Ubben Program for Climate and Carbon Science
The Ubben Program for Climate and Carbon Science at ISEN uses an interdisciplinary approach to studying climate system dynamics and developing solutions for climate adaptation and mitigation.
Climate change alters the viability of sustaining global systems including public health, economic development, and political-economic structures. Collaborative study and practical application are at the core of the Ubben Program for Climate and Carbon Science, which integrates science, engineering, business, policy, law, and communications from across Northwestern. The Program, which was announced in April 2017, is underwritten through the generous support of Northwestern Trustee Jeff Ubben (KSM '87) and his wife Laurie.
Areas of Focus
Improve the mechanisms for understanding and predicting climate system dynamics under progressive anthropogenic forcing
Program research will uniquely contribute to the development of new climate models that provide entirely new, region-specific climate information. This type of research is increasingly critical for developing effective public policy and market responses. These include improved risk management tools, public health planning, and scalable investment mechanisms to support low-carbon technology and global climate change adaptation/mitigation solutions. Examples of work in this area include:
|Earth's Climate: Past and Future - Yarrow Axford of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences is analyzing environmental impacts of past warming events and the feedback processes regulated by the carbon cycle to better understand what future climate change may bring. Her research involves reconstructing past climate records of the Greenland Ice Sheet—the second largest body of ice in the world that has shown rapid melt in recent decades and could threaten coastal communities around the world as melting continues.|
|Big Data in the Age of Climate Change - Daniel Horton of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences is developing regional-scale climate models that inform effective public policy and investment forecasting relevant to key community needs, including agriculture, public health, and water resources. His work focuses on understanding how atmospheric circulation is impacted by climate change and the effects on regional weather patterns.|
|Monitoring Urban CO2 - Andrew Jacobson in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences studies "urban metabolism"—a framework for assessing sustainability by measuring the total energy, materials, and waste products that flow in and out of an urban setting. His work uses air monitoring sensors to measure the concentration and carbon isotope composition of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Studies of urban metabolism test and inform recommendations for sustainable, resilient cities.|
Develop new approaches for climate adaptation and mitigation, including low- and zero-carbon energy solutions that avoid—and even capture and recycle—greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide
Program research will support the discovery of chemical processes, materials, and technologies that convert carbon dioxide into a usable resource such fuels or the building blocks of high-value materials using renewable energy. The Program will also analyze and bolster the potential economic viability of these process technologies to carve a clear path to successful, long-term deployment. Examples of work in this area include:
Carbon Dioxide as a Fuel - The Argonne-Northwestern Solar Energy Research (ANSER) Center is an ISEN research center that works to develop the fundamental understanding of molecules, materials and method necessary to create dramatically more efficient technologies for solar fuels and energy production. Collaborative research at the ANSER Center spans multiple disciplines and organizations, including universities and government research agencies. These collective institutions offer a critical mass of world-class researchers with unique capabilities and facilities in materials synthesis, characterization, and theory.
|Recycling Carbon for New Materials - The Center for Catalysis and Surface Science (CCSS) is an ISEN research center that promotes interdisciplinary research fundamental to the discovery and atomistically-controlled synthesis of catalysts that optimize the sustainability of industrial and consumer goods. The Center's primary research activities involve characterizing active sites on solid surfaces and of reaction intermediates, studying the interaction of metals with oxides, improving selectivity of advanced oxidation catalysis, and developing environmental catalysis directed toward destruction of gaseous pollutants.|
Analyze and implement effective public policy and business solutions concerning climate and carbon
Program research will help inform new strategies for addressing the environmental, social, and economic realities of climate change. The Program will provide decision makers and business leaders with actionable solutions by leveraging intersectional expertise across public policy, law, and business. Examples of work in this area include:
|Public Opinion and Climate Change - James Druckman of the Department of Political Science has been studying public opinion on climate change to understand the hurdles and antidotes to effectively communicating information on seemingly controversial scientific topics. In doing so, he seeks to answer key questions of how researchers and policymakers can help the public to better understand science and related policies.|
|The Economics of Carbon - The research of Mar Reguant in the Department of Economics deals with the economics of energy, with an emphasis on electricity and the pollution associated with electricity generation. In seeking to decouple economic growth from carbon-dependent technologies, she is exploring carbon cap-and-trade systems, renewable energy integration, carbon tax policies, and energy markets.|