Science and outreach

Upcoming (and past) dates/appearances:

Lab Talk with Laura series. I’ll be chatting with Laura Fattaruso about oil disasters, methane disasters, and researching the global carbon cycle. Stay tuned for the link!

Coast To Coast Science podcast. I visited with Heather and we discussed fun science topics ranging from the human genome to the soil microbiome to how people even get their science news. Here’s the link!

February 28, 2020: I met with Caltechers to discuss teaching strategies–engaging students and the public using current pedagogies. It was fantastic to meet the up-and-coming teachers in STEM, representing teaching interests from middle grade through university level. 

March 5th: Tipsy Nerds Book Club Podcast. This is a great podcast that is working through the top 100 science fiction titles, one book at a time. I’ll be joining them to chat about Mistborn, a great read by Brandon Sanderson. I’ve learned so much about world building from Sanderson–if you’re getting into speculative fiction, definitely look into his online writing videos. 

Upcoming (Postponed due to COVID-19; stay tuned): Author talk (discussion) at Blanchard Library in Santa Paula. Climate Change and Communication. 

I’ve done various interviews this year, which you can find at author Joshua David Bellin’s website here, at author CM Rushi’s website here, and in the Ventura County Writer’s Salon newsletter here. And there are a few writing-related projects I’ve gotten involved with during quarantine, including contributing a story to the Quarantine Connection, a 40-person project to hearken back to historical quarantine, at the Climate Cultures website. Also a few events and mentions in the newspapers like this one.

What’s been the most fun of all–Skype with a Scientist, a virtual way visit between scientists and classrooms. I had a great time meeting with both of Margaret McCarthy’s second grade classrooms. We talked about dirt–and how important it is to the planet. (And dinosaurs. We talked about dinos, too. They’re really awesome.) And interviews with iRIS, a not-for-profit organization that helps students share their interest in science and medicine. Also chatted via email with environmental scientists at the University of Hawaii about the importance of science communication.

The best place to find accessible climate information at any time is at NASA’s website here. My personal science website, summarizing my Caltech work, is here.


A few items from around the web:


May 2020: Emission reductions during COVID quarantine.

Within the climate community, the 2020 Stay-at-Home orders comes with challenge–but also with a small silver lining: the opportunity to ask how these orders impact emissions, as a yardstick to help us grapple with possible methods of reducing emissions.

Put another way, stay-at-home comes at a measurable economic and psychological cost. It has been an undeniable shock to the global economic system. The question arises, what sits on the other side of that scale? What is the reduction to emissions, under such extreme actions as global pandemic and quarantine? Is any of this information actionable to help us move more quickly toward reduction targets? 

We can start with measuring the reduction to emissions during quarantine. Those of us in the climate community have been curious about this number. How much have carbon dioxide emissions dropped during Stay-at-Home?

The journal Nature has published one study (Temporary reduction in daily global COemissions during the COVID-19 forced confinement) that measures this drop. The abstract begins:

Government policies during the COVID-19 pandemic have drastically altered patterns of energy demand around the world. Many international borders were closed and populations were confined to their homes, which reduced transport and changed consumption patterns. Here we compile government policies and activity data to estimate the decrease in CO2 emissions during forced confinements.

In brief, CO2 emissions have dropped 17% during this time. Some of that number will rebound as countries ‘open up.’ The article pulls apart changes by sector (geographical region, coal, oil, congestion, mobility) and relative drop in fossil fuel usage. At the time of publication, fossil fuel usage had dropped to early 2000s level (figure 3).

It’s worth a read. It’ll shift how you see the interaction between society and the atmosphere we rely on.


September 2019: Climate activist Greta Thunberg. 

Here’s the text of her speech to the UN on September 23rd, 2019.

My message is that we’ll be watching you?
This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school, on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!
You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying.
Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money, and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!
For more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away, and come here saying that you’re doing enough when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.
You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.
The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5 degrees (Celsius) and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control.
Fifty percent may be acceptable to you. But those numbers do not include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of equity and climate justice. They also rely on my generation sucking hundreds of billions of tons of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist.
So a 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us – we who have to live with the consequences.
To have a 67% chance of staying below a 1.5 degrees global temperature rise – the best odds given by the (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) – the world had 420 gigatons of CO2 left to emit back on Jan. 1, 2018. Today that figure is already down to less than 350 gigatons.
How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just “business as usual” and some technical solutions? With today’s emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone within less than eight and a half years.
There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here today, because these numbers are too uncomfortable and you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.
You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.
We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.
Thank you.


February 2019: Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and her Green New Deal

Congresswoman Ocasio Cortez won election in fall 2018. She’s the youngest woman to serve in congress, and a Democratic Socialist.

In February 2019, Congresswoman Ocasio Cortez released a ‘new green deal’. We’ve needed to implement global policy to address anthropogenic climate change for decades. There’s been progress here and there, but sweeping reform has not yet happened–and Cortez is serious about changing that–at least in the US.

There’s blowback to her plan, but also a lot of enthusiasm. Here’s a link that is beginning to nicely summarize the proposal. Here’s another take.  This one provides lots of legislative context (and an overview of past inaction). Here’s another.  My thought is this: The Deal is a great step, it’s generating conversation, and change can’t come soon enough.