05 September 2009

A Few Reactions to 'The First 300 Days"

The symposium last week at the CU Law School on the climate and energy policies of the Obama Administration was very well attended. I had a fun time and learned a lot from my fellow panelists, Mark Squillace was especially sharp in his comments. I understand that it was recorded and as soon as it appears I'll provide a link.

Meantime, Sharon Friedman attended and graciously sent in these reactions:
Thanks to everyone involved in the panel. It was informative, lively and the speakers kept on time! Great work!

Here’s a couple of things I heard that I think deserve more discussion:

Suffocating in Piles of $, Good for Science/Technology and/or Climate Change?

People in climate change and renewable technologies may be getting too much money to spend wisely. Perhaps a phased- in approach or simply more management (Manhattan project- like?) could be a more successful way of spending tax dollars. One person told a story of only one out of 1700 proposals being any good for some DOE grants. I have to wonder if today our response to the need for the atomic bomb would be to put Fermi and Oppenheimer on a panel reviewing grant proposals.

The other observation made by a panelist was something along the lines of “Getting lots of money now is bad because it might not be continued.” (I didn’t really understand this, I think what is meant is that by dumping money now a lot of scientific projects will get established, and people will get jobs only to lose them later..but this sounds like all economic stimulus projects would have the same problem. Maybe I missed something.)

Congress or Agencies Better to Develop Approach to Climate Regulation?

Some people think Congress “should “ be able to do better with legislation on climate than EPA regulations. In my experience, with technical issues, Congress can make deals at the end of the day that don’t really make technical sense. In my experience, this is less likely to happen with agencies (who at the end of the day can say, it’s just not worth doing – the best deal we can get doesn’t meet our purpose in doing this regulation.) It seems to me that when Congress gets involved there is a lot more momentum generated, ultimately that leads to making some kind of deal. But that’s just me. This might be a good project for a graduate student.. do a couple of case studies of technical regulatory issues and see who did the best job- Congress or agencies, and explore possible reasons.

Need for Funds for Adaptation Research

A couple times it was mentioned that there was a need for funds for adaptation (research or actual adaptation is not clear). My observation is that each discipline involved in adaptation (water resources, emergency management, etc.) has shifted some or much of their research funding to considerations of climate adaptation. In some geographic areas there are at least three separate downscaling efforts directed toward adaptation. Perhaps we need to be clearer about what we mean by adaptation research, explore what people are already doing and see what else needs to be done before we conclude there is not enough, or there is. I think many of the adaptation fields (wildlife biology, plant breeding) may be invisible to the Science Establishment but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t doing research right now on specifically those topics. If it isn’t funded by NOAA, NSF or DOE, it seems like it doesn’t exist, in some science circles. My observation is also that the adapters I know are doing a lot more analysis and strategizing than academics might know about.

EPA Better than Agriculture to Work on Agriculture and Forestry Offsets?

People who work in Agriculture understand farms and forests. So why would we hire a bunch of new people who do not understand farms and forests to learn about them and do offsets? Because they are more independent, I suppose. Using the same logic (those who know about things are unavoidably tainted by self-interest) we should have non-scientists running the science agency budgets). Just sayin’.