Orbital-Use Fees Could More Than Quadruple the Value of the Space Industry

by Akhil Rao, Matthew G. Burgess, and Daniel Kaffine
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencesdoi: 10.1073/pnas.1921260117, Published April 14

Coauthor, Matthew Burgess was also recently interviewed on CBS Denver News about the paper

Abstract: The space industry’s rapid recent growth represents the latest tragedy of the commons. Satellites launched into orbit contribute to—and risk damage from—a growing buildup of space debris and other satellites. Collision risk from this orbital congestion is costly to satellite operators. Technological and managerial solutions—such as active debris removal or end-of-life satellite deorbit guidelines—are currently being explored by regulatory authorities. However, none of these approaches address the underlying incentive problem: satellite operators do not account for costs they impose on each other via collision risk. Here, we show that an internationally harmonized orbital-use fee can correct these incentives and substantially increase the value of the space industry. We construct and analyze a coupled physical–economic model of commercial launches and debris accumulation in low-Earth orbit. Similar to carbon taxes, our model projects an optimal fee that rises at a rate of 14% per year, equal to roughly $235,000 per satellite-year in 2040. The long-run value of the satellite industry would more than quadruple by 2040—increasing from around $600 billion under business as usual to around $3 trillion. In contrast, we project that purely technological solutions are unlikely to fully address the problem of orbital congestion. Indeed, we find debris removal sometimes worsens economic damages from congestion by increasing launch incentives. In other sectors, addressing the tragedy of the commons has often been a game of catch-up with substantial social costs. The infant space industry can avert these costs before they escalate. Read more …

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Ogmius #55 – The Final Issue is Now Out

Issue #55, Spring 2020

Dear CSTPR community,

I hope you’re all doing as well as you can in this challenging and pressurized times. Our heart goes out to everyone, especially those directly impacted by the novel coronavirus. Undoubtedly, the global COVID-19 pandemic has changed all of our lives. Over the past months we have been learning many painful and important lessons while we have experienced a time of accelerated learning and intense behavior change.

Also over the past months, you may have now heard that the decision has been made to close the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR) by May 31 as our larger Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) considers new directions for social sciences and environment research within the Institute.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in CSTPR over the past 11 years. I joined in Fall 2009 and became Director in January 2016. For those who don’t know me, I’m also an Associate Professor in the Environmental Studies program here at the University of Colorado Boulder.

CSTPR has been in operation for over 18 years, officially opening its doors in 2002, through the hard work of founding Director Roger Pielke Jr. The founding of the Center in 2002 was also made possible at the time thru the important leadership of then CIRES Director Susan Avery. Roger served as founding Director 2002-2008 and again 2013-2015. Between those stints, Professor Bill Travis served as CSTPR Director 2008-2013. Continue Reading …


Ogmius Exchange

Faculty Affiliate Forum

Student Highlight

Center News

Center Publications

Multimedia Highlights

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Victory is Won Through Many Advisers: Rad Byerly and the Radford Byerly, Jr. Award

by Alison Gilchrist, CSTPR Science Writer

I interviewed Carol Byerly on the fourth anniversary of the death of Rad Byerly, her late husband, and the mood was solemn. But as we were sitting down to talk about Rad’s contribution to science policy, and his legacy both for the Center of Science and Technology Policy (CSTPR) as well as the nation, there was an equal sense of celebration and honor. A candle was burning behind the table to commemorate Rad, and for an hour Carol and I talked quietly about his life, writing, and values.

After completing a PhD and holding a postdoctoral position in physics, Rad Byerly had a long career in politics guided by a simple idea.

“Rad believed that science should serve society,” said Carol Byerly. “And scientists have an obligation.”

This conviction that scientists should have a commitment to the serving of society first, before the serving of personal or professional interests, gave Rad a purpose and drive that guaranteed his legacy as a tough, scrupulous, and principled advisor. 

“Rad was a philosopher king, and a great critic,” said Daniel Sarewitz, a professor of science and society at Arizona State University, who worked with Rad in the US House of Representatives. Sarewitz went on to tell the story of writing a speech for Science Committee Chairman George Brown Jr. The initial feedback he received from another committee member was that the speech was “too negative”. Rad, on the other hand, said it “wasn’t challenging enough.”

“Rad believed that the scientific community needed to be knocked around the head a bit,” laughed Sarewitz. “He thought it needed to be woken up and held accountable.”

Rad believed that often, money was being thrown at scientists without clear guidelines about reporting and accountability to the public good. He thought that at the intersection of science and politics lay the truly interesting work of guidance: a two-way street between scientists and politicians that would ultimately improve the work of both. At the beginning of one of his books on science policy is a quote from the Bible: “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers (Proverbs 11:14).” At the beginning of another, a similar quote: “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he (Proverbs 29:18).” Together, these profoundly illustrate Rad’s ideals: that science for the public good is best conducted with a guiding hand from government.

In 2017, in recognition of Rad’s contributions to and impact on the CSTPR community, CSTPR established the Radford Byerly, Jr. Award in Science and Technology Policy. Each year, a CU Boulder graduate student who has proposed a significant contribution to science and technology policy through his or her work is given this award.

The 2020 recipient of the Byerly award was Diana Dorman, a Ph.D. student in the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Colorado Boulder. Dorman studies issues of energy access in the developing world, specifically how energy is supplied reliably and affordably and how those systems are affected by climate change.

When I asked how she was feeling about diving into the policy issues of her dissertation work, Diana Dorman said “I’m comfortable with it—I’ve had quite a bit of policy experience in my career so far. This is just at an international level instead of state level.”

I asked if writing the proposal or winning the award had changed anything about her research approach, but Diana said that policy was always an important component of the project.

“It’s always nice to be acknowledged or recognized for the work you’re doing,” said Diana. “I wouldn’t say anything about how I think about my work has changed, but it’s more validation that that connection is valued by others and that it has real world application.”

As a recipient of the award, Diana Dorman was asked to present her thesis work at a lunchtime seminar. Normally it would have been in person, but under these extraordinary circumstances she instead presented over a Zoom call. Despite this setback, attendance was impressive with approximately 50 people in the audience. Diana expressed disappointment that she was not able to meet Carol Byerly in person, but said that it was still an honor to present her work.

Rad Byerly would have appreciated scientists like Diana Dorman, who sit at the intersection of science and policy. Byerly’s commitment to science as a service to society is partly responsible for the legacy of CSTPR, and is embodied by the Byerly Award. As Sarewitz said about the award, “It’s helping keep Rad’s memory alive.”

This is Alison Gilchrist’s final Prometheus blog post due to the closure of CSTPR on May 31, 2020. Alison has been an intern and writing wonderful commentaries for our Center since 2016. We at CSTPR would like to give Alison our heartfelt thanks for her dedication and thoughtful work she has provided for the Center. Alison’s commentaries for CSTPR are available to read through here.

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Why Climate Communicators Are Turning Talking Points into Punchlines

Apple Podcast
The Weather Channel

Join Kait Parker as she interviews Beth Osnes and Maxwell Boykoff about their research on humor and climate change.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

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The Environment After the Pandemic

by Fernando Briones, CSTPR Faculty Affiliate
Nexos, Spanish version

The new coronavirus pandemic has prioritized health and economic crises, despite the fact that we should already be thinking about our long-term survival, not only as a country but as a species. The environment has to take a central role in the public and private agendas for three basic reasons. Firstly, because the appearance of the new coronavirus is related to the way in which we interact with nature, since we cannot rule out new threats and risks if we continue to limitlessly expand the human presence in natural environments. Secondly, due to the amount of information circulating in the media, including the internet, which has served for the renewal (polarized and incomplete) of social representations about nature, 1with a narrative that goes from conspiracy theories to the idea that confinement has a “positive” aspect for the planet. Third, because a return to normality can close the window of opportunity for current social change; that is, the economic reactivation processes have to be calculated to improve, not to worsen.

The anthropization of nature and the new virus

The impacts of human activities and the transformation of the environment are not new since, in order to survive, humans have historically made use of different ecosystems. Today, virtually the entire planet has some degree of intervention. The anthropization of natural environments is simplified, for example, in major transformations such as the conversion of forest spaces into spaces for agricultural use, urban expansion, mining, infrastructure and climate change. Not surprisingly, the scientific community has accepted the use of the term Anthropocene to designate the current geological epoch that recognizes the impact of human activities on ecosystems. 2The anthropization of the environment has been part of the development of humanity, with positive and negative aspects. The view we have on nature, although it has been transformed with iconic images of climate change (melting of glaciers, hungry polar bears, turtles stuck in plastic bags), remains fragmented and short-term. The flora, fauna, atmosphere and ecosystems seem alien to us. In addition, we are unable to perceive the limits tolerable by the environment or we think that these are unlimited resources. 

The appearance of the new coronavirus shows us that if we do not change the way we relate to nature, our continuity as a species, as we know it, is at risk. Although investigations into the origin of the new virus are still ongoing, the most serious hypotheses point to the interaction between species of wild animals and humans. 3 This interaction occurs mainly due to human expansion and the transformations of natural environments where animal species live with pathogens that we do not know and for which we do not have antibodies. On the other hand, the representations of each culture, which assign different meanings and uses to animals, are also part of the anthropization of nature: the human desire to domesticate the wild world.

In an emblematic case of natural selection, SARS-CoV-2 found a highly efficient carrier in humans, but it was us -as a species- who looked for the virus. An outbreak like this can occur in any environment under pressure such as the tropical forests of the Great African Plateau, Southeast Asia or Central America, including Mexico, but also in increasingly accessible and exploited environments such as the Arctic and the deep sea. 

Dolphins in Venice and a bear in Monterrey

One of the social phenomena of the great confinement has been the images in social networks of nature recovering before the protection of humans. Since mid-March , dolphins in Venice , herbs grown on the cobblestones of formerly pedestrian squares, bees pollinating wildflowers, raccoons in New York’s central park, and a black bear walking in a residential area of ​​Monterrey. The comments that accompany these images – by the way, some false and others true – have several nuances. First, the legitimate recognition that humans have spread in spaces where flora and fauna previously inhabited and that therefore we need to find a better way to coexist with the environment. Second, ingenuity stands out for not having noticed the urban nature before or for believing that in a few days the ecosystems return to a quasi-pristine and balanced state. Finally, there are the cruel comments that consider the epidemic to be “good” for the planet.

Although confinement has shown us part of the resilience of ecosystems, in a few weeks the planet has not recovered from years of devastating production systems. It is unacceptable to rejoice in the pandemic, considering the costs in death, unemployment, trauma, and crisis, to name a few. In any case, these expressions show our separation from the environment. The narrative that without humans ecosystems regenerate quickly is a black and white scenario: either it is us, or it is nature, but there is no room for cohabitation between the wild world and the human being. The confinement and our access to information have triggered communication phenomena that show the nostalgic, romanticized and detached gaze that we city dwellers have, the main Internet users, about the environment. However, it also shows, albeit in a disorganized way, that there is a concern for a cleaner environment, which is an opportunity to move to more sustainable models of development. Likewise, the pandemic is showing us that the perception of nature is generated on the internet, which can be a conjuncture for positive social change, if we manage to place the environment as a priority on our agenda.

The return to normality, another opportunity that we will waste?

In disaster risk management to reduce potential impacts and costs, prevention is essential. 4However, investment in prevention is almost systematically stopped due to lack of prospective capacity, and because the period of return on investment is too long for political times. Just as measures had to be taken since January to mitigate the pandemic, so now, before the crisis ends, recovery measures have to be taken with a long-term perspective. The post-pandemic is a watershed moment: the focus on recovery strategies will define our ability to limit exposure to new environmental threats that are directly related to our ways of interacting with nature. Relocating the environment as the highest priority is an act of survival. Otherwise a return to normal will be a wasted opportunity, one more step in our involution. This does not mean that we must seek the black thread and reinvent a new environmental agenda, but rather ratify the commitments already signed and strengthen it through its pillars: government agencies, educational systems, science and technology, non-governmental organizations, cooperation, intermediaries and local actors, as well as strategic sectors such as tourism, the energy sector and territorial management.

Today more than ever we witness the fragility of our economic systems in the face of risks that we ourselves build. This unprecedented situation is an opportunity to re-educate ourselves, to reconsider us as part of the environment and not outside it. What vision of the future of the planet do we have after the pandemic? Relocating nature to the center of our priorities, investing in prevention and education, as well as an injection of resources into the environment can not only be profitable and useful to revive the economy, but the opportunity to generate citizens more integrated with the environments. To build a better future we have to think about calculating and preventing the existing and new risks related to human expansion that, under the current development model, could arise sooner or later. Otherwise, we will not have learned anything.

1 Sammut, Gordon, Eleni Andreouli, George Gaskell, and Jaan Valsiner, eds. 2015. The Cambridge Handbook of Social Representations. Cambridge Handbooks in Psychology. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

2 Crutzen PJ (2006) The “Anthropocene”. In: Ehlers E., Krafft T. (eds) Earth System Science in the Anthropocene. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

3 Andersen, Kristian G., Andrew Rambaut, W. Ian Lipkin, Edward C. Holmes, and Robert F. Garry. 2020. “The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2.” Nature Medicine 26 (4): 450–52.

4 Wisner, Ben, Piers M. Blaikie, and Terry Cannon. 2003. At Risk: Natural Hazards, People’s Vulnerability and Disasters . Edition: Revised. London; New York: Routledge.

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MeCCO Monthly Summary: This Historic Decline in Emissions is Happening For All the Wrong Reasons

Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO)
April 2020 Summary

April 2020 has marked an inflection point in our time on planet Earth. Amid these moments of history-making, media attention to climate change and global warming at the global level has continued to nose-dive, down again, this time 30% from March 2020 coverage. The decreases in media coverage of climate change in April continue a decline from February 2020 coverage, and an overall plummet of 59% from the January 2020. Furthermore, compared to a year earlier (April 2019), the number of news articles and segments about climate change and global warming is 40% lower. Regionally, climate change news stories in April decreased most in Africa (down 50%), followed by Oceania and Asia (both regions down 36%), then Europe and the Middle East (both down 32%) and Latin America (down 18%), yet North American coverage overall was up 7% from March 2020 (more below).

Figure 1 shows trends in newspaper media coverage at the global scale – organized into seven geographical regions around the world – from January 2004 through April 2020.

On print coverage at the country level, New Zealand newspaper attention to climate change plunged most dramatically (down 53%) from March 2020. This was followed by significant dips in print coverage in Germany (plummeting 45%), Russia (sliding 43%), Japan (slumping 40%), Australia (slipping 34%), the United Kingdom (UK) (tumbling 33%), Norway (dropping 28%), Spain (falling 24%), Sweden (sagging 23%) and Canada (descending 21%).

However, United States (US) newspaper coverage bucked all these trends, with a 29% increase in April 2020 compared to March 2020, and 16% higher than a year earlier (April 2019). Keeping this in context, these numbers were still down 22% from January 2020 and down 6% from February 2020 coverage of climate change. Connections between ‘coronavirus’, ‘Trump’ and ‘climate change’ drove significant coverage, where ‘Trump’ was explicitly mentioned on average 7.5 times and ‘coronavirus’ or ‘COVID’ were 7.3 times on average in each US newspaper article on climate change (see Figure 2). Greater general attention paid to climate change and public health, as well as coverage of the US-derived ‘Earth Day’ events and a renewed ‘Covering Climate Now’ campaign were also seen to primarily drive this increase in April. Yet, attention paid to coronavirus and Trump without mention of climate change are considered to primarily drive this continued overall decrease in coverage from the January and February of this year.

As such, in the US we have detected a re-emergence (detected in previous months and years) of a significant amount of news from US outlets on climate change or global warming associated with Donald J. Trump. We at MeCCO have referred to this as a ‘Trump Dump’, where media attention that would have focused on other climate-related events and issues instead was placed on Trump-related actions, leaving many other stories untold. However, in this case it may be that without the news hook of President Trump – in the face of a finite news hole filled with stories of COVID and coronavirus – even more climate change news stories in the US would have gone untold like trends around the rest of the world.

Yet, an increase in media representations of climate change was limited to print coverage. US television segments on climate change crashed in April 2020, down 45% from the previous month, and down 69% from a year earlier (April 2019). With radio, US National Public Radio coverage of climate change fell 59% from the previous month and 72.5% from April 2019.

Moving past the quantity of coverage and digging into the content, media accounts in April drew on cultural themes, interlinked with political, economic, scientific and ecological/meteorological themes (described below). In early April, media accounts of dramatically reduced airline travel – and consequently reduced greenhouse gas emissions – dotted the larger media landscape. Within this coverage, attention was also paid to a precipitous drop in the demand for jet fuel (the largest drop in the last 30 years). For example, Guardian journalist Oliver Milman reported, “The coronavirus outbreak has provoked a string of unsettling sights, such as the sudden widespread use of masks, shuttered businesses and deserted streets. Another unusual phenomenon is also playing out in the skies – near-empty airplanes flying through the air…. Widespread travel restrictions around the world have slashed demand for air travel, with more than eight in 10 flights canceled. But there is a disparity in the US – while the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has reported a 96% slump in passenger volume, to a level not seen since 1954, this hasn’t been matched by the number of flights being scrapped. A spokesman for United said it was “still somewhat rare” for a single passenger to be on a flight and said that the company had made investments in more sustainable fuel to lower its carbon footprint. The commitment of airlines in general to addressing the climate crisis has been questioned during the coronavirus shutdown, however. Airlines are lobbying to rewrite the rules of a global agreement designed to tackle aviation emissions, with the coronavirus outbreak expected to make its targets tougher to meet. Campaigners accused airlines of attempting to “dodge their obligations”, but the industry said it was “a matter of survival”.”

Earth Day 2020 – the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day in 1970 – garnered media coverage with links to climate change and global warming. For example, CBS News journalist Sophie Lewis reported, “an ongoing 3-day live stream from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on April 22, 23 and 24 across streaming platforms. The stream [was] hosted by The U.S. Climate Strike Coalition and Stop The Money Pipeline Coalition, which are made up of over 500 environmental organizations. Dozens of celebrities, politicians, scientists, journalists and activists [were] participating, including Al Gore, Amber Tamblyn, Chelsea Handler, Jameela Jamil, Jane Fonda, Joaquin Phoenix, Secretary John Kerry, Mark Ruffalo, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib”.

Stories also circulated in April about how younger people seem to be capably pivoting to online environments as they continue to share their concerns about climate change. For example, Associated Press journalists Martha Irvine and Christina Larson penned a piece called ‘Young climate activists slowed by pandemic, but not defeated’. They wrote, “Unable to gather en masse as they’d planned this Earth Day, these activists are planning livestreams and webinars to keep the issue of climate front and center on the world stage and in the U.S. presidential race”.

Further adding to re-emergent cultural themes in April media coverage, the ‘Covering Climate Now’ project was rejuvenated around Earth Day (or more accurately Earth Week) virtual activities around the world. More than 400 outlets around planet Earth took part. For example, Guardian staff noted, “Even as the coronavirus pandemic terrorizes the world, there’s another global emergency the media can’t afford to stop covering. Fifty years ago this week, the environmental movement staged the first Earth Day demonstration to call attention to environmental degradation and demand reform. In the half century since, climate change has emerged as an existential global threat. But there are still reasons to be hopeful… the Guardian is joining forces with hundreds of newsrooms around the world to focus attention on creative solutions to the climate emergency, from electric cars to fighting plastic waste to using psychedelic drugs… The Guardian is the lead partner in Covering Climate Now, an initiative founded last year by Columbia Journalism Review and the Nation to address the urgent need for stronger climate coverage. More than 400 newsrooms from around the world – with a combined audience nearing 2 billion people – have signed on”. Read more …

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Tomorrow: Sharing Stories of the COVID-19 Experience…From Quarantine

by Daniel Zietlow1,2,3 and Ryan Vachon1,2,4

1CSTPR Research Affiliate
2Provare Media
3National Center for Atmospheric Research
4Earth Initiatives

Photo above: Filming: social distancing style!

I was in a car traveling south on I-25 when I got a message from my director. We had just finished taking down the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Traveling Climate Exhibit which had been on display at Colorado State University. My director called to say it was probably a good idea to swing by the office and get anything I may need to work-from-home for an indefinite amount of time.

Arriving 30 minutes later, the office already felt bare and deserted. The overcast skies and look-like-rain atmosphere certainly added to the feeling. Only a couple of my co-workers were there. We hovered six feet apart from each other, making small talk and debating what we would need at home. I felt a buzz or strange energy. I played it safe and packed everything: iMac, camera gear, papers. Then I grabbed a bottle of cleaning wipes (we had quite a few just sitting around the office) for good measure, made a weak joke about seeing everyone soon, and headed out. The dominoes fell a few days later. The COVID-19 pandemic, which had thus far been a distant threat, was finally spreading fast in our own backyard. Office closures, suspension of in-person education, restaurant shutdowns. It was one of those few moments in life when you just innately knew you are living through history—such a momentous event that our world, as we knew it, was going to change.

Quarantine has been a time warp. The measures put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, and protect our health workers and most vulnerable populations, have made the hours move slow. Strangely, the days and weeks have moved fast. While quarantine can feel like a drag at times, we find it important to remember that many of us are the lucky ones. In our circle of friends and family, lots of us have not been deemed essential employees, required to continue showing up at work every day. We have a safe home in which to shelter-in-place, where access to clean water and food is easy. There’s internet access to continue working from home. But not everyone has these things. As we heard someone say, “we’re all in the same storm, but we’re not all in the same boat.”

This scenario, same-storm-different-boats, can reveal inequities, hope, raw emotions, and chinks in the armor of nations, cultures, communities, and families. Like the spring plants popping out of lots of our gardens right now, limbs tender and fragile, we stretch and strain for lessons—important lessons on equity and sustainable futures.

Photo: Production meetings: safely at home, yet still heaps of fun.

In partnership with Jenn Paul Glaser (Scribe Arts), we are producing a documentary that shares people’s individual stories of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its title? Tomorrow. Tomorrow features the humans behind these experiences and celebrates the spirit of resilience. What started with a couple of interviews from friends has blossomed into stories from around the planet, like a health worker in Florida, a professional athlete from northern Italy, and English language teacher in Japan. In the next couple of weeks, we’ll be honored to hear stories from India, Australia and so many more! Even breaking practices of the past, our film intern works from home—in South Korea.

As we move to rebuild for tomorrow’s more resilient society (after the COVID-19 pandemic), we will be navigating complex terrain. Yet we hope that at the roots of these complexities will be the awareness of our values and strengths that are awakened today.

We welcome participation. Learn more about the Tomorrow documentary on our Provare Media website: www.ProvareMedia.com/tomorrow.

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#MakingOurCASE: Science Has a Place in Policy

by Spencer Zeigler, CSTPR Science Writer

Each year, the CIRES Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, with support from the CU Graduate School and the Center for STEM Learning, hosts a competition to send a small group of CU Boulder upper-class undergraduate or graduate students to the annual AAAS “Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering” workshop, which is hosted in Washington, DC each Spring.

Aligning with the mission of CSTPR, the competition encourages CU Boulder students in STEM fields who have a strong interest in the role of science in policymaking to participate. This passion can take many forms—involvement on the federal policy-making processes or as researchers who have a strong voice for making their science the basis of effective policy. This year, Shirley Huang (Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Speech Language, and Hearing Science), Marielle Pellegrino (fourth year Ph.D. student in Aerospace Engineering), and Tasha Snow (fifth year Ph.D. candidate in the Geography Department) were selected from a strong pool of candidates to represent CU Boulder at the March 2020 workshop. Their passion for communicating science through podcasts focused on science-policy (Sciencing with a Purpose), writing blogs about astronomy and engineering (missareospace.com), and as a healthcare provider makes them exactly who the CASE workshop targets to become the next leaders in science policy.

The CASE workshop is a three-and-a-half-day program where participants get the unique opportunity to learn about the structure and organization of Congress, the federal budget and appropriations processes, and tools for effective science communication and civic engagement. The participants also experience the policy creation process during interactive seminars and, on the last day, get to conduct a meeting with their elected Members of Congress and their staff.

But this is not your high school’s civics class all over again—the AAAS CASE workshop has a strong focus on effective science communication which is desperately needed from researchers so that the reality of scientific principles creates policy which affects those who need it the most (@turmo_aiko, Twitter, 3/26/19). In addition to science communication, the 2019 attendees were spoken to by Dr. Shirley Malcolm on equity in STEM, where she said, “only institutional transformation will get us where we need to be” (@holberman, Twitter, 3/29/19). These special opportunities have woven together some of the important aspects of CSTPR’s mission: federal policy making, governmental structure and funding, science communication, and the inclusivity and equity necessary for strong research and policy.

The AAAS CASE workshop has been going on since 2013, and although this year’s meeting was cancelled due to COVID-19, we congratulate our 2020 winners and know their passion for the intersection of science and policy will lead to a brilliant future.

This is Spencer Zeigler’s final Prometheus blog post due to the closure of CSTPR on May 31, 2020. We at CSTPR would like to give Spencer our heartfelt thanks for her thoughtful work she has provided for the Center. Spencer’s commentaries for CSTPR are available to read through here.

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Recipes for Change

by Beth Osnes
CSTPR Faculty Affiliate and Associate Professor of Theatre and Environmental Studies, University of Colorado

One of my great pleasures that is part of my research and creative work on creative climate communication is working with a group of Boulder middle and high school girls known as Young Women’s Voices for Climate. We meet weekly and use arts-based methods for climate action and vocal empowerment through SPEAK, which I co-founded with Chelsea Hackett, in partnership with Inside the Greenhouse. Along with CU students Lianna Nixon, Jeneé LeBlanc, and Sarah Fahmy, we worked together to create an online gallery exhibit entitled Recipes for Change, which was originally designed to be displayed at the Boulder Public Library Canyon Gallery in May 2020, now moved to an online platform due to the library closure because of the pandemic. You can visit it here. Don’t forget to check out the music video of them as rapping fruits and vegetables at the end! We used this exhibit to share arts-based approaches focused on food to help reverse global warming. It may seem a bit frivolous when perusing the exhibit, but this online platform is being used to creatively communicate a solution that can ensure our survivability as a species. By partnering with Project Drawdown, we are focusing on top climate solutions. According to Drawdown’s 2020 revised list of the top solutions for reversing global warming, Reduced Food Waste is the #1 solution and Plant-Rich Diet is #3 (for the scenario that seeks to reach drawdown in 2060, See The Drawdown Review page 86, available for free download). In scenario number two (The Drawdown Review page 88) in which projections of top solutions are based on achieving drawdown by the mid-2040s, Reduce Food Waste is #3 and Plant-Rich Diets is #4. The term “drawdown” refers to “the future point in time when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline (The Drawdown Review page 2).” By adding the total CO2 and equivalent greenhouse gases reduced and/or sequestered by these two solutions–according to either scenario– focusing on food is clearly the number one solution for reversing global warming!

*To read more about Young Women’s Voices for Climate, visit this article in HowlRound.

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How Experiences of Climate Extremes Motivate Adaptation Among Water Managers

by Rebecca Page and Lisa Dilling

Climatic Changedoi: 10.1007/s10584-020-02712-7 (2020)

Abstract: As water systems are likely to experience mounting challenges managing for climate variability and extremes as well as a changing climate, there is increasing interest in what motivates systems to implement adaptive measures. While extreme events have been hypothesized to stimulate organization change and act as “windows of opportunity” and “pacemakers” driving toward adaptation, they do not always seem to do so. We therefore sought to understand the responses and motivations for organizational behavior in the wake of two significant droughts across five smaller water systems in Western Colorado, USA. We conducted interviews and focus groups across these systems to understand whether and why significant droughts in 2002 and 2012 prompted adaptive change. Results indicate that systems did not uniformly decide to change their policies in the wake of drought, and even well-prepared systems were driven to change policies by other pressures, such as peer-system pressure and political pressure from residents. We find that organizational world views were important mediators of how the experience of drought manifest, or not, in organizational changes. These findings have implications for assumptions about what might drive organizational learning and change among water managers for climate adaptation in the future. Read more …

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