Quotes from Experts

Climate plan solutions

SciLine reaches out to our network of scientific experts and poses commonly asked questions about newsworthy topics. Reporters can use these responses in news stories, with attribution to the expert.

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September 10-22, 2020


What science-backed considerations about climate mitigation and adaption are most important for voters to understand as they compare candidates’ approaches to addressing climate change?


“Data and science speaks for itself. There is no dearth of data which show that climate change has impacted our natural environment, weather patterns, health and economy. It is time to act. We have to make alternative choices which are greener, healthier and environmentally friendly. Less deforestation, creating more green spaces; more efficient fuel, trapping renewable energy like wind, solar and waves; electric vehicles; climate change education and awareness, all of these will help us slow and eventually stall the climate change wheel, leaving behind a better world for the future generations.” (Posted September 10, 2020)

Chandana Mitra, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Geosciences, Auburn University

“Climate change is redrawing the landscape of areas suitable for human habitation. The U.S. National Climate Assessment and innumerable other reports have clearly outlined the past and future costs and risks of climate change – economically, fiscally, environmentally, socially. As with COVID-19, what we do not have is any semblance of a plan that is coherent, cohesive, collective, and commensurate to the scale of climate risks and impacts. However, financial industries controlling mortgages, municipal bonds, insurance, and liability are attuned to corporate financial exposure and beginning to incorporate climate risks into their policies. This “market realignment” has little regard for fairness, community sense of place, local government function, or unequal impacts within and among metropolitan areas. Government denial of climate change abdicates the powerful federal government voice and position in ongoing debates underway in every sector and level of society about how to grapple with climate impacts. Its absence makes it that much more likely that private and decentralized adaptation responses will lead to widening societal inequality and racial injustice.” (Posted September 10, 2020)

Linda Shi, PhD
Assistant Professor, Cornell University Department of City and Regional Planning

“The science on climate change is clear—we need to halve global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and fully decarbonize by 2050 if we have any hope of avoiding the most dangerous effects of climate change, including sea-level rise, extreme temperatures, drought, floods, and other impacts. Because two-thirds of our global climate emissions come from our energy system, the number one thing candidates’ plans should be doing is having a clear plan for how they’re going to shift the U.S. energy system away from fossil fuels. We simply cannot reach the goal of decarbonization if we’re still burning fossil fuels, including natural gas. We need candidates that will put in the hard work to specify broad policies like carbon taxes, removal of fossil fuel subsidies, fiscal incentives for renewable electricity consumption, that will rapidly shift the nation’s energy system away from polluting fossil fuels.” (Posted September 22, 2020)

Angel Hsu, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Public Policy/Energy, Environment and Ecology Program, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

What science-backed considerations about renewable energy and the energy grid are most important for voters to understand as they compare candidates’ approaches to addressing climate change?


“The growth of renewable energy has not been a cause of the recent power outages in California. Far from it; in fact, solar and wind have literally kept the lights on. Fossil fuel (fossil gas) plants went off-line. The role of renewable energy could have been even larger in providing reliable electricity if investments in energy storage and in smart two-way communication had been larger. California has about 10 GW—enough to power 8 million homes—of distributed solar on residential and commercial roof-tops. Storage and net-metering agreements would have made far more of that available to utilities to dispatch as needed when demand is high or other sources are less available.” (Posted September 10, 2020)

Daniel Kammen, PhD
Professor in the Energy and Resources Group, University of California, Berkeley

What science-backed considerations about carbon capture, storage, and use are most important for voters to understand as they compare candidates’ approaches to addressing climate change?


“It is important to realize that there is no single technology or strategy that is sufficient to effectively reduce the CO2 emissions from a variety of sources and sectors. What makes carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) interesting is that it can reduce emissions from stationary sources such as power plants, chemical industries, and manufacturing plants. We can think of CCUS as a bridging technology that enables us to quickly reduce CO2 emissions as we transition from burning fossil fuels to using renewables, secure our energy demands, and diversify our energy portfolio. There are several technological routes for CCUS. For example, CO2 can be captured at the source via absorption, adsorption, by using membranes, or other processes. Depending on the CO2 source characteristics, locations, and operating conditions, the costs of each technology can be different. CCUS can be expensive and may require significant investment, but it can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal and natural gas-based power generation facilities. Scientists are also looking into ways to utilize the captured CO2, which can mitigate some of the costs. For example, CO2 can be used for enhanced oil recovery via CCUS, or for producing chemicals and fuels. All these make CCUS a promising technological pathway for combating man-made climate change.” (Posted September 10, 2020)

M. M. Faruque Hasan, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, Texas A&M University

“Carbon capture and storage (CCS) fills the gaps between other low-carbon strategies. Energy efficient technologies, investment in renewables, and other non-carbon-based energy sources can be deployed for large carbon emissions reductions; however, CCS remains a pragmatic part of the portfolio. CCS is an essential component of readying the net carbon negative technologies—direct air capture (DAC) and biofuels-CCS—at large scale. CCS is the only currently practical means of decarbonizing some industries and is a complement to renewables in an energy ecosystem.

“Mitigation of carbon build-up in the atmosphere is not free. Extra energy is consumed during the process of CCS to reduce emissions and investment in infrastructure is needed to build a overall carbon negative economy. In order to avoid consequences of carbon emissions, policies are needed to incentivize consumers and suppliers of energy and goods to pay for low carbon products. In addition, detailed work is needed to set up a well-regulated carbon reduction industry.

“Our group, the Gulf Coast Carbon Center, Bureau of Economic Geology in the Jackson School of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin has been working for 20 years assessing CCS as an engineered solution that augments and speeds up natural carbon dioxide removal processes. Confidence that storage will be effective with no negative consequences requires locating deep injection reservoirs that can accept and retain large volumes of CO2, modeling both expected and unexpected-but-unacceptable outcomes, and setting out instrumentation to monitor that the injection goes as-planned. Assuring project success requires quick investigation of unexpected responses—like pressure in a reservoir increasing faster than expected—and ready-if-needed solutions to possible problems. Investment is needed to advance CCS to a go-to carbon reduction/carbon negative solution.” (Posted September 10, 2020)

Susan D. Hovorka, PhD
Senior Research Scientist, Bureau of Economic Geology, Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas at Austin

What science-backed considerations about automobiles and public transportation are most important for voters to understand as they compare candidates’ approaches to addressing climate change?


“Prior to the pandemic, the transportation section was on the cusp of change driven by advancements in automation, electrification, and shared mobility. As the world recovers from the COVID-19, it is important to consider the opportunities to reimagine our transportation network. Will we be a society that works more from home? Will we be a society that walks and uses bicycles? Will we continue to be auto focused? Public policy and investments in both physical and digital infrastructure have the potential to shape these outcomes. While the impacts are uncertain, vehicle automation will likely change traditional transportation behaviors, which have been around for decades. While vehicle automation could help bridge first mile/last mile connections and fill service gaps, it could also contribute to increased vehicle use and congestion. Policies will likely be needed to encourage the sustainable adoption of these emerging technologies.” (Posted September 10, 2020)

Susan A. Shaheen, PhD
Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering; Co-Director, Transportation Sustainability Research Center, University of California, Berkeley

“Safe, efficient, and reliable transportation infrastructure is critical to the national economy as well as Americans’ quality of life. Our national transportation infrastructure needs a major update to ensure travel safety, environmental sustainability, and economic growth.

“Transportation is the second largest category of American household spending, accounting for 17.4% or $811 per month in 2017. On average, rural households spent 8% more in transportation than urban households. Fuel and motor oil purchases accounted for 23.6% of transportation expenditures or $290 billion in the US, and the traffic congestion resulting from the cars using that fuel cost the US economy nearly $87 billion in 2018 due to lost productivity.

“Controlling car-trip demand on roads and increasing the capacity of our roads are two important solutions to traffic congestion and the extra air pollution caused by traffic jams.

“Carpooling and mass transit are two great alternatives to single-occupancy vehicle trips and help to reduce demand for road space. Unfortunately, 91% of people commuting to work use personal vehicles. Only 12.7% of commuting trips are made by public transit in areas with population over 5 million. Numbers of people using mass transit are smaller at lower density areas, with 5.9% in areas between 2.5 and 5 million, and 2.5%in areas between 1 and 2.5 million residents. Although mass transit trips are more efficient in terms of fuel consumption per traveler mile and ten times safer per mile than traveling by cars, 45% of Americans have no access to public transportation. Also due to various reasons, mass transit ridership has been declining over the past several years.

“Roadway capacity can be increased by adding more travel lanes or applying smart transportation technologies to enhance operational efficiency of the existing infrastructure.” (Posted September 10, 2020)

Yinhai Wang, PhD, PE, FASCE, FITE
Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Washington

What science-backed considerations about agriculture are most important for voters to understand as they compare candidates’ approaches to addressing climate change?


“With respect to climate change and U.S. agriculture, current research suggests two primary challenges. The first is an increased risk of physical disruption; extreme changes such as drought, spring flooding, or derechos that can increase crop losses and disrupt normal farm operations. The second challenge is biological. As the climate changes, pest (weeds, insects, disease) distribution will also change posing new risks for crop production and pest management.

“But if there are challenges, there are also opportunities, and a genuine need for investment in the research to identify the nature and scope of these opportunities. If, for example, warmer weather results in a longer frost-free season, how can crop selection and management be optimized to exploit that change? If extreme events (precipitation) are more likely, can alternate practices, such as cover crops be used to limit soil erosion or improve soil health? If pest demography is changing, what innovations are available to identify and respond to new pests? What changes in current management can be used to increase carbon storage and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions? While initial research suggests innovative practices to mitigate and adapt to climate change, much more needs to be done.

“The U.S. has a long, profound history of agricultural progress. Given that the challenges are intense, the need for a coordinated response in the public and private arena has never been greater. As the US. Is the world’s greatest food exporter, such a response is vital to maintain and continue global food security as climate uncertainty continues.” (Posted September 10, 2020)

Lewis Ziska, PhD
Associate Professor, Environmental Health Science, Columbia University

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Chandana Mitra, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Geosciences, Auburn University

None

Linda Shi, PhD, Assistant Professor, Cornell University Department of City and Regional Planning

I have research grants and committee/board positions but none that would create a conflict of interest

Daniel Kammen, PhD, Professor and Chair in the Energy and Resources Group, University of California, Berkeley, Coordinating Lead Author for the IPCC which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.  Former US Science Envoy.

None

Susan D. Hovorka, PhD, Senior Research Scientist, Bureau of Economic Geology, Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas at Austin

None

Susan A. Shaheen, PhD, Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering; Co-Director, Transportation Sustainability Research Center, University of California, Berkeley

No conflicts of interest.

Yinhai Wang, PhD, PE, FASCE, FITE, Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Washington

None

Lewis Ziska, PhD, Associate Professor, Environmental Health Science, Columbia University

None

Angel Hsu, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Public Policy/Energy, Environment and Ecology Program, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

None