CDMC Seminars - 2009

December 4, 2009
Paul Fischbeck
Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University

"Has the Hockey Stick Broken?"
Central to the 2001 Third Assessment Report (TAR) from the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was the presentation of the "hockey stick graph," which shows that the Earth's climate was very stable from AD1000 to 1900, when suddenly temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere rose dramatically. A version of the hockey stick is used for
dramatic effect in Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth." Over the past five years, statisticians have raised concerns over the methods and data used by studies that support the hockey stick shape. Over the past month, new accusations over its supporting data have been voiced. This talk will review some of these major issues.

Dr. Paul S. Fischbeck is a Professor in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy and in the Department of Social and Decision Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University. His general research involves normative and descriptive risk analysis. Fischbeck's collaborators include researchers from all the engineering disciplines and the social sciences. He has served on seven National Academy panels investigating a
variety of risk assessments (e.g., Alaska's oil and gas infrastructure, school buses, FDA activities, and double-hull oil tankers). His 2002 book, Improving Regulation (RFF Press, co-edited with Scott Farrow), presents a dozen case studies of how to integrate insights from multiple disciplines to improve the regulatory process.

November 11, 2009
Kerry Emanuel
Professor of Atmospheric Science, MIT

"Using Physics to Assess Hurricane Risk"
As hurricanes account for the majority of insured losses worldwide, it is important to be as accurate as possible in assessing long term risk. Analysis of damages caused by hurricanes reveals a highly nonlinear and steep dependence on wind speed, and so the great bulk of damage in developed nations such as the U.S. is caused by a small minority of events that were intense at landfall and struck populous regions. This highly destructive subset of events is too sparse to be used to make reliable estimates of their long-term frequency (or return period) based on the short and flawed record of hurricanes, but almost all extant risk assessment methods are based entirely on hurricane history.

We have developed a method of assessing hurricane risk that is based entirely on an understanding of their physics as encoded in a simple numerical simulation model that is driven by large-scale climate data. This method is entirely independent of historical hurricane data, although it has been extensively validated against such historical data. The technique is used to generate very large (~50,000) event sets and can be easily applied to future climates, as represented by global climate models, as well as to the present climate. I will present results of applying this technique to both present and future climates and discuss implications for long-term hurricane risk assessment.

October 23, 2009
Dirk Scheer
Researcher, Department for Sociology of Technologies and Environment, University of Stuttgart

"Communication about prospects and limitations of simulation results for policy makers"
CEIC/CDMC Joint Seminar

Most simulation products are designed for practical purposes. Such purposes range from medical applications, to the prediction of material performance under stress to sophisticated behavior of systems under changing external conditions. One of the key questions in this respect is the applicability of simulation results for policy making. Can simulation be used for regulatory standard setting or for standardization of norms or for designing energy policies? How reliable and valid are these results and can they replace, or at least, supplement experimental data or systematic trial and error? The project “Communication about prospects and limitations of simulation results for policy-makers” will focus on the exchange between simulation experts and simulation users in selected policy fields. The main objective is to elicit the dominant expectations and requirements from the policy side and match this input with specific performance and reliability of the simulation processes under investigation. The project will focus on a case-study of carbon capture and storage. Main project steps will be 1) relevance of simulation in carbon capture and storage, 2) mapping the communication patterns, 3) analysis of simulation results transformation within communication process, 4) eliciting the requirements from the policy side towards simulation.


October 16, 2009
Hadi Dowlatabadi
Professor, Applied Mathematics and Global Change, University of British Columbia

"To Carbon Taxes and Beyond: where no politician has gone before"
This seminar was held at the University of British Columbia and broadcast as a distance seminar to Carnegie Mellon Department of Engineering and Public Policy.

In 2007 BC's Liberal government mustered the political will to institute the first broad-based carbon tax system. In this presentation, the Climate Action Program for BC, which includes a number of measures beyond the tax, and the many challenges ahead will be reviewed. Hopefully, the lessons from BC's experience can be of value in the design of future programs elsewhere.

Dowlatabadi is Canada Research Chair & Prof in Applied Mathematics and Global Change at the University of British Columbia. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh PA; and University Fellow at Resources for the Future, a think tank in Washington DC. He is also a project investigator for the Climate Decision Making Center.


October 1, 2009
Dr. Thomas Rawski
Professor of Economics and History, University of Pittsburgh

"China and the Environment - Tempest in a Teapot?"
This talk focuses on four topics: i) China's urban air quality has improved substantially; the trend compares favorably with experience in previous industrialization episodes, which means that public health risks cannot be serious; ii) GREEN GDP is a good idea, but proponents may be surprised to learn that properly constructed measures of Green GDP will be LARGER and perhaps GROW FASTER than conventional GDP; iii) China's regional water shortages represent a potentially more serious issue; the severity of their consequences depends on macroeconomic adjustments, especially employment growth; iii) efforts to forestall global warming by mandating reduced emissions seem likely to deliver substantial economic damage while providing little or no benefit. Serious efforts to avoid the consequences of global warming must deploy some combination of globally shared innovation and geo-engineering.

March 17, 2009
David Rutledge
Tomiyasu Professor of Electrical Engineering , California Institute of Technology

"Assessing the Ultimate Production of Oil, Gas, and Coal, and the Implications for Fossil-fuel Alternatives and Climate Change"
An accurate estimate of the ultimate production of oil, gas, and coal would be helpful for the ongoing policy circleussion on alternatives to fossil fuels and climate change. By ultimate production, we mean total production, past and future. It takes a long time to develop energy infrastructure, and this means it matters whether we have burned 20% of our oil, gas, and coal, or 40%. In modeling climate change, the carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is the most important factor. The time frame for the climate response is much longer than the time frame for burning fossil fuels, and this means that the total amount burned is more important than the rate of burning. Oil, gas, and coal ultimates are traditionally estimated by government geological surveys from measurements of oil and gas reservoirs and coal seams, together with an allowance for future circleoveries of oil and gas. We will see that where these estimates can be tested, they tend to be too high, and that more accurate estimates can be made by curve fits to the production history.

February 4, 2009
Willet Kempton
Center for Carbon-free Power Integration Director, University of Delaware

"Grid Integration of Large Fluctuating Power Generation with Plug-in Vehicles"
Because most carbon-free power is today captured near the surface of the planet, using power conversion devices that lack inherent storage, their electrical power output fluctuates at time scales from seconds to seasons. Where might we find storage to level these fluctuations? As industrialized countries electrify the
vehicle fleet, as a byproduct we will create 20 to 50 kWh of load- proximate storage per adult, connected to the grid at 3 - 20 kW, yet tapped for mobility on average only 1 h/d, using on average only 10kWh/d. The economic, engineering, policy, and grid topology rationales for making this storage available to the
electric system are compelling. This seminar will circleuss basic principles and report briefly on the
industrial consortium working to implement this technology.

January 6, 2009
Iris Grossman
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Climate Decision Making Center, Carnegie Mellon University

"Atlantic hurricanes – are they becoming more intense?"


Climate Decision Making Center 2009