Statement By CEDM Directors on Carnegie Mellon News Page

Through its many educational efforts and the work of its research centers, Carnegie Mellon University is a world leader on issues of energy, climate and air pollution.

As scientists who have dedicated ourselves to research on a wide range of issues related to energy and climate, we write to express our grave concern about the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. U.S. withdrawal would pose a serious risk to a hard-won effort to have the world’s nations reach a voluntary agreement to begin to cut their emissions to a level that would hold global warming below 2 ºC, about a third of the temperature difference between now and the last ice age.

The Paris Agreement was established under an understanding of equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective nations’ capabilities, a long-standing approach to international climate mitigation efforts. The Agreement is voluntary, and the contributions of emissions reductions were proposed by each respective nation. They were not forced upon nations.

The simple facts are: 1) burning coal, oil and natural gas puts carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; 2) once carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere, a large part of it remains there for centuries; 3) carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traps heat, warms the planet, changes the climate, and will have consequences for people and for ecosystems. The increased concentration of CO2 also acidifies the oceans, with dramatic consequences for marine ecosystems that are already occurring.

In addition to the climate change-related effects, reliance on fossil fuels has another very tangible cost: using coal for electricity and industrial processes, or gasoline and diesel for transportation leads to the emissions of air pollutants that increase deaths and serious illnesses from breathing polluted air. Worldwide four million people die every year from this pollution, and tens of thousands die of it in the USA every year. In addition to the death toll, the loss of productivity and the health care costs associated with pollution-related illness pose a serious harm to our economic vitality.

The White House cited the economic needs of the people of Pittsburgh – home to Carnegie Mellon, where the rigorous study of energy and climate are a top institutional priority – as one motivation to withdraw from the Agreement. We have a vibrant and growing city; birthplace of a global robotics movement, home to high-tech start-ups, test beds for autonomous mobility and smart lighting systems, and a model for next general urban development. We also have cutting edge energy research and development efforts that have generated greenhouse gas emissions inventories for the city, as well as climate impact and action plans. For these reasons, we are confident in saying that in the short run Pittsburgh does not stand to benefit substantially from the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and in the long run Pittsburgh would lose. We enthusiastically support our Mayor in his commitment to honoring the terms of the Paris Agreement.

The window for serious global climate change mitigation efforts that could allow the world to avoid large negative effects is rapidly closing. The Paris Agreement provided an initial step in the direction of global climate action, but much more is needed. Leaders need to step up to the challenge by forging binding international agreements and domestic policies.

As the federal government begins the process of considering which conditions it would be willing to renegotiate, we call for a clear energy and climate policy from the administration that will lead to meaningful greenhouse emissions reductions. Failing to do so leads the country and the world into a place of increased uncertainty and danger. America led the world in starting to clean up air and water, and we profited by selling pollution reduction equipment to the world. This is not the time to cede America’s leadership to others.

Jay Apt, co-director, Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center
Inês Azevedo, co-director, Center for Climate and Energy Decision Making
Jared Cohon, president emeritus and past director, Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation
Neil Donahue, director, Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research
Granger Morgan, co-director, Center for Climate and Energy Decision Making and Electricity Industry Center
Allen Robinson, director, Center for Air, Climate and Energy Solutions
Jay Whitacre, director, Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation

See the article on the Carnegie Mellon University News page here.

First year PhD student Priya Donti heavily engaged in energy and climate data rescue plan

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette features an article on Priya Donti’s efforts in the Data Rescue plan for EPA information targeted by the Trump Administration.

“The strength of a democracy rests on the ability of all of its citizens to have access to data and decisions that will allow them to make their own informed choices,” Ms. Donti said. “If that data is removed, or if that data is controlled, it’s sort of equivalent to controlling how people are able to think or speak.”

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Ines Azevedo Interviewed by WESA on Trump’s Clean Coal Plan

“‘Clean coal could only be clean coal if you have very aggressive air control technologies implemented and (are also) addressing the CO2 emissions by installing carbon capture and sequestration in parallel,’ [Azevedo] said. ‘But that’s really hard.’

“Azevedo said it’s hard because it’s expensive. Despite the fact that academics first began exploring carbon capture and sequestration technology in 1989, it was only in January that the nation’s first ‘clean coal’ power plant opened.”

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Climate Central Quotes Ines Azevedo

Bobby Magill quoted Ines Azevedo in his piece “Electricity’s Carbon Footprint in U.S. Shrinks, Sets Record”.

“Climate pollution from generating electricity is now more than 24 percent below where it was in 2005, said Ines Azevedo, an associate professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, whose research team’s Power Sector Carbon Index echoes DOE’s data.

“The index, published at the end of March, uses both Environmental Protection Agency and DOE data to show how quickly many different factors have come together to cut the carbon footprint of electric power plants.

“A mild winter in 2016 — the hottest year on record worldwide, thanks to global warming —  also helped U.S. carbon emissions fall last year.

“‘Because more energy is used for heating than for cooling, warm years can translate to less energy consumption,’ according to the DOE report.

“Azevedo said that electric power plants shifting from coal to natural gas are responsible for about half the electric power sector’s carbon pollution drop between 2005 and 2016. Increased use of renewables such as wind and solar accounted for 40 percent of the falloff, with power plant efficiency and other factors representing the rest.”

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