Fuel Switching Can Save Water: Freshwater Use for Coal Vs. Natural Gas Extraction, Power Generation

Emily Grubert studies electricity fuel cycles, focusing on integrating knowledge about various environmental and social impacts of fuel extraction, use, and disposal to aid decision makers at a local level using life cycle assessment, textual analysis, and multi-criteria decision analysis. Her particular focus is on fuel extraction and water resources. This talk, based on a recent paper published in Environmental Research Letters (Grubert, Beach, and Webber 2012), addresses freshwater consumption for the natural gas- and coal-fired electricity fuel cycles in Texas. Specifically, I will focus on fuel extraction, power plant cooling, and power plant emissions controls, which account for an estimated 95% of the freshwater consumption associated with electricity production. Most of this water consumption (~80%) is for power plant cooling, but fuel extraction and emissions controls have become increasingly important with the advent of unconventional natural gas production that requires hydraulic fracturing and stricter sulfur dioxide control standards for power plants.

A Critical Conversation About Energy in New England: Yale's Community Carbon Fund

Annie Harper discusses Yale’s Community Carbon Fund, a joint project of the Office of Sustainability and the Center for Business and Environment at Yale to support local carbon mitigation projects that go beyond Yale’s immediate campus. When money is donated, the Yale Community Carbon Fund staff invests it in ways that enable low income people or organizations in New Haven to become more energy efficient and save money.  

Can Renewables Address Energy Poverty in India?

Johannes Urpelainen is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Columbia University. His talk examines the potential for using renewable sources of energy, notably solar power, to combat energy poverty in India where two-thirds of the population relies on traditional biomass for cooking and one-third does not have access to basic household electricity. His presentation argues that solar power holds a lot of promise for providing deprived rural communities with basic electricity services, but power sector reforms are necessary for the provision of larger, productive loads of power.  He also describes an experimental research design for identifying the socio-economic effects of solar power on rural communities in Uttar Pradesh.

Professor Urpelainen’s research focuses on environmental policy and politics, with a particular emphasis on sustainable energy. Among other outlets, his research has been published in The American Journal of Political Science, Global Environmental Change, International Organization, and The Journal of Politics. He is currently conducting experimental field research on solar power in India and preparing a book manuscript on the global political economy of renewable energy. 

Peak Water Solutions in a Changing Climate

Dr. Peter Gleick is a MacArthur award-winning visionary on water and climate issues. He co-founded and leads the Pacific Institute in Oakland, an  innovative, independent non-governmental organizations in the fields of water and economic and environmental justice and sustainability.  Dr. Gleick talks about the intersection between climate change and water resources and all of its societal repercussions.

Post-Hurricane Sandy Reconstruction: Strengths and Limitations of Climate Model-Based Approaches

Radley Horton, Associate Research Scientist, Center for Climate Systems Research, Columbia University Earth Institute, shares his experience and perspective on key decisions made while working with the City of New York to mobilize scientists for a rapid assessment of the damage in the wake of Super Storm Sandy. He also discusses another project involving the loss of Arctic sea ice and its potential for effecting mid-latitude climate.

The Risks and Efficacy of Solar Geoengineering

David Keith explains how solar geoengineering may enable a significant reduction in climate risks by partially offsetting climate change due to increasing greenhouse gases, however this emerging technology entails novel risks and uncertainties along with serious challenges to global governance. He provides a rough summary of the physics of solar geoengineering and present recent findings regarding (a) the climate’s response to radiative forcing by stratospheric aerosols, (b) methods of producing appropriate aerosol distributions, and (c) risks. In closing I will discuss the trade-off between solar geoengineering, emissions reductions and adaptation in climate policy.


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