News Archive:


Agri­cul­ture can play a huge role in seques­ter­ing car­bon and decreas­ing the amount of green­house gasses in the atmos­phere. Up to now, though, there has been lit­tle finan­cial incen­tive for farm­ers to do so, due to the inabil­ity to mea­sure car­bon in the soil. That’s chang­ing, though. Last June, Indigo announced its Ter­ra­ton Ini­tia­tive that aims to pay farm­ers for car­bon seques­tra­tion. In the fol­low­ing arti­cle, Ed Smith, vice pres­i­dent of Indigo Car­bon and Ter­ra­ton, and Dan Har­burg, senior direc­tor of sys­tems inno­va­tion for Indigo, dis­cuss Indigo’s part­ner­ships with the car­bon reg­istries devel­oped by Verra and the Cli­mate Action Reserve.  

 Agri­cul­tural soil car­bon seques­tra­tion and emis­sions reduc­tions can be imme­di­ate and afford­able levers in address­ing cli­mate change. That’s what’s sug­gested by the cli­mate plans from the top U.S. pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, con­sid­er­a­tion at the United Nations Cli­mate Change Con­fer­ence, and what’s being fea­tured promi­nently in the Inter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change’s land use report. How­ever, this hinges on the pre­cise and ver­i­fied mea­sure­ments of soil car­bon and net green­house gas emis­sions from the farm.

Car­bon reg­istries, like Verra and the Cli­mate Action Reserve are lead­ers when it comes to car­bon mea­sure­ment and account­ing. This is why Indigo is launch­ing part­ner­ships with both reg­istries. The part­ner­ships are in dif­fer­ent capac­ity, but they will enable the world to pay farm­ers for address­ing cli­mate change.

As impacts of cli­mate change have become more intense for com­mu­ni­ties around the world, farm­ers have expe­ri­enced and suf­fered on the front lines,” says Craig Ebert, CEO of the Cli­mate Action Reserve. “We have an oppor­tu­nity, though, for them to play a crit­i­cal role in solu­tions that sig­nif­i­cantly address the cli­mate cri­sis and improve the health of their lands. For that oppor­tu­nity to be suc­cess­ful, we need a strong, col­lab­o­ra­tive effort back­ing it. We need the farm­ers’ exper­tise, sci­en­tists’ research, data from other sec­tor par­tic­i­pants, and rig­or­ous stan­dards to guide the way.”

Mea­sur­ing Car­bon is Key 
Today, there is no prac­ti­cal way for a farmer to earn car­bon cred­its. While some pro­to­cols do exist, they are either too costly to be adopted, or not rig­or­ous enough to be valu­able. As a result, almost none of the tens of bil­lions of dol­lars of car­bon cred­its that are pur­chased each year go to farm­ers. Vast poten­tial car­bon sink that lies in agri­cul­tural soils remains untapped. The key to unlock­ing this poten­tial and con­nect­ing farm­ers to car­bon mar­kets is the abil­ity to mea­sure and ver­ify car­bon accu­rately and affordably.

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In its work with Verra, the Cli­mate Action Reserve, and the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity, Indigo is devel­op­ing pro­to­cols to quan­tify, mon­i­tor, report, and ver­ify green­house gas emis­sions reduc­tions on farms and car­bon seques­tra­tion within soils to address this gap. Mea­sur­ing net green­house gas emis­sions in agri­cul­ture will also shed light on how the indus­try can impact the arc of cli­mate change and pro­vide mar­ket con­fi­dence by ensur­ing rigor and trans­parency in the gen­er­a­tion of these car­bon credits.

Agri­cul­tural soils offer us one of the most promis­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for draw­ing down car­bon diox­ide,” says Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley pro­fes­sor Daniel Kam­men, for­mer sci­ence envoy for the U.S. Depart­ment of State. “The tech­nol­ogy exists for us to accu­rately track increases in soil car­bon across mil­lions of acres so that we can invest in farm­ers, invest in car­bon draw­down, and do so ver­i­fi­ably and honestly.”

Indigo is sup­port­ing the devel­op­ment of the Soil Enrich­ment Project Pro­to­col with the Cli­mate Action Reserve. By the end of Jan­u­ary, the Cli­mate Action Reserve will form a work­ing group con­sist­ing of indus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives, project devel­op­ers, farm­ers, envi­ron­men­tal NGOs, ver­i­fi­ca­tion bod­ies, researchers, and gov­ern­ment bod­ies. This is the first crit­i­cal step in run­ning an open, trans­par­ent process informed by expert per­spec­tives. After the work­ing group com­pletes a draft pro­to­col, there will also be a period for pub­lic com­ment, ensur­ing the Cli­mate Action Reserve receives feed­back from all con­stituents. This pro­to­col, expected to be final­ized in mid-​​2020, will be acces­si­ble by any car­bon credit project devel­oper, and will accel­er­ate the devel­op­ment and growth of agri­cul­tural car­bon markets.

Given the inter­est and global applic­a­bil­ity of agri­cul­ture as a lever in address­ing cli­mate change, Indigo is also part­ner­ing with Verra through its rig­or­ous pro­to­col devel­op­ment and review process on a sim­i­lar timeline.

Verra is look­ing for­ward to work­ing with Indigo Ag and other lead­ing play­ers to build on the VCS’s pre­em­i­nent land-​​based car­bon account­ing and cred­it­ing plat­form and enable account­ing of soil car­bon in a robust yet scal­able way, and link­ing such efforts with mar­ket mech­a­nisms to drive major invest­ment into regen­er­a­tive and climate-​​smart agri­cul­tural prac­tices in the U.S. and around the world,” says David Anto­nioli, CEO of Verra.

Part­ner­ship, col­lab­o­ra­tion, and trans­parency are essen­tial to devel­op­ing high-​​caliber quan­tifi­ca­tion pro­grams. These car­bon pro­to­cols will allow us to under­stand agriculture’s ulti­mate poten­tial to address cli­mate change, bring depend­able cred­its to both farm­ers and buy­ers, and rally other con­stituents around this oppor­tu­nity. Indigo is excited to part­ner with Verra and the Cli­mate Action Reserve, and we are encour­aged by other efforts in this space. Farm­ers have the poten­tial to impact the course of our cli­mate tra­jec­tory – and turn dis­cus­sion into action.”

Source: Suc­cess­ful Farm­ing, click here for story link.

The missing conversation around clean cooking

For a recent arti­cle in The Beamon gen­der, tech­nol­ogy and cook­ingclick here.

This arti­cle by Grace Mbungu and Daniel Kam­men was fea­tured in The Beam #10 – Local Heroes of the Energy Transition.

The chal­lenge of pro­vid­ing clean cook­ing energy ser­vices to over 2.7 bil­lion peo­pleand 850 mil­lion or more with­out reli­able elec­tric­ity ser­vices world­wide is a daunt­ing chal­lenge. How­ever, this is a bat­tle that must be won, with no one left behind. The fail­ure poses enor­mous bur­dens and risks to human liveli­hoods and gen­eral well­be­ing. For exam­ple, the health impacts of expo­sure to indoor and ambi­ent air pol­lu­tion result­ing from the pro­duc­tion and con­sump­tion of bio­mass and fos­sil fuels are known to be the largest dri­ver of the bur­den of dis­ease world­wide. More­over, the unsus­tain­able pro­duc­tion and con­sump­tion of bio­mass and fos­sil fuels under­mine the achieve­ment of the UN Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals (SDGs), and cli­mate change mit­i­ga­tion efforts under­scored in the Paris Agree­ment.

While there is progress in this cam­paign, efforts to date have remained largely tech­no­cratic and often sim­plis­tic. This is per­haps no sur­prise given the excite­ment and poten­tial that improved cook­stoves, lower and lower cost of solar pan­els and other energy-​​related tech­nolo­gies have shown in other parts of the world. How­ever, tech­no­log­i­cal stand-​​alone approaches are often igno­rant of the com­plex­ity of energy access chal­lenges, espe­cially the indi­vid­ual and con­tex­tual fac­tors that limit their accep­tance and effec­tive­ness, espe­cially in poor and mar­gin­alised communities.

The trap of sin­gu­lar approaches to energy challenges 

When it comes to design­ing energy access solu­tions for the poor in the Global South, sin­gu­lar and often dis­con­nected oppor­tu­ni­ties are pre­sented or high­lighted. For exam­ple, the cur­rent energy access dis­course has elec­tric­ity access in one box and cook­ing energy access in another dif­fer­ent box. Rarely are these two processes seen as con­nected and com­ple­men­tary. How­ever, sin­gu­lar approaches present a missed oppor­tu­nity no amount of tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tion could solve. Instead, such gaps war­rant a holis­tic under­stand­ing of the chal­lenges and oppor­tu­ni­ties within local con­texts, as well as strate­gic approaches to account for the diver­sity of needs and to take advan­tage of avail­able opportunities.

Mul­ti­ple and diverse needs

Energy needs are not sought in iso­la­tion, and can there­fore only be under­stood and addressed in the broader con­text of other unmet and emerg­ing needs. How­ever, while cur­rent cook­ing energy solu­tions address impor­tant envi­ron­men­tal and cli­mate change goals, they under­es­ti­mate the strug­gles faced by house­holds in many parts of the world to achieve broader indi­vid­ual and social needs. In the end, how­ever, end-​​users have been known to pri­ori­tise imme­di­ate and exis­ten­tial needs and not the astute­ness of tech­nol­ogy itself. The real­ity is that imme­di­ate and exis­ten­tial needs are not in con­flict with the need to pro­tect the envi­ron­ment and mit­i­gate cli­mate change. How­ever, accept­able and effec­tive energy solu­tions call for hon­est reflec­tions on cur­rent and past inter­ven­tions, col­lab­o­ra­tions with all rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers, and a depth of research that has been lack­ing, espe­cially in the cook­ing energy access discourse.


                                      “At the local level, men, often not involved in cook­ing activities

                                      within the house­hold, dom­i­nate the sec­tor as energy ser­vice providers.”


Energy pro­duc­tion and con­sump­tion are inher­ently human and soci­etal affairs 

While tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ment is pri­mar­ily a sci­en­tific endeav­our, the indi­vid­ual and social accep­tance, demand dri­ves, and access dynam­ics are social and con­tex­tual in nature. For exam­ple, despite the Kenyan gov­ern­ment effort to reg­u­late the pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion of char­coal, its dom­i­nance in both rural and urban areas has become dif­fi­cult to unset­tle. This is strong evi­dence that clean cook­ing and cli­mate energy solu­tions are not only about tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ment or pro­gres­sive and climate-​​friendly poli­cies but instead are also about hav­ing a will­ing and able coali­tion on the ground to imple­ment them.

Design and imple­men­ta­tion of energy access solutions 

Whereas the devel­op­ment of cook­ing energy solu­tions has been pre­dom­i­nantly dom­i­nated by tech­nocrats, their imple­men­ta­tion has also been dom­i­nated by exter­nal aid and char­i­ta­ble organ­i­sa­tions. At the local level, men, often not involved in cook­ing activ­i­ties within the house­hold, dom­i­nate the sec­tor as energy ser­vice providers. We see this image often: a room full of women and chil­dren, a man is on stage demon­strat­ing the use and value of bio­mass improved cookstoves.

The impor­tance of direct and mean­ing­ful involve­ment and empow­er­ment of first-​​hand users ( mainly women) to become the face and voice of change processes was demon­strated by the BBC news in a story on the Water Wise women ini­tia­tive in Jor­dan.  It showed that despite the efforts by the gov­ern­ment to address water waste from leak­ing pipes, progress was only made when women got involved in the process. The engage­ment of women as water stew­ards was cru­cial because they were the pri­mary water users within the house­hold and hence knew best where the leak­ages were, which saved time and human resources. An added advan­tage was the empow­er­ment of women with income-​​generating activ­i­ties and finan­cial inde­pen­dence to address other every­day needs. Hence, the empow­er­ment of women as pro­duc­ers, con­sumers and cus­to­di­ans of cook­ing energy ser­vices can prove instru­men­tal in the cook­ing energy access processes, because it has the poten­tial to gen­er­ate inter­est among women beyond the house­hold cir­cles, improved ser­vice pro­vi­sion, and empower women with skill and income-​​generating activ­i­ties needed for the sus­tain­able access of clean cook­ing energy solu­tions. Hard­ware lessons are often coun­try and region-​​specific, but the need to empower both stove sup­pli­ers and end-​​users to cre­ate use­ful stoves and viable eco­nomic and dis­tri­b­u­tion mod­els for stoves that peo­ple truly want is the goal of vir­tu­ally every local to global organ­i­sa­tion and agency.

Stove Educator at Kibera Town Center - © Daniel Kammen
Stove Edu­ca­tor at Kib­era Town Cen­ter — Photo © Daniel Kammen

Use con­text, in-​​built con­di­tions, and imme­di­ate liv­ing environments 

The ulti­mate goal of pur­su­ing uni­ver­sal access to afford­able, reli­able, sus­tain­able energy is to improve the qual­ity of life and gen­eral well­be­ing of cur­rent and future gen­er­a­tions. While tech­no­log­i­cal improve­ments play an impor­tant role in meet­ing these objec­tives, their effec­tive­ness is lim­ited if imple­mented in inap­pro­pri­ate social and envi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions. For exam­ple, it is dif­fi­cult to imag­ine how the use of bio­mass improved cook­stove (ICS), or any clean cook­ing energy solu­tions, could be effec­tive in enhanc­ing health and gen­eral well­be­ing of the res­i­dents of Kib­era, under the cur­rent envi­ron­men­tal and hous­ing con­di­tions. Over­all, these exam­ples demon­strate that technological-​​only focused energy access solu­tions and sim­plis­tic devel­op­ment approaches are unfit for address­ing the ever-​​evolving energy and other com­plex global challenges.


Grace Mbungu is a junior fel­low at the Insti­tute for Advanced Sus­tain­abil­ity Stud­ies (IASS) in Pots­dam, and a Ph.D. can­di­date at the Uni­ver­sity of Stuttgart in Ger­many. Her research focus is on the social dimen­sions of energy access and tran­si­tions in devel­op­ing coun­try contexts.

Daniel Kam­men is a pro­fes­sor and Chair of the Energy and Resources Group at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, where he is also a pro­fes­sor in the Gold­man School of Pub­lic Pol­icy, as well as in the Depart­ment of Nuclear Engi­neer­ing. Kam­men is the Found­ing Direc­tor of the Renew­able and Appro­pri­ate Energy Lab­o­ra­tory (http://​rael​.berke​ley​.edu). Kam­men has served as the Chief Tech­ni­cal Spe­cial­ist for the World Bank for Renew­able Energy and Energy Effi­ciency, and as Sci­ence Envoy for the United States Depart­ment of State. He is a con­tribut­ing part­ner to The Beam.

Costa Is Now Serving Food From A Sci-​​Fi Desert Farm

For the orig­i­nal piece in Forbes, click here.

Jan­u­ary 17, 2020

by: Emanuela Bar­bi­roglio

Costa Cruises and AIDA Cruises ships call­ing at Aqaba, Jor­dan, are offer­ing their guests climate-​​friendly veg­eta­bles from an inno­v­a­tive farm out­side the city. The new part­ner­ship brings together the Costa Group and the Nor­we­gian non-​​profit Sahara For­est Project Foundation.

The ini­tia­tive will deliver veg­eta­bles to a total of 14 incom­ing ships dur­ing the sea­son from March to October.

With 28 ships and over 85,000 berths among the dif­fer­ent brands, the lead­ing cruise com­pany in Europe and China wants to cre­ate a trend through this project.

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We believe that through this project we offer the chance to repli­cate the same approach in places and com­mu­ni­ties where the appli­ca­tion of these cutting-​​edge tech­nolo­gies will rep­re­sent a step for­ward into their life,” Davide Tri­acca, sec­re­tary gen­eral of the Costa Crociere Foun­da­tion, told Forbes​.com.

We also see the tremen­dous poten­tial of mak­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of guests on board Costa and Aida ships aware of key top­ics. Lastly, on a global scale the impact will be mul­ti­plied as usu­ally other play­ers in the cruise indus­try fol­low Costa’s lead­er­ship example.”

Accord­ing to Costa, it ‘s not easy to scout inno­v­a­tive and sus­tain­able projects that can be applic­a­ble in a real­is­tic time-​​frame and that can pro­vide a con­crete value to the peo­ple and the environment.

We acknowl­edge that inno­va­tion is not (only) an intro­spec­tive process and that’s why the Foun­da­tion is always open to effec­tive, sound project pro­pos­als from non-​​profit orga­ni­za­tions and start-​​ups in var­i­ous fields,” Tri­acca added. “We don’t have any geo­graph­i­cal bound­ary as we will sup­port projects that can bring ben­e­fits to the com­mu­ni­ties and the environment.”

Pro­fes­sor Dan Kam­men, direc­tor of the Renew­able and Appro­pri­ate Energy Lab­o­ra­tory (RAEL) at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Berke­ley, wel­comed the part­ner­ship recently pre­sented at COP.

The Sahara For­est Project planet in Jor­dan is an excep­tion­ally promis­ing exam­ple of true out-​​of-​​the-​​box think­ing about the clean-​​energy-​​food-​​water pos­si­bil­i­ties,” Kam­men told Forbes​.com.

By lever­ag­ing low-​​cost renew­ables, this effort demon­strates that the ben­e­fits of clean energy can lever­age dra­matic shirts to a sus­tain­able future where added food and water access is brought to life.”

Accord­ing to FAO, the global demand for food, water and energy is expected to increase by about 40 to 50% by 2030. “Dou­bling food pro­duc­tion by 2030 will not come from putting more fer­tile land into pro­duc­tion but mainly from sus­tain­ably inten­si­fy­ing pro­duc­tion – that is, get­ting more from agri­cul­tural lands already in use – and from using mar­ginal lands, such as dry­lands,” said FAO nat­ural resources offi­cer Alessan­dro Flammini.

Due to the war in Syria, how­ever, there has been issues and delays to the roll-​​out and upscal­ing. Key logis­tic routes to mar­kets have been closed and some stake­hold­ers had to change their agendas.

Another chal­lenge has been estab­lish­ing a salt­wa­ter pipeline from the Red Sea to the farm’s site, but the com­pany is cur­rently work­ing with Jor­dan­ian offi­cials to make some devel­op­ment in this sense.

As we under­stand it, there has been imple­men­ta­tion chal­lenges and delays, but we should all hope that they over­come those,” the direc­tor of Norway’s Inter­na­tional Cli­mate and For­est Ini­tia­tive (NICFI) Per Fredrik Pharo com­mented. “The Sahara For­est Project showed great promise. Clearly, its cir­cu­lar nature and abil­ity to uti­lize non-​​fertile lands for food pro­duc­tion and employ­ment could be a breakthrough.”

Inau­gu­rated under the patron­age of King Abdul­lah II of Jor­dan and Prince Haakon of Nor­way in 2017, the Sahara For­est Project uses salt­wa­ter and sun­light to har­vest prod­ucts. It aims at green­ing desert areas and cre­at­ing local jobs through pro­duc­tion of food, fresh­wa­ter and clean energy.

The ongo­ing long-​​term agree­ment for sup­ply of veg­eta­bles to Costa and AIDA ships can pave the way for an expan­sion of our project in Jor­dan, while rais­ing inter­na­tional aware­ness for the need to scale-​​up inno­v­a­tive solu­tions to com­bat global warm­ing and cre­ate local jobs in desert areas,” said Mr. Stake, man­ag­ing direc­tor of the Sahara For­est Project.

It is urgent to prove that it is pos­si­ble to shift away from cur­rent agri­cul­tural prac­tices tra­di­tion­ally using 80% of scarce fresh­wa­ter resources and con­tribut­ing with 25% of CO2 emis­sions in many dry coun­tries and scale up con­cepts that are good for the envi­ron­ment, social devel­op­ment and business.”

Announcement: Assistant Professor position available in Development Engineering with an expected start date of July 1, 2020

Take a look at an excit­ing Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor posi­tion that is avail­able at UC Berke­ley rel­e­vant to much of the work tak­ing place in RAEL:  click here.

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Open Octo­ber 7th, 2019 through Fri­day, Dec 13, 2019 at 11:59pm (Pacific Time)


The Col­lege of Engi­neer­ing and the Blum Cen­ter for Devel­op­ing Economies at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Berke­ley seek appli­ca­tions for a tenure-​​track fac­ulty posi­tion, at the Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor level in Devel­op­ment Engi­neer­ing with an expected start date of July 1, 2020.

Devel­op­ment Engi­neer­ing is a grow­ing mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary field that inte­grates engi­neer­ing, eco­nom­ics, busi­ness, nat­ural resources, pub­lic health and social sci­ences in order to cre­ate, imple­ment, eval­u­ate and scale new tech­nolo­gies to ben­e­fit peo­ple liv­ing in poverty in devel­op­ing regions and low-​​income areas in the U.S. The goal is to solve big soci­etal prob­lems both glob­ally and locally.

Exam­ple focus areas include, but are not lim­ited to: engi­neer­ing bet­ter health, the nexus of food, energy and water sys­tems, acces­si­ble low-​​cost energy tech­nolo­gies, the dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion of soci­etal sys­tems, cli­mate change mit­i­ga­tion, and sus­tain­able design and com­mu­ni­ties. Research in any one of these areas will enable cross-​​campus multi-​​disciplinary col­lab­o­ra­tions for inno­va­tion of scal­able and sus­tain­able tech­no­log­i­cal solu­tions to improve the human con­di­tion and lift peo­ple out of poverty, par­tic­u­larly in devel­op­ing economies.

Appli­cants will be hired into a home depart­ment within the Col­lege of Engi­neer­ing: Bio­engi­neer­ing; Civil & Envi­ron­men­tal Engi­neer­ing; Elec­tri­cal Engi­neer­ing & Com­puter Sci­ences; Indus­trial Engi­neer­ing & Oper­a­tions Research; Mate­ri­als Sci­ence & Engi­neer­ing; Mechan­i­cal Engi­neer­ing; or Nuclear Engi­neer­ing. More infor­ma­tion on the Col­lege of Engi­neer­ing, and a link to each depart­ment, is avail­able at http://​engi​neer​ing​.berke​ley​.edu/

The suc­cess­ful can­di­date will be expected to con­tribute mean­ing­fully to both their home depart­ment and to the activ­i­ties of the Devel­op­ment Engi­neer­ing Grad­u­ate Group, housed in the Blum Cen­ter for Devel­op­ing Economies. They will be expected to teach courses in both their home depart­ment and the Devel­op­ment Engi­neer­ing Grad­u­ate Group, and have a strong com­mit­ment to excel­lence in research, teach­ing, ser­vice, and con­tri­bu­tions to diver­sity, equity and inclu­sion. The Grad­u­ate Group in Devel­op­ment Engi­neer­ing is get­ting ready to offer a new Pro­fes­sional Mas­ters in Devel­op­ment Engi­neer­ing. It is expected that the new fac­ulty mem­ber selected will par­tic­i­pate in the ped­a­gogy asso­ci­ated with the new Masters.

The Blum Cen­ter for Devel­op­ing Economies lever­ages the tal­ent, enthu­si­asm, and energy of the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia com­mu­nity to address global poverty. The Blum Center’s inter­dis­ci­pli­nary problem-​​solving approach draws on stu­dents and fac­ulty ded­i­cated to fac­ing this chal­lenge through inno­v­a­tive tech­nolo­gies, ser­vices, and edu­ca­tion. It cat­alyzes the efforts of the uni­ver­sity com­mu­nity, in part­ner­ship with for-​​profit, non­profit, and gov­ern­ment enti­ties, to develop scal­able and sus­tain­able solu­tions. These mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary approaches are built around new tech­nolo­gies with great poten­tial for low-​​income regions. The Blum Cen­ter invests in promis­ing efforts and shep­herd them to the next stage, engag­ing part­ners out­side the uni­ver­sity inter­ested in bring­ing these inno­va­tions to mil­lions. In addi­tion to host­ing the Devel­op­ment Engi­neer­ing Grad­u­ate Group, the Blum Cen­ter also offers an under­grad­u­ate minor in Global Poverty & Prac­tice and man­ages the Big Ideas con­test that pro­vides fund­ing, sup­port, and encour­age­ment to stu­dents who have “big ideas” for social and entre­pre­neur­ial impact. More infor­ma­tion about the Blum Cen­ter is at: http://​blum​cen​ter​.berke​ley​.edu.

Basic Qual­i­fi­ca­tions: Appli­cants must, at a min­i­mum, be in the process of com­plet­ing a doc­toral dis­ser­ta­tion or an equiv­a­lent inter­na­tional degree at the time of application.

Addi­tional Qual­i­fi­ca­tions: The can­di­date should have expe­ri­ence in teach­ing, out­reach and research in devel­op­ment glob­ally or in low-​​income areas of the U.S.

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Kammen disputes the veracity of Jonathan Franzen’s essay on climate change.

Orig­i­nally pub­lished on the KQED news & dis­cus­sion pages, Sept 10, 2019.

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The cli­mate apoc­a­lypse is com­ing and there’s noth­ing we can do to stop it.

At least that’s the the­sis of writer Jonathan Franzen, whose recent essay in The New Yorker, titled “What if We Stopped Pre­tend­ing?,” tapped into a fear about a cli­mate apoc­a­lypse that many peo­ple are grap­pling with.

But in the wake of Franzen’s piece, pub­lished on the magazine’s web­site Sun­day, cli­mate sci­en­tists, advo­cates and jour­nal­ists quickly took to social media to pick apart his inter­pre­ta­tion of the cur­rent sci­en­tific out­look, and his fram­ing of the world’s goal of reduc­ing car­bon emis­sions to the point of staving off global cat­a­stro­phe, as prac­ti­cally impossible.

Franzen writes:

The goal has been clear for thirty years, and despite earnest efforts we’ve made essen­tially no progress toward reach­ing it. Today, the sci­en­tific evi­dence verges on irrefutable. If you’re younger than sixty, you have a good chance of wit­ness­ing the rad­i­cal desta­bi­liza­tion of life on earth—massive crop fail­ures, apoc­a­lyp­tic fires, implod­ing economies, epic flood­ing, hun­dreds of mil­lions of refugees flee­ing regions made unin­hab­it­able by extreme heat or per­ma­nent drought. If you’re under thirty, you’re all but guar­an­teed to wit­ness it.

Crit­ics of the piece were quick to assert that Franzen’s argu­ment is based upon mis­read­ing reports from the Inter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change and promi­nent sci­en­tific jour­nals like Nature.

A par­tic­u­lar stick­ing point for some was Franzen’s asser­tion that roughly two degrees Cel­sius of warm­ing above prein­dus­trial lev­els rep­re­sents a tip­ping point that will push the Earth past the point of no return.

Sean Hecht is the co-​​director of the Emmett Insti­tute on Cli­mate Change and the Envi­ron­ment at UCLA Law School:

Daniel Kam­men, a UC Berke­ley cli­mate physi­cist and co-​​author of pre­vi­ous IPCC reports, who also served as sci­ence envoy for the U.S. Depart­ment of State under Pres­i­dent Obama, says the real­ity is not that black and white. “No one has a pre­cise year, has a pre­cise num­ber, that if you exceed this all hope is lost,” he said. “That is just not the sci­en­tific fact.”

It’s just really unfor­tu­nate because it doesn’t reflect any of the cur­rent sci­ence. It’s as if he ignored the com­ments of the IPCC. reports,” Kam­men said. “This piece clearly got no fact checking.”

Franzen argues that in order to col­lec­tively make a go at avert­ing all-​​out dis­as­ter, “The first con­di­tion is that every one of the world’s major pol­lut­ing coun­tries insti­tute dra­con­ian con­ser­va­tion mea­sures, shut down much of its energy and trans­porta­tion infra­struc­ture, and com­pletely retool its econ­omy. He adds: “Call me a pes­simist or call me a human­ist, but I don’t see human nature fun­da­men­tally chang­ing any­time soon.”

But, Kam­men says, it’s far from a given that one-​​and-​​a-​​half or two-​​degrees of warm­ing is unpreventable.

While the U.S. is ignor­ing this, the rest of the world is pro­ceed­ing,” Kam­men said. And within the U.S., he pointed out, Cal­i­for­nia, New York and New Mex­ico are mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant  progress in reduc­ing green­house gases.

With advances in elec­tric vehi­cles, solar and wind power, and energy stor­age, Kam­men said,  “the tech­nol­ogy base to make it hap­pen is there.”

Franzen’s essay does make a case for the ben­e­fits of reduc­ing the world’s car­bon footprint.

Even if we can no longer hope to be saved from two degrees of warm­ing,” he wrote, “there’s still a strong prac­ti­cal and eth­i­cal case for reduc­ing car­bon emissions.”

Post­pon­ing what may be inevitable and mit­i­gat­ing the fall­out of cli­mate col­lapse are worth­while pur­suits, he says. As are invest­ing in com­mu­ni­ties, local farm­ing and con­ser­va­tion. But he also argues against putting all of our col­lec­tive eggs (i.e., pre­cious resources and hope) in a long-​​shot war against car­bon when other, more address­able prob­lems, such as water deple­tion and the overuse of pes­ti­cides, merit attention.

Franzen writes that, “a false hope of sal­va­tion can be actively harm­ful.” Per­sonal ini­tia­tives like bik­ing to work and vot­ing green, he says, may lure the pub­lic into a state of “com­pla­cency.” Instead, he argues, we should be prepar­ing for life in a rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent — and hot­ter — future, where wild­fires and floods per­sist and the threat of desta­bi­liza­tion looms over civ­i­liza­tion.

Doom and Gloom

Some of Franzen’s crit­ics say the kind of apoc­a­lyp­tic rhetoric he employs can be dangerous.

All the dis­cus­sions of doom and gloom have not led to change we need,” said Rob Jack­son, chair of Stan­ford University’s Earth Sys­tems Sci­ence Depart­ment. “It almost relieves us of respon­si­bil­ity. If an apoc­a­lypse is inevitable, why should I do any­thing to stave it off, to min­i­mize it’s effects? It reduces actions, rather than enhanc­ing action.”

While Jack­son says he thinks Franzen is cor­rect to point out that we need to bet­ter pre­pare for a chang­ing world, “We are not locked into a Mad Max world.”

The fall­out from cli­mate change is on a con­tin­uum, he says, and “Every tenth of a degree mat­ters. Every tenth of a degree increases the chances of run­away per­mafrost melt and methane release. Every tenth of a degree will increase the amount of ice melt and sea level rise we face over the next millennium.”

We don’t know where all the tip­ping points are. A two degree thresh­old is an arbi­trary thresh­old. The far­ther we go, the more likely we make it that cat­a­strophic things will happen.”

But Franzen is right that cli­mate is an exis­ten­tial thread, Jack­son said, “so we should vote and act like it.”

Not every­one thought Frazen’s argu­ments were so off base. In an arti­cle pub­lished Mon­day by Mother Jones, Kevin Drum points out that while the use of renew­able energy sources is on the rise — up from 19 to 22 per­cent of the world’s energy capac­ity since 1990 — so is our depen­dence on fos­sil fuels.

All told, our reliance on fos­sil fuels has increased from 62 per­cent to 65 per­cent,” Drum wrote. “We haven’t even man­aged to sta­bi­lize car­bon emis­sions, let alone reduce them.”

But Drum continues:

Franzen’s pre­scrip­tion is wrong: we shouldn’t give up hope. Suc­cess is still pos­si­ble, even if it’s hardly cer­tain. How­ever, his assess­ment of human nature is some­thing to be taken seri­ously and it should illu­mi­nate the way we approach cli­mate change. Work­ing with human nature is far more likely to pro­duce results than fight­ing it, and that means find­ing new ways to make green energy cheap and plen­ti­ful instead of fruit­lessly plead­ing with peo­ple to use less of it.


Climate Change, hurricanes make the affordable housing crisis even worse

\Teresa Wiltz, USA Today, for the orig­i­nal, click here.

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Last year, right before Hur­ri­cane Flo­rence hit New Bern, a small river­front city along the North Car­olina coast, Mar­tin Blaney rushed to the pub­lic hous­ing com­plex he runs, bang­ing on doors, yelling: “Evac­u­ate, evac­u­ate, evacuate!”

When the winds set­tled and the rains ended in New Bern, Blaney’s nearby offices were under 6 feet of water. Even worse: Nearly half of New Bern’s pub­lic hous­ing stock – 108 build­ings, all in a flood zone, out of 218 – was under water, too. Twelve build­ings were dam­aged beyond repair. (A nearby pub­lic hous­ing com­plex for seniors, located above the flood zones, was unscathed.)

We didn’t know the destruc­tive force of deep water,” said Blaney, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Hous­ing Author­ity of the City of New Bern. “It blew us away.

All of a sud­den, you’ve got 108 house­holds that need to have a roof over their head.”

Hur­ri­cane sea­son in full swing

Hur­ri­cane sea­son is under­way – and storms that make land­fall might fur­ther exac­er­bate the nation’s short­age of afford­able hous­ing, hous­ing experts say. A new report by Har­vard University’s Joint Cen­ter for Hous­ing Stud­ies said find­ing enough money to make hous­ing stur­dier and fix the dam­age done by increas­ingly fre­quent and severe storms is “an urgent hous­ing chal­lenge for the nation.”



Patricia Hidalgo-​​Gonzalez named Siebel Energy Scholar!

Con­grat­u­la­tions to Patri­cia Hidalgo-​​Gonzalez, who was names a 2019 — 2020 Siebel Energy Scholar!


The Siebel Schol­ars pro­gram was estab­lished by the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foun­da­tion in 2000 to rec­og­nize the most tal­ented stu­dents at the world’s lead­ing grad­u­ate schools of busi­ness, com­puter sci­ence, bio­engi­neer­ing, and energy sci­ence. Each year, more than 90 grad­u­ate stu­dents at the top of their class are selected dur­ing their final year of stud­ies based on out­stand­ing aca­d­e­mic per­for­mance and lead­er­ship to receive a $35,000 award toward their final year of stud­ies. Today, our active com­mu­nity of over 1,200 Siebel Schol­ars serves as advi­sors to the Siebel Foun­da­tion and works col­lab­o­ra­tively to find solu­tions to society’s most press­ing problems.

NSF SUPERB student Francesca Giardine presents summer RAEL project work

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National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion SUPERB (Sum­mer Under­grad­u­ate Pro­gram In Engi­neer­ing ⁦at Berke­ley)⁩ scholar Francesca Gia­r­dine worked with Den­nis Best in RAEL on clean energy for under-​​served com­mu­ni­ties for the 2019 Sum­mer.  Here she is pre­sent­ing her research.


IMG_6929Have a great year back at Smith College!


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