KCBS Radio interview: click here. October 16, 2018.
KCBS Radio interview: click here. October 16, 2018.
To listen to the podcast RAEL did on the IPCC 1.5 degree Report, click here.
“The UN’s latest climate change report should spur countries and businesses to take quick and effective steps to combat global warming, says Professor Dan Kammen of the University of California, Berkeley. To hear the whole podcast, click below.
Climate Change Goals
This week, a new United Nations report sounded the alarm over worldwide climate again, warning that the most severe effects of climate change — increased flooding, drought, wildfires and heat waves — could start being felt as early as 2040. To avoid these crises, global carbon emissions would need to be slashed by 45 percent by 2030, according to the report. We talk with UC Berkeley professor of energy Daniel Kammen about what can be done to reach that goal.
The IPCC 1.5 Degree Report is the focus of the conversation.
To watch, click here:
Voting for a Just Transition
Daniel M Kammen
Each fall at UC Berkeley I teach ‘Energy and Society’, a very unusual course that covers the science, politics, and policy angles needed to understand – and to change – our energy system from one that is now rapidly degrading the planet, to a sustainable, healthy, and equitable one. The best feature of this class is that it is a melting pot not only of different majors, but also of undergraduate and graduate students working together to master the material
The first thing we cover, using basic chemistry that has been well known to science for over 100 years,is that endlessly emitting greenhouse gases will warm the planet. We have known scientifically since the 1990s that climate change is already impacting ecosystems, crops, and both human and environmental health. We have known for almost two decades that we have already warmed the planet by one degree Celsius, and that at two degrees Celsius, dramatic changes to the earth will be everyday events.
Instead of becoming a rallying cry for innovation as were the responses to disease (“the war on polio”), food, poverty and nutrition (“the Green Revolution”) or the desire to reach space (“the Apollo program”), climate change has become, arguably, the most divisive issue in the United States. Where we used to see challenge as an opportunity, this one, inexplicably has become a proxy-war for economic insecurity and class division.
After all, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, launched under Republican President Nixon and passed through House and Senate Committees in 1970. TheClean Air Actbecame law in 1970, where it passed the Senate without a single ‘no’ vote. Only one representative voted against the bill. Against expectations, George H. W. Bush featured the environment prominently in his campaign, and in 1988 his presidency saw an expansive update to the Clean Air Act which the Senate passed with bipartisan support.
Since then, however, things have deteriorated, with attention and investment in environmental quality at local, to national, and at global levels becoming the ‘third rail’ of U.S. politics.
This is where local action by Cal students is so critical. As the acknowledged top public university in the world, Cal students, staff, faculty and alumni have helped to make California the remarkable energy and climate leader that it is, but have also found a myriad of ways to spread those experiences across the country and around the world. That reach has never been more important than now as we approach the most important mid-term election in decades.
At the Climate Action Global Summitin San Francisco last month I heard an approach that harkened back to the bipartisanfounding of the U.S. EPA.. This new vision was stated most clearly and eloquently not by politicians, orators, or scientists, but by high-school and college students who gathered in a series of youth summits organized within and around the official meetings.
What is most ironic is that climate change is actually one of the most interesting issues and opportunities we as a country have ever faced because its solution creates economic opportunities. Every bit of coal, gas, or oil that we replace with energy efficiency and clean energy is a shift away from mining resources to investing in companies and investing in people. After all, when the fuel is free, creating new technologies and building social institutions and policies are all ways to invest in ourselves and to both create employment and to use data and institutions to grow the economy. My laboratory here at UC Berkeley has been researching and documenting the green jobs ‘dividend’ and has been doing work witha series of students, many of whom are alumni of ‘Energy and Society’.
The clean energy opportunity is aligned with core values – at least those stated on paper – by both the Democratic and Republican parties. Instead of one of the few places for bipartisan action, however, it has become an area where even the most basic facts are endlessly debated. As research launched at Berkeley has shown, investments in mass transit and for those who need cars, electric vehicles are not only cheaper to operate than gas-powered cars, but they also lead to dramatic reductions in urban air pollution, a hallmark of California policies since the 1970s.
As inequality has grown across America, UC-based research has continued to highlight the many examples of well-meaning policies (such as subsidizing electric vehicles for the affluent) that exacerbate the growing national economic divide. Instead, efforts launched here to invest in more affordable homes and apartments by integrating energy efficiency, solar, power, and both better mass-transit and electric vehicles for low-income Californians offers a sustainable path to social equity.
Of particular note is that California’s landmark climate legislation, SB32which governs our state decarbonization from 2020 – 2030, calls for 35% or more, of our greenhouse gas cap and trade revenues (now in the $10 billion/year range) to be spent on underserved minority communities. I’ll wager that when we look back this bill, it will be this investment in social justice, not the climate target that will be its most important legacy.
This is where the Cal students can play a most immediate and hugely impactful nationwide role: by reaching out to fellow students, parents, and friends both across California and across the country to highlight how doubling down on equitableclean energy projects offers a rare and genuine ‘win-win’ at a time when the country is more divided than ever.
Daniel Kammen is professor and chair of the Energy and Resources Group, and Professor in the Goldman School of Public Policy, and in the Department of Nuclear Engineering. He served in the Obama Administration as Science Envoy for the State Department.
To watch the show, click here.
San Francisco Hosts Global Climate Summit
Just days after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill requiring California’s energy sources to be completely clean and renewable by 2045, thousands of people gathered in San Francisco for the Global Climate Action Summit. The three-day event, featuring politicians from around the world, CEOs from companies like Starbucks and Salesforce, and celebrities like Harrison Ford, was launched to show that cities, states, regions and industries are stepping up to meet the carbon-cutting targets of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement despite the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back environmental protections.
At the Global Climate Action Summit one of the interesting events was a multi-university summit on carbon pricing. Yale University, Smith College, Swarthmore College, and both myself and Prof. Ann Carlson from UCLA participated in a discussion about the challenges and opportunities to price externalities in university actions.
Caption: Prof. Ann Carlson (second from left), Dan Kammen, (third from left), next to former Secretary of State John Kerry, Kammen’s former ‘boss’ when he served as Science Envoy, along with colleagues from the World Bank, Smith College and Swarthmore College.
On Sept. 13, the summit hosts “Higher Education Leadership on Carbon Pricing,” an event focused on the experiences of Yale and other schools in implementing internal carbon pricing on campus. Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will speak at the event, which also will include Yale Carbon Charge director Casey Pickett and Yale Associate Vice President for Strategy and Analytics Tim Pavlis.
At the event, representatives from Yale, Swarthmore College, the nonprofit group Second Nature, and the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition will unveil a Higher Education Carbon Pricing Toolkit. It is the most comprehensive compilation of existing tools for implementing internal carbon pricing on college and university campuses.
“When I share Yale’s approach to carbon pricing, people often ask, ‘How does it work? What options are there for my institution to put a price on carbon emissions?’ This toolkit begins to answer those questions,” Pickett said.
Carbon pricing refers to the idea of placing an extra charge on products or services based on the amount of carbon they emit. Hundreds of businesses, private universities, and other institutions — including Yale — now have some version of a carbon pricing program in place.
Yale has taken a leadership role in exploring different approaches to carbon pricing and sharing its findings. In 2017, Yale became the first university to implement a financially impactful fee on carbon emissions for more than 250 buildings and 70% of carbon dioxide emissions on campus.
“Since Yale began experimenting with internal carbon pricing through our pilot study, six other higher education institutions have implemented carbon pricing mechanisms,” Pickett said. “Each works a bit differently. There is much to learn from carbon pricing experiments in different contexts.”
The best practices regarding carbon pricing that Yale has accumulated are part of the new toolkit, which includes case studies, communication guides, and data management tools.
The Yale Carbon Charge idea originated with economics professor Bill Nordhaus, who developed the “social cost of carbon” concept, an estimate of the cost of global damages from an additional ton of carbon dioxide emitted. After Nordhaus suggested the value of having an internal carbon charge, a group of Yale students advanced the idea.
Yale President Peter Salovey organized a Presidential Task Force to study the idea. The task force recommended testing a pilot project, which began in the fall of 2015.
“We must incorporate the social costs of our emissions into our economic choices,” Pavlis said. “When we don’t pay a price for carbon emissions, everyone pays the cost.”
To access the paper, which just appeared in The Beam, click here.
To listen to the show or download the podcast: click here.
California lawmakers passed a bill that would require 100 percent of the state’s energy to come from carbon-free sources. The proposal would set a goal of phasing out all fossil fuels by 2045 but does not include a mandate or penalty. Supporters say the measure would help address climate change and boost California’s clean energy economy. Critics say the bill is unrealistic and would saddle families and businesses with higher energy bills. The measure now heads to the governor’s desk.
Dan Kammen, professor of energy, UC Berkeley; director, Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at UC Berkeley
Dorothy Rothrock, president, California Manufacturers and Technology Association
Lauren Sommer, science and environment reporter, KQED
I am a physicist, and an energy and sustainability science researcher, and I live in California because of its penchant for not just setting but actually achieving big goals and adopting bold visions others may consider too ambitious. What California proposes, we research, debate and then accomplish. In fact, we often exceed the goals skeptics have deemed unmeetable. This is why I believe that California should — and ultimately will — pass into law the “100 Percent Clean Energy Act” (Senate Bill 100), which would establish a bold goal of 100 percent clean, zero-carbon electricity by 2045.
To fully appreciate the multifaceted benefits of SB100 for California and the country, a bit of history is needed.
Thanks to a law California passed in 2002 (the Renewables Portfolio Standard), the state has nearly tripled its use of electricity produced from renewable resources. Today, solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal power (the “renewables”) meet more than a third of the state’s electricity demand — up from 12 percent in only a decade.
Just last month, the California Air Resources Board announced that the state has met its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels in 2016 — a full four years ahead of its 2020 deadline. Our system of renewable electricity generation is a key driver of that success.
In fact, the state Public Utilities Commission has estimated that California will probably meet its goal of producing 50 percent of electricity from renewable resources well ahead of the 2030 deadline. California and New York state have emerged as national leaders in energy efficiency and in setting and meeting clean energy targets that together have kept utility rates low. Financial benefits follow directly: The majority of all U.S. “clean tech” investment has come through these two states.
This transition has been a net job generator: California now has more people employed in the solar energy industry than in traditional utilities. For 15 years, I have been tracking job creation in the clean energy sector, where today we find two to four times more jobs in solar, wind, sustainable biomass, efficiency and energy storage than in any fossil-fuel sector. The price of wind– and solar-generated energy has dropped faster than expected and is cost-competitive or cheaper than the cost of building new fossil-fuel-powered plants. The fact that the best solar and wind energy projects are actually cheaper than natural gas has been an enormous surprise to many not following the sector closely.
Next up is for California to establish the bold new goal to power our state with 100 percent zero-carbon energy by 2045. SB100 would mandate that 60 percent of our electricity demand be met with renewable sources, and allows flexibility for how the other 40 percent might be met via additional renewables, existing large hydropower, or other clean energy sources — including new technologies. Some critics note that SB100 does not explicitly prohibit carbon emissions if we also capture the carbon. This is less useful — and more expensive — in my analysis than a mixture of zero carbon sources and energy storage, but permitting the flexibility is a broader, more inclusive mandate that does not try to pick specific winners and losers.
More synergies between clean energy and jobs for Californians exist here, too. The same wave of innovation we saw in solar energy — where California played key research and deployment roles — we now are seeing in the energy storage industry. California is leading this charge, too, and stands to profit in revenue and more jobs.
Big transformational goals are proven drivers of innovation. In 2005, the Legislature passed legislation that set a target of 1 million solar rooftops by 2020. At the time, the typical response was that it was too ambitious, and more details were needed. Today, California has close to 700,000 solar rooftops, well on the way to the goal. Each rooftop saves the homeowner money, too, as solar power costs pencil out at under 5 cents per kilowatt-hour, while utility-generated power retails at more than four times that cost. Despite some legal and regulatory battles, residential rooftop solar saves utilities money, too, as rooftops are generating power during the day — i.e., during the time of the peak of power demand. Any extra generation can be put into storage.
Since 1999 I have served as a coordinating lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, where scientists have recognized that clean and renewable energy sources must become the dominant source of electricity powering buildings, industry and transportation if we are to avoid the worst climate change effects that threaten California. As the world’s fifth-largest economy, California will gain economically as we develop new technologies and services that others will need as they work toward global climate goals. Current political troubles aside, this is where the United States must go.
As the world will see at the Global Climate Action Summit that California will host Sept. 12–14 in San Francisco, we have demonstrated the capacity and leadership needed to achieve big goals. SB100 sets a new goal for a clean, healthy and profitable energy system. With the global clean energy market growing far faster that the fossil-fuel sector, what California is doing is a good business decision for the state and the nation.
Daniel M. Kammen is the founding director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory and director of the Center for Environmental Public Policy at UC Berkeley. Kammen has served as the chief technical specialist for renewable energy at the World Bank, and science envoy for the U.S. State Department. Twitter: @dan_kammen To comment, submit your letter to the editor at SFChronicle.com/letters.
It is great to see a gathering at NREL of past, present, and future ERG and RAEL students!
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