Instructor: William Rom
This Capstone Project will highlight a student-generated New York State Plan to meet the requirements of the Clean Power Plan draft promulgated by EPA. The students will study the science of climate change and the role of power plants in carbon pollution, and devise a novel New York State plan to meet the carbon reduction requirements. There will be participation by the Clean Air Office of Region 2 EPA (John Filippelli, Director of Clean Air and Sustainability Division; Richard Ruvo, Chief Air Programs Branch; Gavin Lau, and Ariel Iglesias). We also will schedule representatives of Con Edison and obtain their perspective, and Kim Knowlton PhD, staff scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York. Global warming has followed the steady increase in CO2emissions from 280 ppm in 1960 to400 ppm measured atop Mauna Loa in Hawaii. This 40% increase is largely due to anthropogenic sources. In addition, other Greenhouse Gases (GHG) are significant including tropospheric ozone, carbon black, nitrous oxide, methane, and short-term pollutants including hydro fluorocarbons. There has been a close correlation between the GHG increases and increased radioactive forcing on the surface of the earth and in the oceans. The surface temperature has increased globally such that the hottest years on record have occurred since 2000 (2015 will be the hottest). Ice core samples show a close correlation betweenCO2in bubbles and Temperature over the past 800,000 years with the level of CO2fluctuating in the range of 280 ppm (never even close to where we are today). Climate scientists have chronicled the loss of Greenland glaciers, and loss Arctic multi-year and surface ice and Antarctic ice shelves and glaciers, and now predict substantial sea level rise. Increased frequency and intensity of storms as moisture increases in some areas will occur and decreases in other areas will cause severe drought. They have noted that the rate of increase in global warming is increasing year by year, and that carbon pollution is long-lived with persistence of CO2in the atmosphere for over a century to a millennium. There is loss of biodiversity, and decrease in ocean wildlife (decreased survival of polar bears, penguins, phytoplankton, coral bleaching). There are numerous impacts on human health (heat waves, storm injuries, food disruption, change in distribution of infectious agents).
President Obama’s Climate Action Plan (June 2013) has a pledge to reduce GHG emissions 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. The CAP has three aims: cut carbon pollution, prepare the U.S. for impacts of climate change also known as Adaptation, and lead international efforts to combat global climate change.
On June 2, 2014, President Obama announced the Clean Power Plan for existing power plants: cut carbon emissions by 30% below 2005 levels, which was equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the U.S. for one year; reduce PM2.5, NOx, and SO2by more than 25% as a co-benefit; avoid 6,600 premature deaths, 150,000 asthma attacks, and 490,000 missed work school days, and provide $55-93 billion in public health benefits with costs $7.3-8.8 billion in 2030; and reduce demand for electricity by increasing energy efficiency saving the public 8% in electricity bills. EPA is proposing carbon pollution guidelines using section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, which requires EPA to identify the most reasonable plan to reduce pollution from a given source. In preparing this formula, EPA started with each state’s 2012 energy mix. New York has a 2012 emission rate of 983 lbs./MWh that will3332be reduced to 635 in the interim goal (-35%; 2020-2029) and to 549 lbs./MWh by 2030 (-44% reduction). To achieve this reduction, New York will have to concentrate on natural gas and renewables.
This is a problem-based, project-oriented, interdisciplinary required course for senior Environmental Studies majors. Students work collaboratively to characterize global warming as it applies to New York State’s energy mix, analyze possible solutions and publicly present the results. This class will familiarize students with the political, legal, economic, technical and scientific constraints of the policy advocacy process. The aim is to improve students’ ability to synthesize and integrate material from a range of disciplines; to deploy diverse methodologies and vocabularies in a problem-solving context; to bring theoretical knowledge and skills to bear on practical problems; to work in teams with other students; and to communicate results to a variety of audiences. Students will be tasked with improving our relationship with the environment across a meaningful and measurable portion of it! For the final project, students will apply the skills developed in the course and distill the information obtained through research to devise and present a robust policy agenda: a set of practical strategies that can be considered for inclusion in the State’s Clean Power Plan. This capstone is designed to enhance critical thinking and research skills. Students will have many opportunities for analysis and discussion. Students will discover how they can be not just witnesses to environmental solutions, but actors in politics as well.
Watch the capstone presentation on YouTube.