for her ensemble, a look inspired by the most recent Victoria’s Secret runway show that she used bike tubes and wire from an old fence to create.

Recycled Runway is an independent study workshop and fashion competition for middle and high school students, grades 6 through 12. Common Threads’ Creative Lab provides mentors for the students to teach them the basics of making the garments and guide them through issues that may arise. Other than that, the students are on their own to conceptualize and create the elaborate garments we saw at Tuesday’s show. Many of the students start planning and collecting materials a year ahead of time, carefully considering what they use and how they alter it. Designers who decide to color their garments even use thoughtful choices when it comes to dye. Holly Shafroth, an 8th grader from Casey Middle School, used turmeric to dye her dress, and Sydney Canova, a 7th grader from Casey Middle School who won Runner-Up, used recycled paint she got from the local hazardous waste disposal site to color the dryer sheets on her dress. Additionally, the Recycled Runway program donates the net profit generated from the show to a local nonprofit annually. This year, the recipient was Attention Homes, an organization that is dedicated to providing youth and young adults ages 12 to 24 with the ability to live independently. The organization’s services include shelter, community-based living and education about life skills.

This year is especially exciting, as it marks the first time the event was a collaboration with the University of Colorado Boulder. Students from a Creative Climate Communications class led by associate professor Max Boykoff from the Environmental Studies program and associate professor Beth Osnes from the Department of Theatre and Dance interviewed Recycled Runway designers, documented their work and created a presentation and short film. “We were prompted to engage in this collaboration because Recycled Runway has clearly been a treasure in Boulder over the past eight years, empowering young adults through these connections between design and consumer waste,” said Boykoff. “Connecting students from the Creative Climate Communications class with RR8 designers helps everyone involved to better understand varying perspectives and motivations that bring them together to creative and multi-modal expressions of climate change and the environment.” Read more …

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From Trash to Treasure – Telling the Story of Sustainability

CU Boulder Today
April 20, 2017

by Kristin Agnes

While plaid and shearling were all the buzz on the fall 2017 fashion runways in New York and Milan earlier this year, Boulder took a different approach to fashion trends: promoting climate communication on the catwalk. Enter chicken wire, plastic bags and rubber bike tires transformed into artful expressions that lend themselves to the discussion of growing environmental concern.

This was at Recycled Runway—a visionary event hosted by The Common Threads Creative Lab and in collaboration with community partners, including CU Boulder. Tuesday, April 18, saw the eighth annual runway show, where CU Boulder students partnered with middle and high school students across Boulder County to share the story of sustainability. The Recycled Runway designers were challenged to create fashion couture made solely of recycled materials.

CU students were there to document the creative process as a part of CU Boulder’s Creative Climate Communications class, an ATLAS course taught by Associate Professor Max Boykoff (Environmental Studies and CIRES) and Associate Professor Beth Osnes (Department of Theatre and Dance). The course challenges students to communicate heavy, and often controversial, topics such as climate change. The Recycled Runway project, in particular, teaches CU students the value of visual communication via video documentation, as each student chronicled the creative journey of the Recycled Runway designers.

“Connecting students from the Creative Climate Communications class with Recycled Runway designers helps everyone involved to connect fashion with considerations of climate and environmental impact through these creative works,” Boykoff says.

Aside from an evening of avant-garde design and effective environmental messaging, this year’s event also helped youth in crisis. All of the proceeds from the event were donated to Attention Homes, an organization working to provide life-changing resources such as behavioral, emotional and career-related support to young people.

Unlike most fashion runways, Recycled Runway is impact-centric. But in a sense, Recycled Runway is similar to the high-end fashion system in general. Haute couture originally served as inspiration for the ready-to-wear fashion that would follow—permeating the entire fashion hierarchy and influencing fashion trends designed for the general public. For Recycled Runway, instead of the color, cut or style influencing trends, the goal is to affect ways of thinking—sharing a message that could permeate thoughts and actions. The message has even more impact since it is conveyed through a commodity familiar to everyone: clothing.

Fashion itself is reportedly a toxic business, considered one of the more polluting industries in the world. Sharing sustainable messages in this field could be highly valuable. However, beyond the fashion industry itself is the opportunity to teach young people how to communicate important, controversial topics in a way that has social impact. Read more …

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Renewable Energy: Now This is How Policy is Supposed to Work!

by Paul Komor, CSTPR Faculty Affiliate and Suzanne Tegen, CSTPR Visiting Scholar

We are at the early stages of a major transformation of our energy system. And that transformation is being driven by thoughtful government intervention that promotes human health and protects the natural environment. At a time when the very concept of progressive and science-based environmental policy is under attack, this can serve as an example of how policy is supposed to work: policy boosts market demand for renewable energy, which in turn inspires technological innovation, catalyzes private capital investment, and transforms markets.

Here’s that story…but first, a short refresher from Policy 101: One role for government is to provide and protect public goods: products and services that provide public benefits, and for which use by one individual does not reduce availability to others. Examples include national defense, fresh air, and street lighting.

To provide and protect public goods and to solve overarching societal challenges (e.g., climate change), governments devise policy tools – informed by publicly-funded research – that guide, nudge, and steer private sector investment and decisions to take societal issues into account. As the private sector responds, governments gradually withdraw these policy tools, because the market internalizes those former externalities. Markets are created, private sector investment grows, technical innovation blossoms, and problem solved. Voila!

But it doesn’t really work that way, says the policy realist. That sounds good in theory, but in the brutal reality of policy-making, politics and special interests intervene and disrupt the process – resulting in policy decisions that don’t solve societal challenges or protect the public good, economic inefficiencies, and stifled innovation.

Well, in renewable energy, it really has worked that way. Over the last 15 years, governments have used a handful of innovative and thoughtful policies to promote renewable energy. And those policies are succeeding:

  • Since 2010, wind power costs have dropped 68%¹ and solar photovoltaic (PV) costs have dropped ~50%.²
  • In 2016, wind and solar PV accounted for over 60% of new electricity generation in the U.S. (EIA, 2017).
  • In 2015, renewables – mostly wind and solar PV – accounted for more than half of new electricity generation worldwide. Renewables worldwide now provide more electricity than coal. (IEA, 2016b).

What are those policies? In the US, many states use Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPSs), which are mandates that electric utilities obtain a minimum percentage or amount of electricity from renewable sources.   Although this policy tool has seen its share of controversy – notably the fear that it would drive up electricity prices – recent analyses find that electricity price impacts are minimal and public benefits significant (Wiser, R. et al, 2016; Heeter, J. et al. 2014). And these RPSs are phasing out, just as they should: as renewable energy adoption shifts from policy-driven to market-driven, utilities will meet their RPS requirements and the RPSs will fade away.

Also contributing to renewable energy’s massive recent growth and cost reductions are federal tax credits.  Tax credits can be risky, as they can lead to a politically influential constituency that is loathe to give them up.  In the case of renewable energy tax credits, however, Congress passed thoughtful legislation in 2015 that gradually removes them, and 2019 is the last year that renewable energy projects can qualify for the credit (U.S. Department of Energy, 2015).³

Other countries are using different policy tools (see e.g., Cox et al, 2015).  Auctions for renewable energy are quite popular, and have been very successful.  South Africa, for example, used renewable energy auctions to attract USD 14 billion in new private sector investment, and saw renewable energy prices drop by ~50% during just 2.5 years (Eberhard, A. et al. 2014).  Economic development gains were notable, and primarily benefited rural communities.  Noted a recent World Bank review, “[South Africa’s renewable energy auction program] has successfully channeled substantial private sector expertise and investment into grid-connected renewable energy in South Africa at competitive prices” (Eberhard, A. et al., 2014).

Wind and solar PV are expected to see continued rapid growth (IEA, 2016a). Adoption of wind and solar PV technologies, going forward, will increasingly be driven by market prices as the policies that support them fade away.  The public benefits (notably improved air quality and reduced carbon emissions) will flow to all. And thoughtful policy gets the credit.

1. This is for US, 2010-2016. Source is Wiser, R. and M. Bolinger, 2016.
2. This is for US utility-scale solar PV, 2010-2015. Source is Bolinger, M. And J. Seel, 2016. During that same time period, US residential solar PV prices fell 43%. Source is Barbose, G. and N. Darghouth, 2016.
3. It’s interesting to note that worldwide fossil fuel subsides have been decreasing as well, due largely to energy pricing reform. Yet fossil fuels subsidies are still more than twice as large as renewables subsidies (IEA 2016a).


Barbose, G. and N. Darghouth. August 2016. Tracking the Sun IX. Berkeley, CA: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Bolinger, M. and J. Seel. August 2016. Utility-Scale Solar 2015. Berkeley, CA: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Cox, S., S. Tegen, I. Baring-Gould, F. Oteri, S. Esterly, T. Forsyth, R. Baranowski. May 2015. Policies to Support Wind Power Deployment: Key Considerations and Good Practices. NREL/TP-6A20-64177. Golden, CO: National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Eberhard, A. J. Kolker, J. Leigland. May 2014. South Africa’s Renewable Energy IPP Procurement Program: Success Factors and Lessons. Washington, DC: World Bank Group.

EIA (United States Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration), “Renewable generation capacity expected to account for most 2016 capacity additions,” article dated 10 January 2017.

Heeter, J., G. Barbose, L. Bird, S. Weaver, F. Flores, K. Kuskova-Burns, and R. Wiser. 2014. A Survey of State-Level Cost and Benefit Estimates of Renewable Portfolio Standards. NREL/TP-6A20-61042 Golden, CO and Berkeley, CA: National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

IEA (International Energy Agency). 2016a. “Fact Sheet: World Energy Outlook 2016.”

IEA (International Energy Agency). 2016b. Renewable Energy Medium-Term Market Report 2016, 2016.

United States Department of Energy WINDExchange. 2015. Congress Passes Extension of Production Tax Credit, Investment Tax Credit. Published December 18, 2015.

Wiser, R., G. Barbose, J. Heeter, T. Mai, L. Bird, M. Bolinger, A. Carpenter, G. Heath, D. Keyser, J. Macknick, A. Mills, and D. Millstein. 2016. A Retrospective Analysis of the Benefits and Impacts of U.S. Renewable Portfolio Standards. NREL/TP-6A20-65005. Golden, CO and Berkeley, CA: National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Wiser, R. and M. Bolinger. August 2016. 2015 Wind Technologies Market Report. Berkeley, CA: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

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MeCCO Monthly Summary for March 2017

Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO)
March 2017 Summary

March 2017 coverage on climate change has increased again during the past month. Numbers across all sources in twenty-eight countries showed a 13% increase from February 2017 overall. Coverage of political, scientific, ecological/meteorological, and cultural dimensions of climate change issues increased most prominently in the United States (US) up 35% from February 2017, and a 60% increase from March in the previous year.

Daily newspapers from the Middle East covered climate change topics up 48% compared to the previous month. Climate coverage in South America also increased across all sources by 47% from February 2017. African coverage increased as well from February but was still down 13% from the previous March.

As for political themes, US and some United Kingdom (UK) sources continue to focus on US President Donald J. Trump and his climate politics. Clearly, Trump’s executive order promoting energy independence and economic growth mainly through reduced regulatory constraints on coal production spurred some of the coverage, but it was preceded in Australia and other places too in March. Another topic largely covered discusses EPA budget cuts alongside Pruitt’s statements about the allegedly negligible role of CO2 in climate change.

Also, emergent in March were a number of discussions across sources about the future of coal in the context of economics of energy and effects on climate change. For example, besides articles on Trump’s climate policies in German and US newspapers, China’s promises to stick to the Paris Climate Agreements has popped up in several sources throughout the month.

For German newspapers, climate coverage went up relating to Trump’s plans to dismantle former US President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan. German newspaper coverage portrayed opposition to Trump’s support of coal as a pathway to job creative and decreased unemployment.

Note new counts of climate change (“Klimawandel”) or global warming (“Globale Erwärmung”) in two German newspapers (Süddeutsche Zeitung and Die Tageszeitung) from January 2004 through the present. Figures are available here.

Stories connected to cultural themes populated articles on Earth Hour 2017. The WWF for example announced that 2017 has been the biggest Earth Hour event so far with 7000 cities and 184 countries participating in switching off the light for one hour on March 25 to set an example for climate protection.

In ecological/meteorological news, stories about the death of coral reefs due to ocean acidification and warming, and unusual high temperatures and rapid ice melt in the Arctic were published throughout the month of March around the world. For example a photo exhibition from James Balog tracks the worldwide melting of glaciers and shows results of his work on display at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry showing that “more than 90 percent of the world’s glaciers are melting”.

As 2017 takes hold, it remains to be seen to what extent the previously detected ‘Trump Dump’ – where 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 – will give way to sustained and substantive media engagement with climate change. March 2017 trends show mixed signals.

Figure Caption: Climate change and global warming coverage in March 2017 from US (left) and UK (right) sources. For US: The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times. For UK: 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.

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

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Media Coverage of Climate Change

Just Updated through March 2017
Global & 9 National Scales, *Germany just added

The Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO) monitors fifty-two sources across twenty-eight 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, Germany, India, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, United Kingdom, & United States

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Marisa McNatt Receives 2017 Summer Graduate School Fellowship

CSTPR Graduate Student Marisa McNatt was selected by the Environmental Studies Department and the Graduate School to receive a 2017 Summer Graduate School Fellowship.

Marisa is studying the offshore wind planning process and will apply lessons learned to improve state- and local-offshore wind and renewable energy policy.  For her dissertation, she is conducting a case-study comparison of the offshore wind planning and development processes that began in Rhode Island and New Jersey in the mid-2000s.  Rhode Island succeeded in constructing the nation’s first offshore wind farm, whereas New Jersey remains in the planning stages for offshore wind farm development.  The 2017 Graduate School Summer Fellowship supports Marisa’s travels to field sites in Rhode Island and New Jersey to gather observational and stakeholder interview data.

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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! info@sciencepolicy.colorado.edu

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

View Flyer

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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