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US Energy Department advisor discusses Obama’s climate plan

Holmes Hummel, senior policy advisor in the United States Department of Energy’s Office of Policy & International Affairs, discussed the climate as well as President Barack Obama’s climate plan and its impact on the Rutgers community on Friday at the Marine Sciences building on Cook campus.

Clean energy technology is important to ensuring the environmental security of Earth’s future, she said. The United States has created policies to reduce carbon levels in the atmosphere by lowering carbon emissions and capturing carbon.

To meet these policies, society must create technology that can efficiently extract carbon dioxide from the air, she said, using a surplus of renewable energy.

The carbon dioxide would then be deposited into the ground, which is known as the geosphere, in a process known as carbon sequestration, she said.

Carbon sequestration is still too expensive for practical, large-scale deployment. At present, society does not invest enough in technology to use it.

Robert Kopp, associate director of the Rutgers Energy Institute, said citizens must work together to solve the issues of carbon pollution and climate change.

“It’s a problem we face as a society,” Kopp said. “As [citizens] move into careers, they definitely have a chance to make a change. Immediate energy efficient practices [include driving] less and biking more.”

Different ways could help foster cooperation between groups, Hummel said. Models of justice could be applied to ensure mutual benefit.

“We can see examples of retributive justice in statements like, ‘you polluted first, so now it’s my turn to pollute,’” she said. “This rhetoric can be seen in international climate policy negotiations.”

Another form of justice is known as “distributive justice,” she said. Distributive justice requires an entity to be reimbursed for its contributions. This is the most common form in American politics.

Congress considered the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2013, a bill that plans to provide incentives to standardize building codes to improve energy efficiency in buildings, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed power plants capture and store more emissions than the standard, according to the CRP website.

Mitigating risks is an important part of Obama’s climate plan, Hummel said. Cleaning up the atmosphere is geared towards reducing the risk for climate change-related disasters.

“It’s not true that climate change is responsible for every storm,” she said. “But Sandy and the typhoon in the Philippines show us the energy imbalance in Earth’s system.”

To predict how climate change may manifest in the future, experts analyze various models, she said. These models could be used to frame a response to the evolving climate issue.

The drawback to using these models results from the scale many apply them to.

“Modelers know that they are just framing abstractions of reality, but people who aren’t in modeling can take the results as if the models are omniscient,” she said.

These models also assume ideal transferring of resources as needed, but that is not realistic, she said.

Experts could use interdisciplinary study to formulate unique and potentially more powerful ideas than people can do on their own, she said.

Students can also come up with unique ideas through engaging in dialogue about climate change and its effects, Kopp said.

“If students have creative ideas and Rutgers Energy Institute runs an energy efficiency competition, there are students who are promoting divestment from fossil fuels,” he said. “[This] wouldn’t have a direct effect on university emissions, but [it will promote] a change in attitude.”

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