Global warming is “the greatest environmental challenge the world has ever faced.'' – Severin Borenstein, director, UC Energy Institute
The National Research Council, the country's premier science policy body, says that the Earth is the hottest it has been in at least 400 years.
Global warming has taken center stage this summer, both in Washington and Sacramento, as leaders consider strategies to address the enormous economic, environmental and health consequences of pollution. This week, Governor Schwarzenegger signed legislation — the Global Warming Solutions Act — that sets a statewide goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020.
As the research arm for the state, the University of California will play a large role in helping the state to reach that goal. UC has long been involved in studying climate change and exploring ways to curb global warming, and today is home to many of the world's top experts on greenhouse gases and environmental sustainability.
Earlier this summer, a large group of UC economists took the lead in urging the Governor and the Legislature to move quickly to control greenhouse gas emissions. "The risks of climate change to California's economy are significant, especially to our water system," said UC Berkeley professor Michael Hanemann. "California will face significant economic costs from global warming if we fail to take action."
The University of California also seeks to curb global warming and encourage environmental sustainability in its own operations, modeling responsible climate action for its students and other large organizations to follow.
UC has committed to taking action to track, report and reduce the University’s greenhouse gas emissions. UC’s Clean Energy Policy issued in January 2006 states:
- With an overall goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while maintaining enrollment accessibility for every eligible student, the University will pursue the development of a long term strategy for voluntarily meeting the State of California’s goal, pursuant to the Governor’s Executive Order S-3-05, that is: by 2010, to reduce GHG emissions to 2000 levels; by 2020, to reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels; by 2050, to reduce GHG emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels.
- The UC Senior Vice President, Business and Finance, in coordination with campus administration, faculty, students and other stakeholders (the Sustainability Group), will research options for collection, monitoring, and certification of energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The Sustainability Group will develop an in-house methodology by which to collect, monitor, and certify energy use and GHG emission, and will pursue an affiliate membership with the California Climate Action Registry. The methodology will include development of a “higher education protocol” to allow for normalization of data and accurate reporting procedures. The Sustainability Group will monitor progress toward reaching the stated goals for GHG reduction, and will evaluate suggestions for programs to reach these goals. The Sustainability Group will also examine the feasibility of developing benchmarking processes to measure overall energy use over time.
"Climate action can be profitable." A new UC Berkeley report found that reducing California greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, as envisioned by the new state legislation [AB 32], can boost the state’s economy by $60 billion and create 17,000 new jobs by 2020. The gains could be even larger – $74 billion and 89,000 new jobs – if climate policies are designed to create direct incentives for California companies to invest in new technology.
Record heat waves, powerful hurricanes, destructive tsunamis and melting ice caps – can anybody do anything about the weather?
UC Irvine establishes major carbon cycle research center: The first of its kind in the U.S., this UC accelerator facility will advance our understanding of climate changes.
At UC San Diego, chemists are working to better understand the atmospheric processes that could be giving our pollution-weary lungs more breathing room.
The Earth is a really big place, and pulling together the numbers to understand – and solve – the problems associated with global warming takes a really big computer. That’s where the San Diego Supercomputer Center – in collaboration with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory– applies its heavy-duty, number-crunching expertise.
Fran Berman, the center’s director, says, "To understand a force as dynamic and complex as the Earth's atmosphere – or something as ephemeral as a cloud – today involves simulations with massive computing resources and data collections.”
There are several things we can get out of glaciers. Science Today talks about UC Riverside’s study on how glaciers offer insight into changes in precipitation and temperature.
Global warming can trigger extreme ocean, climate changes
Using deep ocean historical records, new research produced by scientists at UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography helps illustrate how global warming caused by greenhouse gases can quickly disrupt ocean processes and lead to drastic climatological, biological and other important changes around the world.
UC researchers from San Diego have shown that rising temperatures expected in the years ahead will exacerbate the number of large and costly wildfires in the western United States.
Also at UCSD, the late Professor C. D. Keeling conducted ground-breaking studies of atmospheric carbon dioxide and the carbon cycle provided the scientific background for the discussion of the human impact on the Earth’s climate. His lab, now under the direction of his son, Professor Ralph Keeling, continues its long, iconic times-series of measurements at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, and other locations around the world.
The way we travel and use energy are the biggest sources of greenhouse gases. Energy represents one of the most important connections between the things people do and the environment they live in. Throughout UC’s campuses and national labs, researchers are studying the environmental impacts of our energy use – to light our homes, operate our workplaces and run our cars – and ways to conserve and use it more efficiently.
Cars and trucks are one of the biggest drains on energy and the largest source of pollution. Addressing these environmental challenges also require changes in our behavior and our transportation infrastructure – and UC researchers are finding solutions from these angles as well.
For example, in Berkeley, UC researchers have pioneered the compact fluorescent light bulb, while UC Davis is designing more energy-efficient cars and fuel cells.
Clean, convenient alternatives for commuters. At UC Irvine, a transportation project combines rail, zero- and low-emission vehicles in a far-reaching public-private partnership.
UC Irvine researchers are also using a fleet of electric cars and tracking devices to put in motion a program that responds to transportation congestion and sustaining air quality.
The Hydrogen Highway
UCLA’s Hydrogen Engineering Research Consortium is working with private industry to make the hydrogen economy a reality. Hydrogen-based transportation has the potential to yield significant reductions in toxic emissions. The consortium has one of the few hydrogen fuel-cell cars – a Mercedes Benz A-Class sedan.
CITRIS sponsors collaborative information technology research that will ultimately provide solutions in such areas as energy efficiency, transportation and environmental monitoring. For example, a network of tiny, inexpensive sensors can make buildings vastly more energy efficient, saving as much as $55 billion in energy costs nationally and 35 million tons of carbon emissions each year.
Can we adapt? The science and psychology of climate change
UC Berkeley journalism school series in California Alumni Magazine’s Sep./Oct. 2006 issue with remedies from Nobel Laureates George Akerlof and Steven Chu, and how a car and a weed might save us.
UC Riverside research: New fuels, new traffic tech
Researchers at UC Riverside are working on converting cellulosic biomass into ethanol as a sustainable option for transportation fuel and an abundant, inexpensive alternative to petroleum. Because transportation is responsible for more than one-third of greenhouse gas emissions, creating fuels such as ethanol from biomass can virtually eliminate net greenhouse gas emissions. The UCR Bourns College of Engineering – Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) is pursuing efforts to help speed up large-scale biological processing of biomass for commercial use, and develop processes for converting problematic solid wastes into sustainable ethanol and diesel fuel. UC Riverside is also exploring methods to promote vehicular traffic to move more efficiently, through the implementation of new transportation technology that reduces traffic congestion and the resulting greenhouse gases.
UC Riverside has also developed a unique atmospheric chamber to better understand the formation of particulate matter and ozone. This “next generation” chamber is the only facility in the U.S., where leading-edge research on tropospheric ozone and aerosol formation at near-ambient conditions can be undertaken.
UC has also found cleaner, more efficient technologies for producing charcoal in Africa can save millions of lives, and have significant climate change and development benefits. In many developing nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America, many families are dependent on both wood and charcoal for cooking and heating homes. However, more than 1.6 million people, primarily women and children, die prematurely each year worldwide from respiratory diseases caused by the pollution from such fires.
UC Acts to Reduce Its Greenhouse Gas Emissions
UC Berkeley has launched the Cal Climate Action Partnership. link
Graduate student researchers at UC Santa Barbara are engaged in a multi-year project to move their campus toward becoming climate neutral in its greenhouse gas emissions, and their report issued in May 2007 calculated how much money the campus would save while also reducing its emissions. link
UC Davis has joined the California Climate Action Registry, a group of organizations that are voluntarily taking action on climate change. As a member, UC Davis will work with the registry to annually track, report, and certify its campuswide greenhouse gas emissions. Preparation of the University's first greenhouse gas emissions inventory will be a joint effort between the Environmental Health & Safety Department and the UC Davis Air Quality Research Center. link release
UC Santa Cruz has been named the sixth-largest green power purchaser in the country by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA's College and University Green Power Partners organization promotes purchases of renewable resources. link release
"Economic Growth and Greenhouse Gas Mitigation in California" [UC analysis of AB 32]
This web page published September 2006