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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Climate Fight Isn’t Just About Facts

by Alexander Lee

High Country News
February 3, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Anti-Immigrant Populism & Climate Change Denial

by Steve Vanderheiden

The Critique
January 15, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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AAAS “Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering” Workshop Student Competition

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

Application Deadline: February 14, 2017

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

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

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

Workshop Overview
Making our CASE:
Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering
April 2-5, 2017

A coalition of scientific and engineering societies, universities, and academic organizations has created an exciting opportunity for upper-class undergraduate and graduate students in science, mathematics, and engineering disciplines to learn about science policy and advocacy. This year’s workshop will take place on April 2-5, 2017.

More Information

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Joel Gratz, Founder of OpenSnow Creates 14er Forecast App

by Abigail Ahlert, CSTPR Science Writing Intern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ITG Comedy and Climate Change Short Video Competition

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

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

Competition Details

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

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

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

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

More Information

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

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

Environment and Planning A, 2017

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

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

CU Boulder Today
January 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Elite News Coverage of Climate Change

by Maxwell Boykoff and Gesa Luedecke

Oxford Research Encyclopedia, Climate Science
December 2016

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

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More Than Scientists: The First Step is Building Stronger Communities

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

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

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

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Changing Weather and Climate in Northern Ghana

Comparison of Local Perceptions with Meteorological and Land Cover Data

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

Regional Environmental Change
December 26, 2016

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

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

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

Updated through December 2016

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

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

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

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

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What’s Cooking in Ghana?

CSTPR research examines human behavior and cookstove use in West Africa

December 29, 2016

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

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

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

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

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Priority Schemes for Water Allocation in Australia and the Netherlands

by Steve Vanderheiden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Learn More About Climate Presents: Global Agreements and Local Solutions

by Leah Goldfarb, CSTPR Visiting Scholar

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

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

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

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



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Ogmius, Newsletter of CSTPR, Issue 45 is Now Out

Issue #45, Fall 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View Full Issue

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


by Alison Gilchrist, CSTPR Writing Intern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Inside the Greenhouse Newsletter, Issue #6


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

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

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

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

Course Spotlight

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

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

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

Collaboration Highlight

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

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

Alum Spotlight

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

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

Read entire issue …

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A Conversation with Max Boykoff: Climate Change and the Media


Boulder Magazine
Winter/Spring 2016-2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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More Than Scientists: Nature’s Support Systems and Us


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

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

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

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CU and the Boulder Climate Commitment


by Abigail Ahlert, CSTPR Science Writing Intern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


by Max Boykoff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Max Boykoff on Global Climate Talks: Moving Ahead


KGNU Science Show, How on Earth
November 15, 2016

Max Boykoff – Global Climate Talks – Moving Ahead With or Without US
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While the world has held climate talks for 22 years (This is COP – Conference of the Parties — 22) and the Kyoto Protocol talks about climate change have been held for 12 years, this year’s October’s climate talks in Paris mark the first time that  “entry into force” has been achieved.  You might think of “entry into force” as the time when a critical number of nations are ready to develop global treaties regarding climate and pollution and its effects around the world.  The 1st world meeting ever to talk about “Entry into Force” on climate issues is taking place right now, in Marrakech, Morocco.  200 nations have gathered to discuss these issues.  The meetings began just before the US elections.  Now Donald Trump is President Elect, and he has signaled that he will pull back from many of the nation’s current plans to reduce pollution and combat climate change.

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

Host/Producer/Engineer: Shelley Schlender


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U.S. Offshore Wind Energy Policy


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

by Marisa McNatt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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They may not like it, but scientists must work with Donald Trump


Jack Stilgoe and Roger Pielke Jr: As they recover from Donald Trump’s shock victory, US scientists must ask themselves three big questions.

The Guardian
November 11, 2016

Donald Trump has won. Science and scientists played almost no part in the campaign. Now, scientists must consider how they fit into a Trump future. This won’t be easy. Many scientists are scared. In the tribal world of US politics, many now find themselves on the outside looking in. Most university scientists are Democrats, and the 2017 President, House and Senate will all be Republican. For this group, nothing portends disaster more than the elevation of a long-time opponent to national and international policies, Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, to oversee the transformation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Even those academics who lean Republican (many of whom are engineers, since you ask) would despise Trump’s rejection of what a George W Bush adviser once dismissed as the “reality-based community” (that is, anyone interested in prioritising evidence over faith).

While speculating on details like who Trump will ask to replace John Holdren as his science advisor, scientists should not just be asking what Trump will do for them. They should face up to the difficult question of what they should be doing for Trump.

Some scientists will have to join the White House itself. When George W. Bush was elected, his administration had a hard time finding a scientist willing to serve as his science advisor. When Jack Marburger, a highly respected administrator and physicist who was also a Democrat, took the job he was excoriated by his peers and excommunicated from some scientific circles. We see hints of similar responses to Trump’s election already. Earlier this week the American Physical Society issued a press release congratulating Trump on his victory and encouraging him to “make sustained and robust funding of scientific research a top priority.” The APS received so many complaints that it felt compelled to retract it and issue an apology.

Some have already written off Trump’s yet-to-be-named science advisor. For instance, Robert Cook-Deegan of Arizona State University says, “For Trump, I’m not sure [his science advisor] would matter, because there won’t be any ‘policy’ apparatus… Science won’t get much attention, except when it gets in the way or bolsters support for a political priority.” Marburger was called a “prostitute” upon taking the position under Bush.

There are thousands of political appointees, including many science positions, that will need to be nominated, expert advisory bodies constituted and reconstituted, and experts put into staff positions under the White House. Any scientist who agrees to hold their nose and work with the Trump administration should expect much of the same criticism received by Marburger. Some, such as government scientists, will not have much choice but to engage. That is their job. The rest of the scientific community must still ask itself some difficult questions. We suggest three. Read more …

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More Than Scientists: Optimism, family, helping others …


With a big focus on family and helping others, Phil Talyor of INSTAAR shares his philosophy of life and optimism! [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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Jeff O’Neil, Legislative Assistant to US Congressman Ed Perlmutter


Augusto González has joined CSTPR through December 2016 while he is on an EU Fellowship from the European Commission in Brussels. Below is a portion of a blog post from Augusto’s Exploring Space Commercialisation in Colorado Blog.

Congressman Ed Perlmutter (Colorado) is a staunch advocate of space development and, notably, space exploration. He is a vocal proponent of Mars exploration and is leading a quest for human travel to Mars to take place in 2033 – a year in which planetary alignment would make the trip significantly shorter.

Congressman Perlmutter has a long record of fighting for the space sector and space programmes. When the Constellation programme was shelved, he spearheaded efforts to ensure the survival of Orion Multi-purpose Crew Vehicle, whose prime contractor is Lockheed Martin, a company with a strong presence in Colorado. He has also been active on regulatory issues, where the main preoccupation is that regulations meet the standards needed to keep up with industry development and that industry has the necessary legal certainty to conduct their businesses.

In Jeff’s opinion “commercial space” is a misnomer. U.S. space manufacturing companies are all commercial. However, most of these companies have traditionally done most of their work under federal government contracts. Therefore, speak of commercial space does not necessarily convey a clear idea of what is it that the expression actually refers to.
Clearly government investment in ISS – be it cargo or crew space transportation – is a powerhouse that enables the space companies growth. In Jeff’s opinion, Space X is no more commercial than Lockheed Martin or Boeing which have been traditional contractors for NASA. If dependence on federal government funding is what defines whether a space activity is commercial, there are companies that may be considered as more truly “commercial” than those mentioned before.

When looking into space activities one has to recognise that there are very different types of industries. Launcher industry is very specific and likely to remain closely connected to Federal government funding. Companies that seek to develop exclusively or primarily commercial business models, i.e. companies whose existence is not determined by or dependent on government funding, are in a different category. These companies are confronted with a different set of issues than those for which government funding is an essential lifeline. It may be necessary to see if there is a need for regulatory adaptations to cater for those differences. Read more …

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


In 2002, testifying before the Committee on Science in the US House of Representatives in a hearing on ‘New Directions for Climate Research and Technology Initiatives’, Rad Byerly quipped “Politics is not a dirty word. In a democracy it is how we resolve conflicts of values.” This articulate and insightful comment pierced the mood, and illustrated Rad’s keen ability to step up and confront vexing US science-policy challenges.

Rad passed away last January after an impressive career that included a postdoctoral fellowship at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (JILA) at CU Boulder, and more than twenty years as staff on and ultimately Director of the Science Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. 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.

In recognition of Rad’s contributions to and impact on the CSTPR community, CSTPR has established the Radford Byerly, Jr. Award in Science and Technology Policy.  Through this program CSTPR will present a monetary award in 2017 to a CU Boulder graduate student with a demonstrated commitment to making a significant contribution to science and technology policy in his or her work. The award competition will be announced sometime in early 2017.

Please consider making a donation to the award.  You can do so either by

  • Writing a check to the University of Colorado Foundation (reference # 0125500 on the subject line of the check—without this, the donation cannot be applied to the Rad Byerly award!).  Send the check to: Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, 1333 Grandview Ave., Campus Box 488, Boulder, CO 80309-0488. Attention Robin


Thank you for your support!

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More Than Scientists: I wish I could just scream and let everybody know how big this is!


A first-hand report as Mike MacFerrin at University of Colorado Boulder
shows us extraordinary ice melt on Greenland. What will be the effects of the changing climate and what gives him hope? [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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Drilling Narratives, Self-Government, and the Rights of Nature


by Jessica Rich, CIRES/CSTPR Postdoctoral Research Associate

Photo above: Strip mining site in the Ohio Valley, USA. Credit: Jessica Rich.

Over the past five years, I studied the narratives that emerged from conflicts over oil and gas drilling across the Midwestern United States. As a communication researcher, I am interested in how humans give meaning to changing environments but also how environments give meaning to human action. Speaking with residents living atop the Marcellus and Utica shale basins, I learned how place plays an active role in their lives at work and at home. While visiting a small Ohio Valley town, once known for its coal mines, I met a retired couple who grew up, settled down, and made their livelihood within a few square miles of their current home. As the region’s policymakers discovered the lucrative potential of unconventional drilling in the last decade, local communities saw their environment change dramatically but had little to no say in the environmental decision-making process. I toured the area with the couple I met, as they pointed out the drill sites, which had been built on top of old mining sites, which had been dug into a once agricultural landscape. The environment, whether mined, drilled, or farmed, actively participated in the couple’s narrative and their identity. Personal stories of the changing landscapes uncovered relations between community, the natural environment, and between individual and industrial histories.

Since arriving as a CIRES/CSTPR postdoctoral researcher in September and participating in ongoing conversations about environmental and climate policy, questions have begun to emerge for me about how nature is defined in policy and the narratives that these policies make possible. What meanings are given to human-nature relations in the policies that govern environmental decision-making? What assumptions underlie the socio-ecological relations that policy legitimizes? Too often, environmental policy is anthropocentric, sliding between conceptualizations of nature as a resource from which to profit and nature as an entity to be preserved for human enjoyment. Rarely, do policies encourage the right of nature to exist beyond its economic utility, bringing about consequences that are local and global.

As I begin my research of drilling discourses in the West, I am learning of the actions taken by some Coloradoans to fight for local control over oil and gas siting and development. The Colorado Community Rights Network’s efforts, in particular, highlight how human-nature relations intersect in the struggle for local self-government. In their official declaration, the CCRN “[joins] together with other statewide movements to amend the federal Constitution to elevate the rights of people and communities above the claimed rights of corporations, create legal rights for natural ecosystems, eliminate the commerce clause, and other impediments to local community self-governance.” Taking cue from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund and the UN Rights of Nature Law and Policy, not to mention a history of indigenous knowledge and action, CCRN’s proposal moves conceptualizations of human-nature relations from one based in ownership toward “recognizing that ecosystems and natural communities are not merely property that can be owned, but are entities that have an independent right to exist and flourish” and an awareness of the “inherent rights of Nature to exist, thrive and evolve.” While CCRN’s recent efforts to include their proposed measures in the November ballot were stalled, local proposals have been enacted elsewhere in the U.S. in response to unconventional drilling. The city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania passed a similar local self-government ordinance in 2010 in response to the growth of drilling in the Marcellus.

Communicating policy is a political act, and the meanings given to nature constitute the possibilities for its governance and have the power to reimagine cooperative narratives between humans and non-human nature. How nature is defined in policy, as seen with CCRN’s recent proposals, can encourage communities to reflect not only on nature’s meaning but also a shared purpose and fate. As I develop my post-doctoral research over the next two years, I look forward to connecting with researchers and local communities to develop more just ecological and political futures through policy and action.

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More Than Scientists Video: I Do Have Hope For The Future


Seeing and studying the environmental change around us gives Carol Wessman of CU Boulder a very intimate connection to the environment. And being among all the students at CU and seeing their skills and talent gives her hope and trust that we’re in good hands. [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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BoBW 2016: Recent Trends in Environmental Education and Education for Sustainable Development


by Lee Frankel-Goldwater

On September 26th, I had the fortunate opportunity to attend and present at the Best of Both World’s Conference on Environmental Education and Education for Sustainable development at YMCA in Estes Park just outside of Boulder. Driving into the parking lot in front of the log cabin conference hall, I found myself surrounded by mountains and embraced by the crisp clean air Colorado is so famous for. It was the perfect setting for an environmental educator’s research and practice gathering. Hope, passion and action are a hallmark of this community – an understanding drawing from a belief that social action, environmental protection, and humanistic integrity must intertwine to bring about transitions to sustainability. Moreover, this is a group of risk takers, as many outside the fold of environmental and educational program development perceive this work to be rose colored, and perhaps unworthy for inclusion in the agenda of large-scale initiatives for socio-environmental change. If this conference demonstrated any one point, it is that environmental and sustainability education have wide reaching implications for bringing about transitions towards worldwide understanding and community-based initiatives for empowerment and environmental justice.

Several workshops and sessions I attended exemplified this in particular and I encourage researchers and practitioners alike to explore these contributions for their own programs:

Citizen Science on the GO: New Mobile Tools for Environmental Education, Monitoring, and Research [Russanne Low, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, Arlington, VA, U.S.A.] Institute For Global Environmental Strategies

The Visionaria Network: Leadership and Empowerment Training [Kali Basman, The Visionaria Network, Los Angeles, CA, U.S.A.] Visionaria Network

ACEER’s Environmental Education Programs in Peru: Developing Citizens and Leaders in the Heart of the Amazon [Paul Morgan, West Chester University, West Chester, PA, U.S.A.] ACEER – Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research

My own presentation was on an authentic learning model I developed and tested for teaching whole systems thinking and environmental citizenship in an undergraduate classroom setting: Social Responsibility and the World of Nature – BoBW Conference Presentation by Lee Frankel-Goldwater. The effort was well received, though I humbly recognize that many researchers and practitioners are creating impacts far more significant than my own. Overall, it was the conference trends that were so fascinating for me. I share a few of these here to spark conversation, and would be glad to connect with readers interested in learning more about any of these items so we can continue to grow and learn together:

  1. Applications of digital technologies and communication tools are a major trend in environmental and sustainability education, and many researchers and practitioners are exploring expanded use for broader, leaner, and global impacts towards socio-ecological change.
  2. Environmental and sustainability education programs are an international phenomenon, though often localized, and networking these programs into global initiatives maybe a step to improving global environmental citizenship and scaling worldwide impacts.
  3. Community-based action research and citizen science can be vital contributions to knowledge alongside environmental and sustainability education practices. Learning to integrate these methods with wider disciplinary contexts in the natural and social sciences may help to bring about a day when we can achieve the elusive Best of Both Worlds.
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Spectacular Environmentalisms: Media, Knowledge and the Framing of Ecological Politics


by Michael Goodman, Jo Littler, Dan Brockington and Max Boykoff

Part of a Special Issue co-edited by Max Boykoff in Environmental Communication, 2016

As we move firmly into the so-called Anthropocene – an era defined by human-induced global environmental change, neoliberal, consumer capitalism and the unprecedented flow of media, knowledge and communication – how is it that we know about the environment? More specifically: how is it we know about human–environment relationships – those tension-filled, ever-present, often-obscured, but inescapable relationships that are most likely overlain by some form of a market? How do we know about the ecological destruction embedded in these current human–environment relationships? How do we know what to do about the increasingly solid specters of climate change and irretrievable biodiversity losses as well as the ordinarily polluted cities and fields many live in and count on for survival?

As we and the authors of this special issue of Environmental Communication contend, given the growing prominence of media and celebrity in environmental politics, we now increasingly know about the environment through different forms, processes and aspects of the spectacle and, in particular, the spectacular environments of a progressively diverse media-scape. Moreover – and forming the core focus of this issue – we argue that we are more and more being told about how to “solve” ecological problems through spectacular environmentalisms: environmentally-focused media spaces that are differentially political, normative and moralized and that traverse our everyday public and private lifeworlds.

The contributions published here derive from a series of UK-based Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Research Network-funded seminars and our own research projects. Hailing from a range of different disciplines including geography, media and cultural studies, environmental science, anthropology, sociology and development studies, we came together to try to better understand the relationships amongst spectacular forms of media and environmental issues. Initially prompted by the editors’ interests in celebrity politics in the context of global humanitarianism (Brockington, 2014 Brockington, D. (2014). Celebrity advocacy and international development. London: Routledge.; Goodman, 2010 Goodman, M. K. (2010). The Mirror of consumption: Celebritization, developmental consumption and the shifting cultural politics of fair trade. Geoforum, 41, 104116. doi: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2009.08.003[CrossRef], [Web of Science ®]; Goodman & Barnes, 2011 Goodman, M. K., & Barnes, C. (2011). Star poverty space: The making of the “development celebrity”. Celebrity Studies, 2(1), 6985. doi: 10.1080/19392397.2011.544164[Taylor & Francis Online]; Littler, 2008 Littler, J. (2008). “I feel your pain”: Cosmopolitan charity and the public fashioning of the celebrity soul. Social Semiotics, 18(2), 237251. doi: 10.1080/10350330802002416[Taylor & Francis Online]), philanthrocapitalism (Goodman, 2013 Goodman, M. K. (2013). Celebritus politicus: Neo-liberal sustainabilities and the terrains of care. In G. Fridell & M. Konings (Eds.), Age of icons: Exploring philanthrocapitalism in the contemporary world (pp. 7292). Toronto: Toronto Press.; Littler, 2009 Littler, J. (2009). Radical consumption: Shopping for change in contemporary culture. London: Open University Press., 2015 Littler, J. (2015). The new Victorians: Celebrity charity and the demise of the welfare state. Celebrity Studies, 6(4), 471485. doi: 10.1080/19392397.2015.1087213[Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®]) and the environment (Boykoff & Goodman, 2009 Boykoff, M. T., & Goodman, M. K. (2009). Conspicuous redemption? Reflections on the promises and perils of the “celebritization” of climate change. Geoforum, 40, 395406. doi: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2008.04.006[CrossRef], [Web of Science ®]; Boykoff, Goodman, & Curtis, 2009 Boykoff, M. T., Goodman, M. K., & Curtis, I. (2009). Cultural politics of climate change: Interactions in everyday spaces. In M. Boykoff (Ed.), The politics of climate change: A survey (pp. 136154). London: Routledge/Europa.; Boykoff, Goodman, & Littler, 2010 Boykoff, M., Goodman, M., & Littler, J. (2010). Charismatic megafauna’: The growing power of celebrities and pop culture in climate change campaigns. Environment, Politics and Development Working Paper Series, WP#28, Department of Geography, King’s College London. Retrieved from; Brockington, 2008 Brockington, D. (2008). Powerful environmentalisms: Conservation, celebrity and capitalism. Media, Culture and Society, 30(4), 551568. doi: 10.1177/01634437080300040701[CrossRef], [Web of Science ®], 2009 Brockington, D. (2009). Celebrity and the environment. London: Zed Books.; Goodman & Littler, 2013 Goodman, M., & Littler, J. (2013). Celebrity ecologies: Introduction. Celebrity Studies, 4, 269275. doi: 10.1080/19392397.2013.831623[Taylor & Francis Online]) – as well as by key media and environment texts by those in our network (Anderson, 2014 Anderson, A. (2014). Media, environment and the network society. London: Palgrave Macmillan.[CrossRef]; Doyle, 2011 Doyle, J. (2011). Mediating climate change. Aldershot: Ashgate.; Hansen, 2010 Hansen, A. (2010). Environment, media and communication. London: Routledge.; Lester, 2010 Lester, L. (2010). Media and environment. Cambridge: Polity Press.; Maxwell & Miller, 2012 Maxwell, R., & Miller, T. (2012). Greening the media. Oxford: Oxford University Press.) – our collective conversations ranged across the multiplicity of meanings produced through environmental mediation, the role of media industries in ecological politics, pro-environmental celebrity promotion, anti-environmental greenwashing, the locations of agency in environmental change and the psychosocial affective dis/connections with more-than-human natures.

Put another way, our interests lie in critically examining the contemporary cultural politics of the environment – those contested processes by which environmental meanings are constructed and negotiated across space, place and at various scales which, in this case, involve assemblages of science, media, culture, environment and politics. As the contributions to this issue demonstrate, these assemblages involve not only the “clear and present” spectacle-ized representations that gain traction in diverse media discourses, but also the many reverberations, feedbacks – and crucially – silences that heavily inform affective relationships with the environment. Interrogating the mediated features of spectacular environmentalisms through its solid and more ghostly forms—both of which are bound to positionalities, material realities and social practices (Hall, 1997 Hall, S. (Ed.). (1997). Representation: Cultural representation and signifying practices. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.) – illuminates questions of how power and influence infuse the constructions of varied environmental knowledges, norms, conventions and “truths.” In short, these politicized media processes influence a range of equally politicized ways of seeing, being with and relating to diverse environments through the tethering of the spectacular to the discourses and practices of the everyday (de Certeau, 1984 de Certeau, M. (1984). The practice of everyday life (S. Rendall, Trans.). Berkeley: University of California Press.; Cox & Pezzullo, 2015 Cox, R. J., & Pezzullo, P. (2015). Environmental communication and the public sphere (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.; Foucault, 1980 Foucault, M. (1980). Power/knowledge. New York, NY: Pantheon.). Read more …

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Climate Justice Beyond International Burden Sharing


by Steven Vanderheiden
Midwest Studies In Philosophy, 2016

Climate justice scholars have in recent years devoted considerable attention to the development and application of justice principles and frameworks to the architecture of global climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. The resulting scholarly literature is now rife with burden-sharing or resource-sharing mitigation prescriptions that call for far more aggressive actions than are ever considered as viable policy options, along with proposals for singular or hybrid principles for assigning adaptation liability that follow sound normative analyses but have gained little traction among policymakers (Gardiner 2013; Harris 2016; Moellendorf 2014; Vanderheiden 2007). With their gaze fixed primarily upon macro-level substantive policy outcomes, scholars have paid less attention to the way that justice might be applied at other levels of analysis and operationalized through the institutions of international climate policy development and implementation.

As a result, there now exists a rich scholarly literature on how much various state parties should contribute toward mitigation efforts or in adaptation aid, but little analysis of the links between the functioning of policy development institutions like those of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) or the implementation of mechanisms like REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation), which work toward the practical realization of climate justice. Indeed, the “justice” analysis of climate justice has been largely preoccupied with the international allocation of resources or burdens, rather than focusing upon allocations of such resources or burdens at other scales, procedures by which policies are developed and implemented, or how such resources are to governed. As a result, the gap between what scholars have called for as a matter of climate justice and what is politically and institutionally feasible has grown, with ideal theory work on environmental justice ironically making its own prescriptions appear to be decreasingly obtainable in consequence of their widening distance from the practical political means available for bringing them about.

This feasibility gap is, of course, no objection to the important work that has been done in articulating climate justice imperatives through normative principles and analytical frameworks of political theory and philosophy. As a critical discourse, climate justice necessarily stands at some distance from that which is politically feasible, and its absence of practical manifestation need not count against its critical power. Rather, the observations above are meant to highlight the narrow purview of much of the existing climate justice literature, which has richly developed analyses of the substantive ends of international climate policy—chiefly, the protection against exacerbated inequality resulting from either climate change itself or the policy measures adopted to address it—while paying comparatively little attention to the several other justice imperatives that apply to those same problems and policy efforts. Here, I hope to expand this purview by examining how justice might apply to other scales and aspects on international climate policy, along with how the causal or conceptual links between various incarnations of climate justice might sharpen understanding of the normative bases of its several imperatives. Read more …

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More Than Scientists Video: It’s An Exciting Time To Be Young


Following a historical perspective from the first early global warming forecasts, Brian Toon looks to us for solutions. And with so many opportunities to work on important problems, he suggests it’s an exciting time for young people to choose a personal mission! [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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AGU Chairs Caucus to Support Earth and Space Science in the House


by Abigail Ahlert, Science Writing Intern

The House of Representatives is getting a bad reputation when it comes to science. But there are a few Representatives—11 out of 435, to be exact—that are formally pushing for broader awareness and funding of Earth and space science. Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO-2) and Congressman David Jolly (R-FL-13) are Co-Chairs of the new House Earth and Space Science Caucus. The caucus launched on September 14, 2016 with a reception in the Rayburn House Office Building. Current members include:

Donald Beyer (D-VA-08)
Michael Capuano (D-MA-07)
Judy Chu (D-CA-27)
Mike Honda (D-CA-17)
Grace Napolitano (D-CA-32)
Ed Perlmutter (D-CO-07)
Mark Pocan (D-WI-02)
Scott Tipton (R-CO-03)
Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ-12)

When asked about his motivation for chairing the caucus, Congressman Polis said, “In the 21st century, it’s crucial to continue to broaden awareness and align policy with Earth and space sciences. The House Earth and Space Sciences Caucus will focus on placing scientific research and evidence in the forefront of congressional and national discussions, while also continuing to support ideas that will promote STEM education programs for the next generation.  I’m honored to be the Democratic Co-Chair and look forward to the accomplishments we’ll achieve.”

The caucus alliance is chaired by the American Geophysical Union (AGU), a non-profit scientific association with more than 62,000 members, which will also serve as the primary congressional contact. AGU has participated in caucuses before, such as the Hazards Caucus Alliance, but intends to play a more involved role in the House Earth and Space Science Caucus. AGU expects that chairing the caucus alliance will provide a more concerted community effort and greater participation in the events that they typically host on the Hill.

I asked Brittany Webster, Public Affairs Specialist at AGU, how the organization got involved with the House Earth and Space Science Caucus in the first place. She said, “In 2015, the House of Representatives had an authorizing and appropriations bill that included language that sought to deprioritize the geosciences. AGU and other organizations through education and advocacy efforts was able to get that language struck from legislation that eventually became law.” Building upon the momentum of these efforts, AGU and partnering organizations chose to form a caucus in the House of Representatives. They reached out to Congressmen Polis and Jolly to act as the chairs, whom Webster referred to as “champions of the geosciences’’.

In the 115th Congress (January 2017 through January 2019), the House Earth and Space Caucus aims to host quarterly events, starting with an “Earth and Space Science 101” briefing in the first 101 days of Congress and an additional briefing on a specific policy topic. They also hope to organize an exhibition highlighting public and private sector partners to demonstrate how Earth and space science addresses national needs. Finally, the caucus is planning an interactive field trip for Congressional staffers to visit a lab or center related to Earth and space science. All proposed events will be discussed and finalized in 2017.

AGU is currently looking for organizations to join the House Earth and Space Science Caucus alliance. For more information on how to get involved, contact Brittany Webster.

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Mountains of Possibilities


by Beth Osnes
Inside the Greenhouse and Theatre & Dance Department, CU Boulder

I’m on the RTD Skyride bus coming home to Boulder and, like every time I come home to Colorado, I am blown away by the majesty and beauty of this place. I feel gratitude to live where I can watch the sun set over plates of the earth’s crust jutting out into the sky. I’m coming home from the Imagining America Conference (#ImaginingAmerica) for publically engaged scholarship in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Reflecting on that experience while looking at that big sky over the Rocky Mountains, I feel a kind of rising of my own yearning to collide what I gained from this gathering with the work I am privileged to do with Inside the Greenhouse (@ITG_Boulder), an initiative on the CU campus for creative climate communication. How can we make our students’ creative artifacts jut out farther into the public conversation? How can we engage our students more thoroughly into the exceptional landscape of our natural environment and the expanse of the public conversation surrounding climate issues? At Imagining America I feel like I gained some great ideas for rejuvenating our work and describing our aims with even more urgency and purpose.

One of my favorite sessions of the conference (and the one that had the most direct relevance to the work I do) was entitled “Our Changing Climate” (#ourchangingclimate) and was presented by N. Claire Napawan, Sheryl-Ann Simpson, and Brett Snyder, all professors at UC Davis. They presented on a participatory environmental design project that engages San Francisco Bay Area communities with issues of climate change by integrating youth perspectives with social media. At one point we were sent out in groups to explore aspects of community resilience we spotted on the campus of UW Milwaukee. I loved their approach to participatory urbanism that engages non-designers in thinking about the design for their city. Their focus on engaging youth voices in city resilience planning is related to my work using performance towards the same aim.

Night has fallen in the fifty minutes it took to get from the airport to Boulder. I can’t see our mountains anymore, but I know they are there. Although each of us from Imaging America has returned to our respective homes, we hold the knowledge that we are part of a vibrant community of artists, designers, and publicly engaged scholars rejuvenated in imagining what America can be and how our roles in higher education can give expression to that dream. The bus driver just called my stop. Chances are I’ll make it home in time for dinner.

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Augusto González On EU Space Policy


by Alison Gilchrist,  Science Writing Intern

On October 12th at noon, Augusto González will give a seminar (available via webcast) at the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR) about the European Union and space: the history of Europe’s space policy, how Europe is currently handling space policy and commercialization, and future EU objectives.

Augusto González has worked for the European Union (EU) for almost 30 years. He started on a temporary contract and in 1991 he became an official in the European Commission (the executive body of the European Union) where he has worked ever since.

Since 1991, González has been involved in numerous aspects of the European Commission’s policy. He has worked in education policy, program design and legislation, finance of space programs, and in human resources. Along the way he became most interested in space policy and programs. Now, he works as Adviser to the Director for EU Satellite Navigation Programmes in the Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and Small and Medium Enterprises.

The EU gives fellowships for officials to take a visitor position at participating universities, where they can conduct research as well as give seminars about EU organization, objectives and priorities. González chose to come to Colorado to study commercial activities in space. Besides being a beautiful place to spend a year, Colorado has a rich history in space commercialization and research. While he is here, he will give a number of seminars on EU policy and space commercialization and regulation.

His October 12th seminar will focus on three areas: the reasons that the EU is interested in space policy, its present programs and current reflections on future objectives.

As González says, “the EU is not a space agency. Why are we involved in space?” He will talk about why the EU has defined objectives for space policy and what it is doing to achieve these objectives.

“This will not be a personal talk,” he explains when asked if he will be discussing his own part in writing space policy. “I want students to understand how the EU works and what we do in space.”

The talk promises to be a fascinating look at regulation of a quickly changing and ever expanding field as well as an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of how EU policy-making proceeds.

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More Than Scientists Video: Snow and Ice – Disappearing Before Our Very Eyes


A world without snow is hard to imagine. Of course we’ll always have some, but for someone who’s always loved the outdoors and studies snow and ice cover, the losses we’re seeing are hard. Jen Kay of CIRES talks about her experiences, those of communities on the front lines, and what we can all do about it. [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 Graduate Certificate in Science and Technology Policy


How do science and technology affect policymaking? How does policymaking affect science and technology?

by Abigail Ahlert, Science Writing Intern

For the past 12 years, the Graduate Certificate in Science and Technology Policy program has been helping people explore these questions and more. The goal of the program is to prepare graduate students for careers at the interface of science, technology, and decision making. Certificate program students strive to understand the broad societal context of science and technology, as well as gain insight to the methodologies of policy analysis. The program has graduated 27 students and has 27 currently enrolled. Courses that satisfy the program’s 18-credit requirement span environmental science, economics, law and philosophy.

Recently, an informal survey of current and former students was conducted to gauge satisfaction with the certificate program. The survey spans the perspectives of students who have participated in the program as early as 2004 and as recently as this year. One wrote, “While I have only completed one core and one elective course so far, I already feel that the program has broadened my exposure to possible roles for people with scientific and technical backgrounds to influence policy. I have also learned much about the ways in which data is gathered to assess public opinion of scientific research and science policy.”

Another student said, “The certificate program introduced me to new perspectives about the role of science that did not come with my research training. I left the program with the ability to think broadly about the implications of research on the policy process, as well as the impact of policy on the scientific community. Importantly, when I applied for fellowship programs and awards, the certificate was documented proof of my interest and commitment to science policy.”

The survey results indicate that the Graduate Certificate has been crucial for many students’ professional development and very helpful for job entry. One student said that the course “Science, Technology and Society” (STS) was “one of the most important classes I have ever taken”.

I sat down with Dr. Alexander Lee, a lecturer for CSTPR and CU’s Department Environmental Studies, who this semester is teaching STS—one of the required courses for the Graduate Certificate. Dr. Lee’s curriculum for the course centers around seminal science and technology policy texts (such as Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) and, admittedly, topics that he finds interesting. Though he specializes in environmental ethics, he likes to keep the course broad. “It wouldn’t be unusual for a class like this [in an ENVS program] to focus on just issues like climate change or ecological degradation, whereas I think it’s very important to understand those issues in the broader context of science and society,” says Dr. Lee.

He says that the idea of providing scientists with policy and communication skills is not new, but the formalization of it into a certificate program is relatively uncommon. “Often scientists—and when I worked as a glaciologist I found this—are required to use technical language and put technical constraints on how you present things, and that’s not always the most effective way science can be communicated and works in the world as a tool,” says Dr. Lee. He thinks that scientists should be able to effectively write and talk about science in a general way.

So why is it important to engage scientists in policymaking? Dr. Lee noted that scientists are often acknowledged as “experts” in their field and believes that it’s important for scientists to understand this responsibility and what it means in a social context.

In terms of the future of science policy, he says, “We’re hitting a lot of really novel issues in science policy…we are facing what I think are truly new types problems as a global community, whether it be climate change or the technological revolution that we’re currently in. It seems like these are global in scale, exponential in growth, and not well analogous to problems in the past.”

All in all, programs like CSTPR’s Graduate Certificate help to bridge disciplines and effectively utilize new information and diverse skill sets. For more information on the Graduate Certificate in Science and Technology, please visit this link and contact Ami Nacu-Schmidt at

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Climate in Context: Science and Society Partnering for Adaptation


Society is increasingly affected by climate impacts, from prolonged water shortages to damaging coastal floods and wildfires. Scientists studying climate variations are eager to have their knowledge used in adaptive decision making. To achieve this, science and society must engage productively around complex management and policy challenges. For over 20 years, the science-society interface has been fertile ground for the Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) programs sponsored by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Climate in Context (Wiley and Sons, 2016) describes what it takes to help scientists and stakeholders work together to “co-produce” climate science knowledge, policy, and action. This state-of-the art synthesis reflects on lessons learned by RISA programs, and provides a sober assessment of the challenges ahead. Through case studies from various US regions, this book provides lessons and guidance for organizations and individuals who want to work at the science-society interface on a range of climate challenges.

The following two chapters have been coauthored by CSTPR’s Lisa Dilling:

Chapter 1 Assessing needs and decision contexts: RISA approaches to engagement research by C. Simpson, L. Dilling, K. Dow, K. Lackstrom, M.C. Lemos, and R. Riley

Chapter 11 Navigating scales of knowledge and decision-making in the Intermountain West: Implications for science policy by E, Gordon, L. Dilling, E. McNie, and A. Ray

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CU Boulder Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre Internship Program


Improving Environmental Communication and Adaptation Decision-making in the Humanitarian Sector

Application Deadline:  Thursday December 15, 2016
Submit your application to

CU-Boulder has partnered with the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre (RCRCCC) to place graduate students in locations in eastern and southern Africa each summer. This collaborative program targets improvements in environmental communication and adaptation decision-making as well as disaster prevention and preparedness in the humanitarian sector. It connects humanitarian practitioners from the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre – an affiliate of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies – with graduate student researchers at the University of Colorado who are interested in science-policy issues. Through this program we strive to accomplish three key objectives:

  1. to improve the capacity of humanitarian practitioners within International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies network at the interface of science, policy and practice
  2. to help meet needs and gaps as well as work as a research clearing house in environmental communication and adaptation decision-making in response to climate variability and change, as identified through Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre priorities and projects
  3. to benefit graduate students by complementing the classes and research that they undertake in their graduate program with real-world experience in climate applications and development work

This internship program will place 1-2 PhD and/or Master’s degree students in an IFRC regional field office, a National Society branch office, or with a partner organization for a period of approximately 3 months.

The RCRCCC supervisors will liaise with specific IFRC field offices to identify potential projects and placements. Once projects are identified, RCRCCC supervisors will work with CU Boulder Director Max Boykoff, CU Boulder Graduate Coordinator Arielle Tozier de la Poterie and the student to design a scope of work. Projects can encompass, but are not limited to, topics such as the use of scientific information in decision making, communication of probability and uncertainty, perceptions of risk, and characterizing vulnerability and adaptive capacity.  Placements in the field will address specific needs identified by IFRC field staff related to challenges of science communication and adaptation decision-making.

Participants will participate in a one-credit independent study/reading group ENVS 5909-902/CSTP 5909 designed to familiarize them with the Red Cross/Red Crescent organization and other topics of relevance to adequately prepare for field placements. The reading group will meet every other week at a time agreed to by the participants and the instructor in the CSTPR conference room during the Spring 2017 semester.

Participants will also be required to write six blog posts from the field during this placement, give some presentations (e.g. in ENVS, in the CSTPR brownbag series) upon return, and complete a report at the conclusion of their internship detailing their experience and research outcomes.

$5,000 funding in total will be provided to offset expenses (in-country housing, food, airfare and in-country transportation). Expenses can vary widely depending on the location and nature of the placement. Interns will work with CU-affiliated travel agents to arrange round-trip airfare to their field site. Due to this $5,000 limit, applicants are encouraged to seek additional funds from alternate sources, as expenses can exceed this budgeted amount.

This CU-Boulder program has now placed these six students in in locations of eastern and southern Africa:

  • Sierra Gladfelter (Geography, MS) Lusaka, Zambia
  • Drew Zackary (Anthropology PhD), Apac and Otuke, Uganda
  • Leslie Dodson (ATLAS PhD), Lusaka, Zambia and Capetown, South Africa
  • Amy Quandt (ENVS PhD), Isiolo, Kenya
  • Arielle Tozier de la Poterie (ENVS PhD), Soroti, Uganda
  • Kanmani Venkateswaran (ENVS, MS), Lusaka, Zambia

Past project topics have included analysis of uses of regional climate forecasts to trigger anticipatory humanitarian action and examinations of ways to improve the linking of science-based forecasts with humanitarian decisions. More information on the specifics of all these placements and activities can be found here.

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More Than Scientists Video: The Question is How Rapidly and How Large


Kevin Trenberth, distinguished scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, explains that the issue isn’t that the climate is changing — it’s really how rapidly it’s changing and how large those changes 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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Co-Producing Actionable Science for Water Utilities


by Jason Vogel, Elizabeth McNie, David Behar
Climate Services, 2016

Our recent paper, “Co-producing actionable science for water utilities” (Vogel et al., 2016), examined how four water utilities in New York City, Portland, Seattle, and Tampa Bay, all members of the Water Utility Climate Alliance, used a ‘chain of models’ approach that emphasized collaboration between scientists and decision makers to produce useful, climate-relevant information over the first three years of their Piloting Utility Modeling Applications project. These collaborations helped utilities fit climate information into their specific management context. We found that in order to produce useful information, these partnerships focused on making the research context-sensitive and relevant, developing knowledge networks, and taking an entrepreneurial approach to assessment.

Each water utility engaged in a ‘chain-of-models’ exercise to better understand how climate changes might affect their water systems. The chain-of-models refers to the sequence of climate, hydrologic, and water operations models used to apply climate change information to water utility decision making.  By running climate projections thorough this chain-of-models, the impacts of projected climate changes can be understood and water utilities can consider taking adaptation action to prepare for or alleviate those potential impacts.

Our first finding, consistent with the literature on co-production, determined that context matters in a number of ways. First, the research questions were generated not by researchers working independently from water managers, but rather, with them, ensuring that the research questions took each utility’s immediate needs into consideration, resulting in research that was highly relevant. Second, possible extreme events that the utilities could experience were contextualized for their specific region and addressed specific questions posed by the utilities, so that the resulting science could fit easily into existing decision frameworks. Third, the researchers worked with each utility to customize the hydrometeorology to ensure that the models used could fit with existing technical capacities of each each utility.

Our second finding, also consistent with the literature on co-production, illustrated the importance of knowledge networks and active partnerships with scientists. Interactions between utility and scientific partners were often carefully designed to occur early and often, and to include substantive and meaningful discussion of project progress toward identified goals. Most of these knowledge networks persist beyond the period reported in our paper and form the foundation for on-going work at each of the four utilities.

Our third finding identified a new factor in co-production, what we call an entrepreneurial approach to the research agenda. In our case studies we saw the utilities themselves drive methodological innovation in climate model downscaling and hydrologic modeling to resolve their particular problems and allow climate projections to be useful in their utility context. One utility developed a variation on the “delta method” downscaling methodology to better understand how extreme events might affect their water system. A second utility developed a new statistical downscaling technique which did a better job than off-the-shelf statistical downscaling tools of replicating the spatial and temporal distribution of rainfall for their region, the key driver of local water supply. Another utility worked with their science partners to bias-correct a widely accepted hydrologic dataset in order to better capture orographic effects important in its local watershed and to better reflect the instrumental record.

For readers who would like to learn more about this interesting project focused on an applied research agenda, we recommend reading our peer reviewed article in Climate Services (Vogel, et al. 2016) and the project final report (Vogel, et al. 2015).

Vogel, J., E. McNie, and D. Behar. 2016. Co-producing actionable science for water utilities. Climate Services. doi: 10.1016/j.cliser.2016.06.003.

Vogel, J.M., J.B. Smith, M. O’Grady, P. Fleming, K. Heyn, A. Adams, D. Pierson, K. Brooks, and D. Behar, 2015. Actionable science in practice: Co-producing climate change information for water utility vulnerability assessments. Prepared for the Water Utility Climate Alliance. May.

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AAAS CASE Workshop Competition Panel Discussion


by Alison Gilchrist, CSTPR Writing Intern

On September 28th from noon-1:00 pm, the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR) will host a panel discussion about the “Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering” (CASE) workshop. Organized by The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and held in Washington, D.C., the 3-day CASE workshop is an exciting opportunity for students interested in science policy and communication.

CSTPR organizes a competition each winter to select two students from CU Boulder to attend the workshop, all expenses paid. The competition is open to both well-qualified graduating seniors and graduate students.  While the dates have not yet been set, it is anticipated that the competition will take place in late January/February 2017. Previous competition winners will serve on the Sept. 28 panel to discuss their experiences at the workshop and take questions from the audience. Students who are interested in attending this workshop can also come to learn more about the application process and the competition.

The CASE workshop was developed by a number of academic institutions, CU Boulder among them, to give young scientists a chance to experience research advocacy and policy design. Students in the workshop learn about important aspects of government such as the structure of Congress and how the federal budget and appropriations processes proceed. They also learn about communicating science and how to stay engaged in local and national politics.

Students attending the workshop will also get a chance to apply what they learn about influencing policy directly: on the last day of the workshop, they will form teams and speak with their elected Members of Congress and congressional staff members about a topic of their choice.

This unique opportunity was designed to empower young scientists and encourage science advocacy in an effective, meaningful way. Science communication, an integral component of influencing policy, is an especially important element of the CASE workshop.

For undergraduate and graduate students looking to learn more, the panel discussion about this workshop will host three past winners of this competition and be moderated by Abby Benson, one of the founders of the CASE workshop.

While Associate Vice President of Government Relations at CU, Benson advocated for increased support for policy education. About founding the workshop, Benson stressed the importance of appealing to young scientists:

“I was most excited about getting scientists and engineers interested in science policy early in their careers, so they could build a strong foundation to carry throughout their careers. I also think it is very useful to have younger advocates in Washington talking about how the decisions made by Congress and funding agencies impact their path.”

Sure enough, the CASE workshop has already had an impact on young scientists who won the competition at CU Boulder.

Sarah Joy Welsh-Huggins, a 2016 winner and Ph.D. candidate in the Civil Systems program within the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering, says the workshop affirmed her career path decision. She had long been interested in science policy, and was thrilled by the chance to go to Washington, D.C. to experience policy making in action.

“Every workshop session, every guest speaker, and especially our interactions with our Colorado Congressmen and their staff demonstrated to me how valuable my technical background in civil engineering may be when advocating for policies that impact and are impacted by advances in specific areas of engineering research and practice.”

She described how rewarding it was to meet people who were equally interested in science communication and policy, while learning how Congress “really” works.

“It was so exciting to be in our nation’s capital this spring and imagine working there myself, striving to make my mark on the decision-making processes that shape and improve our society.”

Angela Boag, another 2016 winner and a Ph.D. candidate in Environmental Studies, echoed Welsh-Huggins’ enthusiasm for meeting other students who were interested in policy issues.

“I found the best part of the workshop was meeting other like-minded Ph.D. students who want to do work at the science-policy interface. I am interested in pursuing applied research or “alternative academic” positions, and it was really encouraging meeting people with similar goals.”

She also described a new appreciation for the importance of being actively involved in policy decisions.

“Programs that fund certain types of research may be cut or boosted for a myriad of reasons often unrelated to the program itself, and therefore it’s critical for scientists to be their own advocates and frequently share the importance of their work with politicians and the public.”

Nick Valcourt, one of the 2015 winners with an MS in Civil Systems Engineering from CU, was particularly interested in the scientific communication component of the workshop. He remembers getting tips from Congressional staff:

“There were a number of presentations from current and former Legislative staffers who provided excellent insights about how their offices need to have science-based information packaged for them in order for it to be useful and actionable to Lawmakers.”

He also gained a greater understanding of how to influence science policy as an individual using the resources of a collective. As a member of the workshop, he was in a unique position to speak with legislators about research policy.

“Our Congressional Representatives are inundated with requests for meetings from special interest groups every day and as a member of the ‘special interest group’ of academic-based science and engineering research I found it to be a very powerful platform to communicate directly with those in Federal decision-making positions.”

The opportunity to attend the CASE workshop is both educational and inspiring, judging by student testimonials. To convince us further, Welsh-Huggins, Valcourt and Boag will all be on the CSTPR panel on September 28th.

For more information about the workshop and competition click here.

The panel discussion will take place at CSTPR, 1333 Grandview Ave. (one street north of University Ave). Map. The panel discussion will also be available via live webcast (login as  guest).

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Assessment of Cookstove Stacking in Northern Ghana Using Surveys and Stove Use Monitors


by R. Piedrahita, K.L. Dickinson, E. Kanyomse, E. Coffey, R. Alirigia, Y. Hagar, I. Rivera, A. Oduro, V. Dukic, C. Wiedinmyer, and M. Hannigan

Energy for Sustainable Development
Volume 34, October 2016

Abstract: Biomass burning for home energy use is a major health and environmental concern. While transitioning to cleaner cooking technologies has the potential to generate significant health and environmental benefits, prior efforts to introduce improved cookstoves have encountered many hurdles. Here, we focus on the increased stove use hurdle; households tend to use improved stoves alongside their traditional stoves rather than replacing them entirely, a phenomenon called cookstove “stacking.” This work provides a systematic, multi-method assessment of households’ cooking behaviors and cookstove stacking in the context of a 200-home randomized cookstove intervention study in Northern Ghana. Two stoves were selected for the intervention, a locally made rocket stove (Gyapa) and the Philips HD4012 LS gasifier stove. There were four intervention groups: a control group, a group given two Gyapa stoves, a group given two Philips stoves, and a group given one of each. Two stoves were distributed to each home in an attempt to induce more substitution away from traditional stoves. Adoption and usage patterns were quantified using temperature loggers at a subset of homes, as well as quarterly surveying in all households. We find that using multiple stoves each day is common practice within each intervention group, and that the two groups given at least one Gyapa had the largest reductions in traditional stove use relative to the control group, though use of traditional stoves remained high in all groups. Read more …

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Justice and Democracy in Climate Change Governance


by Steve Vanderheiden
Taiwan Human Rights Journal, 2016

Abstract: Among the challenges posed by human-caused climate change are issues of justice and democracy, in how the environmental problem is expected to affect human social and economic systems and in the response taken by states and the international community to mitigate the problem. While unmitigated climate change unjustly harms the most vulnerable and widens existing unjust inequalities, programs to mitigate climate change can also be just or unjust, and so must take pains to avoid the latter. Likewise with democracy, as the failure to adequately respond to climate change may intensify scarcity and in so doing undermine new or established democracies, and cooperative efforts to control climate change are likely to be more responsive to the interests of the many if they are informed by democratic ideals and principles. Both sets of issues can constructively be theorized in terms of human rights, which seek to guarantee human interests in a safe and sustainable environment as well as those to self-determination and popular participation in major decisions that shape social and economic life, and which help to link the demands of justice and democracy in common cause. Here, I shall examine several such issues of justice and democracy, in the contexts of both domestic and international climate change governance, grounding these imperatives where appropriate in a human rights framework. Read more …

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