Synthesis and outreach

Pacala and Socolow, with several junior collaborators, will continue developing simplified tools relevant to the assignment of responsibility for carbon mitigation in the post-Kyoto (post-2012) era, with the goal of helping break the “north-south” impasse in international climate policy. The team developing this analysis includes young investigators from India and China who wish to apply these tools to the states and provinces of their home countries, once our first papers are completed. It is conceivable that this second integration product from CMI will have as large an impact on the conceptualization of CO2 mitigation as the Princeton’s wedges work has had.

In response to the continued popularity of the wedges, Roberta Hotinski will continue to work with groups outside Princeton to facilitate workshops and help develop wedge-based materials for new audiences. In addition, Dr. Pascale Poussart, PEI’s new Assistant Director for Energy Initiatives, will become a full-time member of the team in May and will work to both expand outreach and integrate CMI with other campus initiatives.


Linking energy security and carbon concerns

With the emergence of a second University thrust in energy alongside CMI in the form of the Energy Grand Challenge (discussed above), work on energy and security will be substantially expanded. A notable beneficiary of this expansion will be the fledgling university program on oil, energy, and the Middle East, a collaboration of the Department of Near Eastern Studies, the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and the Princeton Environmental Institute. This collaboration will now be headed by a newly hired full professor, Bernard Haykel, a historian of Saudi Arabia and Yemen with strong interests in contemporary events.


Impacts of greenhouse gases on air quality

We anticipate that future work addressing linkages between air quality and greenhouse gas emissions will include both work in collaboration with GFDL on the understudied problem of methane emissions management (“methane wedges”) and work on interactions between greenhouse policy and air quality policy. An example of the latter is the current thesis research of a graduate student from China, who is examining how China sets and implements environmental goals. He is learning the details of China’s ambitious programs of the past few years to reduce its SO2 emissions, with the objective of predicting how China will set and implement goals for CO2 emissions.


Improving assessments of climate change risks

A new initiative has been undertaken by Oppenheimer and colleagues at MIT, NCAR, and UC San Diego, as concern has grown in the climate community about the capabilities of the assessment process. Despite the great success of IPCC, many questions have arisen about its assessment of the future contribution of ice sheets to sea level rise. A notable lesson from recent assessments of both climate and other problems is the underestimation of the likelihood of large or unusual outcomes (ice sheet disintegration, ozone hole), and a tendency to pursue paths of learning for a very long time (despite contraindications) that ultimately prove to be wrong (which they call “negative learning”). In order to better understand the scientific learning process and shape an improved assessment process, Oppenheimer has engaged with colleagues at UCSD in history of science to explore in depth the interaction among uncertainty, scientific learning and scientific assessment, with the case history of the West Antarctic ice sheet as a first study.