UC Berkeley researchers, faculty members contribute to climate conference in Paris

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Campus graduate student Ian Bolliger is designing small solar-powered houses of less than 400 square feet with approximately 20 other UC Berkeley students. He and two other UC Berkeley graduate students presented their design at the United Nations’ annual climate conference in Paris, which began Nov. 30 and will run until Friday.

Bolliger is one of more than 30 UC Berkeley researchers, faculty members and graduate students represented at the conference, which aims to showcase research from a range of disciplines that can be developed into actionable solutions to climate change, according to Kate Moser, UC Office of the President spokesperson.

“It’s one of the most urgent critical problems facing the planet and UC researchers are there helping to try to translate some of the latest research coming out of the UC system,” Moser said.

The Tiny House in My Backyard project — which Bolliger is leading with Dan Kammen, UC Berkeley professor of energy and climate adviser to the Obama administration — specifically aims to provide sustainable and affordable housing at the Berkeley Global Campus at Richmond, Bolliger said.

Representatives from the state, such as Gov. Jerry Brown, are also present at the conference, where more than 190 nations have gathered to discuss a global agreement on climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

UC Berkeley researchers participated in the various panels and presentations at the conference happening separately from the negotiations. The conference has served as the backdrop for collaborations between the university and other state and global actors.

UC Berkeley faculty members such as William Collins, earth and planetary science professor, and Anthony Barnosky, integrative biology professor, were represented in Brown’s group of climate change science advisers.

Last week, UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory announced the establishment of a research center on energy and climate change, jointly created with Tsinghua University in China.

Lynn Price, leader of the China Energy Group, which works with Chinese and U.S. institutions to improve energy efficiency, said the center represents a concrete “realization” of their respective countries climate goals through research and will allow researchers from the two countries to collaborate further.

These types of climate partnerships are “crucial” for the development of “breakthrough” technology and policies, said Noah Deich, executive director of the Center for Carbon Removal, based at Berkeley Energy Climate Institute.

“(It affirms that) research coming out of UC Berkeley is factored into those negotiations in that regard and it shows that we can add a lot as a university,” Deich said. But Deich added that commitments established at the conference were not “ambitious” enough to sufficiently address issues of climate change.

Although it is difficult to measure the success of the conference now, Bolliger said the importance of the Paris climate conference has more to do with gauging the current status of climate change.

“(The climate conference is) the beginning of what could wind up being significant progress and I think that would be as much of a success as we could hope for,” Bolliger said.

Contact Michelle Leung at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @michellesleung.