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#10 Dr. Hadi Dowlatabadi, Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability at UBC

February 6, 2018


“The impacts of climate change are already cliff edges occurring in micro-locations all over the world.

The whole notion that it’s at some distant future which is unknown to us quite how far it is—that’s just rubbish. If you look at coastal communities that are getting inundated right now, communities that were built on permafrost that are no longer stable in their substructure, all of those things are happening right now.”

Professor Hadi Dowlatabadi doesn’t mince words when it comes to his opinion of policy-makers who throw money at research rather than taking the known necessary steps to combat the problem of climate change. He believes that consequential climate change is measured locally, not globally, and any change in climate or atmospheric conditions in any community is unacceptable.

Professor Dowlatabadi is a Canada Research Chair in Applied Mathematics of Global Change with the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia. His research is focused at the interface of nature, humans, technology and policy. Among his greatest accomplishments are leading the team that built the first successful models of climate change and policy at Carnegie Mellon and co-founding the nonprofit Offsetters Climate Neutral Society.

Professor Dowlatabadi joins Ross and Christophe to share his frustration with the lack of evidence-based policy employed by governments as well as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change temperature targets. He offers his insight on geoengineering, explaining why he is so confident in its inevitability. Professor Dowlatabadi speaks to the fossil fuel substitutions he finds most interesting and the issue of subsidizing the zero till practice. We debate the ‘unobtainable goals’ of Elon Musk and compare Nori with Professor Dowlatabadi’s 2005 Offsetters program. Listen in for Professor Dowlatabadi’s take on the cliff edge model, and learn why it is time to stop studying policy-level science and take action on climate change.


Professor Dowlatabadi’s Research

‘A Serious Look at Geoengineering’ in EOS Earth & Space Science News

‘The Value of the World’s Ecosystem Services and Natural Capital’ in Nature

‘Geoengineering Research Receives Backing at House Science Committee Hearing’ in the American Institute of Physics

Rep. McNerney Introduces Groundbreaking Geoengineering Bill

Climate I: Is The Debate Over? A video debate between Hadi Dowlatabadi and Richard Lindzen

Key Takeaways

[3:14] Professor Dowlatabadi’s frustration with the US government

  • Clear path for action, delay with continued research
  • Haven’t learned much with respect to policy-level science since 1995

[3:46] Why IGPCC targets around temperature are ineffective

  • More interesting to think in terms of carbon content
  • Aiming for two degrees without knowing sensitivity
  • Questionable baseline, sensitivity range
  • Higher sensitivity, lower baseline = less expensive, more imperative

[9:50] The difference between applied science for policy and pure science

  • Useful to learn more about climate systems through pure science
  • Long way from reproducing physical processes of climate systems
  • Not relevant to necessary policy steps moving forward

[10:47] Why Professor Dowlatabadi isn’t a fan of the cliff edge model

  • Impacts of climate change already occurring in micro-locations around world
  • Consequential climate change measured locally, not globally

[15:33] Professor Dowlatabadi’s take on geoengineering

  • Defined as intentional modification of climate systems
  • Don’t want to, but must use to combat climate change
  • Inexpensive, quick to deploy
  • Buys time to remove CO2 from atmosphere

[22:31] What fossil fuel substitutes Professor Dowlatabadi finds most interesting

  • Naval supply vessels provide jet fuel to US aircraft carriers most expensive fossil fuel on Earth
  • Air capture technology on aircraft carrier suited to make fuel using output from nuclear power plant

[27:32] Professor Dowlatabadi’s criticism of Elon Musk

  • Vision of electrification still leaves footprint
  • Lithium ion batteries at industrial scale are poor decision
  • More realism to solve more problems

[32:43] The best strategies around using money to solve climate change

  • Co-founded Offsetters in 2005 with James Tansey
  • Voluntary program, transparent and measurable GHG reductions
  • Example of investing in more efficient stoves in India
  • Priority to solve energy needs first, then put carbon away

[40:39] The difference in carbon counting industrial vs. natural systems

  • Build, maintain trust with donating community through measurement
  • Afforestation presents many variables (e.g.: fire, pests, etc.)
  • Industrial initiatives easier to measure, verify

[42:46] The agricultural practice of zero till

  • Farmers insert seeds to prevent release of soil carbon
  • Debate around whether subsidies for farmers necessary


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