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California Scientists Are Creating an Enormous Climate Research Program

It will be one of the largest US investments in climate research.

6 SEP 2017

With the Trump administration ignoring climate science and policy, California is stepping up to the plate. In a massive effort, California scientists are organizing a home-grown climate-research institute, which is so large it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars per year. If the initiative succeeds, it will be one of the largest investments this country has ever made in climate research.


The project is still in the early stages but the idea is supported by almost all the major universities in the state, including all ten University of California campuses and several private universities, like Stanford and the California Institute of Technology.

The initiative would mean that any scientist working at these universities would be eligible for climate research grants, but priority would fall to those who can demonstrate that their research engages communities, businesses and policymakers.

"The goal is to develop the research we need, and then put climate solutions into practice," says Daniel Kammen, an energy researcher at the University of California, Berkeley.

The organizers of the project hope it will be funded by the state's cap-and-trade programme to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. And while this may seem like wishful thinking, advocates say that Governor Jerry Brown was receptive to the idea, especially now that Trump has promised to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate accord.

"The term we often use is 'rule from below,'" Kammen says.

And of all the states, California is the most practised at "ruling from below". After President George W. Bush rolled back federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, California voters approved the creation of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Oakland, which cost nearly $3 billion. Since it's inception, this program alone has funded over 750 projects.

Advocates plan to introduce the climate research program to the California legislature this year in the hopes of having the initiative fully-functioning by September 2018.