- Keep asking what you find meaningful. (My current motto: Maximize meaning, minimize carbon.)
- Brain Pickings, Maria Popova- “a subjective lens on what matters in the world and why… an inquiry in how to live”
- Cultivate a healthy writing practice.
- Advice for New Faculty Members, by Robert Boice
- Scientist’s Guide to Writing, Stephen B. Heard
- Tips for making research grantwriting less painful, Kim Nicholas
- A quick guide for writing a solid peer review, Kimberly Nicholas and Wendy Gordon
- Ten rules for writing fiction, Margaret Atwood +9 more
- Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg
- Spend time wisely.
- Ask Two Questions, David D Nowell
- Productivity 101: A Primer to the Pomodoro Technique, Alan Henry
- Workload survival guide for academics (especially Opportunities Anonymous by Harriet Bulkeley)
- Urgent vs Important, Jory MacKay
- Clearing the 8 hurdles to doing and publishing research (“William Shockley on what makes a person who publishes a lot of papers (and the superstar researcher system)”), Brian McGill
- Passion Planner (free PDF download- after trying every time management and list system out there, I came back to pen and paper)
- Impostor syndrome never goes away. Don’t let it stop you.
- Give yourself permission to suck, Ira Glass
- Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives, Maria Popova
- Take initiative to figure out and ask for what you want.
- So, you want to go to grad school? Nail the inquiry email, Jacquelyn Gill
- Unsolicited advice, IV: How to be a good grad student, Sean Carroll
- How to collaborate, Sharon Ann Holgate
- @ECRchat, @RealScientists
- Embrace failure.
- Appreciate and prioritize family and friends.
- Good genes are nice, but joy is better, Liz Mineo
- Marriage Minute, The Gottman Institute
- Regrets of the Dying, Bronnie Ware
- How the five “love languages” can help you win at relationships, Kristin Wong
- Cultivate your physical and mental health.
- Give back and share with others.
- Escape from the Ivory Tower: A Guide to Making Your Science Matter, by Nancy Baron
- The Message Box, COMPASS
- "If you want to explain your science to the public, here's some advice," by Esther Ngumbi
- Communication can never be too simple: Dejargonizer and Up-Goer Five Text Editor
- Our Warm Regards podcasts with Katharine Hayhoe on Finding Shared Values and Climate Scientists Are People Too!
- The future will not turn out like you planned, and that’s okay.
Last October, I gave a Sunday morning talk to a group of early-career researchers attending the Earth Systems Governance conference. It was a day-long program on "Developing a career in earth system governance: opening up science." I enjoyed the chance to gather my thoughts and pass along some good advice I've been given (and some earned through experience!). Ina Möller is working on a podcast of these reflections- meanwhile here is a condensed list and links to resources I've found helpful. Hope they're useful to others!
Here’s a short summary I co-wrote with Céline Fernandez compiling the highlights of our November meeting for the LuPOD professional development program.
Tools for digital learning:
Best practices for films for educational purposes:
Issue regarding available learning material online: often no quality control. Therefore, make sure to review material before assigning, point out to students to be critical when using information online, and consider making your own material.
References and further reading:
Science should be open. Duh.
Easier said than done.
There are many reasons why this fails.
Personally, I think mostly it's well-intentioned, busy people who don't follow best practices from the beginning, then don't want to spend the time cleaning up their Rube Goldberg-esque Excel sheets later.
I've definitely been there. But I'm trying to get better, and trying to help those in my lab establish good habits.
For my last lab meeting, we discussed best practices in open data, based on this paper by my friend and colleague Lizzie Wolkovich.
Everyone in my lab is now working on curating our own data for a current project, including making a diagram of our workflow, and organizing our data cleanly, with good meta-data.
This is a work in progress, but here are a few resources I've found helpful:
1. Lizzie's paper, "Advances in global change research require open science by individual researchers," gives a great motivation for why open data matters, what stands in its way, and how to design research to be open.
2. Ten simple tips for how to design a clean spreadsheet, by @robinhouston and @SeanClarke (hint: commas, asterisks, and color-coding don't belong).
3. Thirteen more elaborate but still simple and important tips for effective data management (what you wish you knew at the beginning of your research career, instead of learning the hard way, like always using full, consistent format for dates).
4. Lizzie's "Ze Template" for organizing project meta-data (what the study is about, what files it involves, where they're located), under Creative Commons license. Yay open science, and yay Lizzie!
We're going to keep talking about this in my lab, including issues with open data in qualitative research (confidentiality, subjectivity of observations)- if you have any references on this, please let me know!
This week was the first teaching retreat for teachers in USV, Lund University's division for faculty-free centers ranging from the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies to my own department of LUCSUS, the centre for sustainability studies. About 25 teachers stayed at a former church in the town of Höör, 25 minutes by train from Lund.
Over two days, we learned new tools and approaches for teaching, and had time to share our ideas and learn from each other. Some of the main tools I learned about:
Note: This blog post now appears on the Road to Paris platform.
Johan Rockström of the Stockhölm Resilience Centre noted that the current text “still has the possibility of transformational change,” with the number one goal to limit warming as far below 2° as possible.
Taking as a given the increasing risks posed by increasing temperatures caused by continued emissions, the panel focused on how to achieve the targets currently under discussion, linking it to language in the text that would make the goal consistent with science.
Prof. Hans Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research confirmed the benchmark that, for a decent chance of meeting a temperature target, the world has to get CO2 out of the system by 2050 for the 1.5 degree target, and by 2070 for 2 degrees. He stated this would require 2% reductions every year to decrease linearly to zero, further noting this was technically possible, and that Germany has been pursuing this goal faster than expected.
The current text calls for "GHG neutrality in second half of the century," which leaves the door open to the necessary zero carbon emissions, but does not ensure it.
Several panelists raised concerns about the current “greenhouse gas neutrality” language. Prof. Kevin Anderson of the University of Manchester said the language of neutrality masks the need for “negative emissions,” removal of carbon from the atmosphere using largely unproven means.
Schellnhuber echoed the concern that negative emissions were a “gamble,” further stating that every country has to go for complete decarbonization by 2050 to meet the 1.5 degree target.
Rockström agreed, stating that "decarbonization" was a better long-term qualitative goal than greenhouse gas neutrality. He further warned the audience that staying under 2 degrees is also about keeping carbon in rainforests and other ecosystems, a service that becomes riskier at higher temperatures due to feedbacks between the land and atmosphere.
For any chance of 1.5°, Rockstrom continued that the richest nations (such as the EU, US, Australia, and other OECD countries) need to lead the charge to zero fossil fuel use at 2030, in order to leave some space in the carbon budget for developing countries to transition slightly more slowly to decarbonization. He noted that this is a very ambitious target, which the current climate pledges, or intended nationally determined contributions, do not yet meet.
Kevin Anderson stressed the critical nature of aligning national pledges with the agreed target over time through a robust, regular review process going forward, which Rockstrom suggested could occur every 2-3 years, as part of regular Conference of the Party meetings.
Joeri Rogelj of IIASA noted that scenarios consistent with the 1.5 target are expected to achieve global peak emissions by 2020. Noting this date leaves no time to waste, Rogelj said, “We must start rapid emission reductions, and not count on carbon capture and storage later.”
As everyone at Le Bourget anxiously awaits the next round of text, Prof. Schellnhuber cited his long experience with the climate negotiations process, saying that the second to last text that we now have available was “always stronger” than the final text, as parties had to compromise to reach agreement. He called the current text “extremely progressive, believe it or not,” though he warned that even the current softer goal of “greenhouse gas neutrality after mid-century” could disappear in the final wranglings over the next few hours.
Looking ahead, journalist Mark Hertsgaard asked “What has to happen in the next 18 months, not just the next 18 hours, from all governments to be realistic about 1.5?”
Kevin Anderson cited a role for individuals, noting a new report showing that 50% of global CO2 emissions come from just 10% of the population. He said this means that energy demand (reducing high-CO2 activities like flying) needs to be reduced by high emitters, including “most of us in this room.”
Schellnhuber said that the Paris Agreement will send a message to civil society- and it will be the work of business, cities, investors, and all of us to finish the job. He concluded that COP21 has to make the 1.5 to 2 degree target consistent with long-term actions, and “if they do their job, we'll be fine."
The new text of the Draft Paris Agreement dropped at 21h on Thursday at the UN climate summit. From the word cloud above, you can see that it's an agreement that shall develop into a party. And where nations should take action to meet, adapt, build, support, and implement!
There was a frantic rush for printers and the document center as delegates, observers and press scurried to take in the new document, which COP President Laurent Fabius said was the second to last text, aiming to finalize tomorrow into the "universal, legally binding, ambitious, fair, lasting agreement that the world's waiting for. I think we'll make it."
Analysis by my friends at parisagreement.org (below) shows that we're down to just 48 brackets, or points of contention. The Parties are now hashing these out in a closed-door "solutions indaba", to the disappointment of keen observers.
While we wait to see what will emerge in the morning, you can see a helpful ongoing analysis of the text evolution (what's in, what's out) at the Deconstructing Paris blog, and catch up on who's said what at the negotiations (that were open to observers) with accuracy, insight, and funny GIFs at the Google doc run by COP21 heroes @LaingHamish and @ryanmearns. For the full GIF-based reaction to COP21, try Leehi's ParIsThisIt?
Draft Paris Agreement Word Cloud by Kimberly Nicholas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Our new study shows trouble ahead for feeding the world under a warmer climate, with yields for staple grains declining more sharply with greater warming if high emissions of greenhouse gases continue.
If emissions are reduced to the level represented by the current climate pledges at the start of the Paris summit (where carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere stabilize around 550ppm), yields of corn in Iowa are projected to be similar to today (or even experience a slight increase of 6%). However, continued high emissions leading to greater warming would be expected to produce a 21% decline in yields.
The news is worse for wheat yields in southeast Australia. This region already struggles with drought in a crop system that relies on rainfall, and climate models consistently project the area will get warmer and drier in the future. This combination spells potential yield declines of 50% under lower warming, and 70% under greater warming: extremely challenging conditions for continued wheat production in the region.
Average projected changes for temperature, precipitation, and yields for wheat in Southeastern Australia and maize (corn) in Iowa under two scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions. Under the lower scenario, maize yields in Iowa increase 6%, while they decline 21% under higher emissions. Wheat yields in Southeast Australia are projected to decrease 50% under lower warming, and 70% under higher warming, exacerbated by drier conditions in the future. Projections are for the end of the century (2070-2100) compared with a historical baseline (1951-1980). An interactive version of this figure, with results for each climate model and scenario, is available here. Figure by Martin Jung using data from Ummenhofer et al. 2015.
The study, published in the Journal of Climate, found that yields of staple cereal were very sensitive to changes in climate. In particular, we found that, on average, each increase of 1°C (1.8°F) in temperature resulted in a yield decrease of 10% for corn in Iowa, and 15% for wheat in Southeastern Australia. This means that limiting warming through reduced heat-trapping pollutants is important to maintain the productivity of today’s breadbaskets.
Both crops were also highly influenced by rainfall. Each decrease in precipitation of 10mm (0.39 inches) resulted in a yield decrease of 12% for Iowan corn and 9% for Australian wheat. Australia is predicted to experience substantially drier conditions in the future, which contributes to the large yield declines projected.
In addition to average yields, we examined the conditions that produced extremely high and extremely low yields in the past, since weathering these extremes are important for farmers to maintain viability.
Our analysis showed that, in the past, high yields of corn in Iowa tended to happen in particularly rainy years, with dry years spelling trouble for corn yields. Fortunately for Iowa, the changes projected for rainfall in the future are relatively small, with little difference between the higher and lower greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. However, the six computer models we used to simulate future climate make different projections, with half predicting a slight increase in rainfall (and therefore an increase in future good yields), while others predict somewhat less rain (and more tough years for corn).
High yields of wheat in southeast Australia were also associated with wetter years in the past. Such years are consistently predicted to become less common in the future: all climate models and emissions scenarios agree in predicting a major increase in extremely bad years, where more than two-thirds of years will have yields 20% or more below today’s average.
The implications of this work are that increasing temperatures and rainfall variability from greater greenhouse gas emissions pose increasing challenges for agriculture. Research led by our colleague David Lobell has shown that this trend is already evident today: there has been a yield decline for cereal crops since the 1980s of 10% for every 1°C (1.8°F) warming. Many recent studies confirm the potential for yield declines for staple cereal crops under greater warming, especially for wheat.
Different regions around the world are poised to experience climate change differently, and the risks depend on both the climate change experienced, and the human systems on the ground there. In the case of Iowan corn, the combination of the farming system and the climate poses less of a risk than wheat production in Australia, which is closer to its limits of viability today. Farmers can prepare for changes already underway, with more projected for the future, but the larger the changes experienced, the more difficult they will be to manage. This reinforces the climate change adage to “manage what we can’t avoid and avoid what we can’t manage” by reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases.
The research was conducted by an international team led by Dr. Caroline Ummenhofer of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts, USA. We studied historical yield and climate records to understand the effects of climate on crop yields in the past, and then projected how this is likely to change in the future. To do so, we used the latest climate models (six simulations developed by groups in France, Japan, the US, and Australia) and scenarios of future greenhouse gas emissions (a business-as-usual scenario of continuing high emissions of greenhouse gases, known as RCP 8.5, and a moderate stabilization scenario called RCP 4.5, which would involve emissions stabilizing at around 5 gigatons of carbon per year by the end of the century, compared with current emissions around 9 gigatons).
I'm excited and honored to be attending the climate summit in Paris as an accredited observer from Lund University. This is where nearly 200 countries will come together and aim to reach an agreement about how to change the path we're now on (a business-as-usual world headed for +4-5°C) to a more sustainable world that avoids the worst impacts of climate change.
This will be my first time attending the United Nations climate negotiations, and I am looking forward to learning more about the process and how to make my research more relevant to policy, as well as to serve as an advisor to the Youth in Landscapes initiative at the Global Landscapes Forum, and take part in the Anthronaut Experience- a virtual reality hackathon with scientists, artists, designers, and virtual reality experts to make climate science narratives a 3D experience.
As I'm busy packing my bags, I'm gathering reading material for the 16-hour train ride to Paris. Here's what I'll be reading up on:
Preparing for attending the meeting:
Keeping up with the negotiations in real time:
By Marius Sandvoll Weschke and Kimberly Nicholas
The climate summit that will begin in Paris next week will attract delegates from more than 190 countries, all with the goal of signing an agreement to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The whole world will have their eyes on Paris when the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP) is underway, and the pressure on the politicians and decision makers going to Paris is high, not only from their own governments and voters, but from many other parts of society.
In particular, in recent months there has been a groundswell of statements on climate change from across sectors in society, from religious leaders, businesses, and scientific groups, to non-governmental organizations and national leaders. These statements outline the most important issues that their authors feel the Paris meeting should address. Among the statements gaining the most attention the last year an encyclical from Pope Francis, urging the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics to join the fight against climate change. A statement like this resonates far beyond the religious community, and it was portrayed in the media as a signal to politicians to pick up the pace on climate action.
While the high-level United Nations process can make climate policy seem like a distant issue, these statements show that a vast number of people and interest groups are keenly invested in the process.
We were interested in the key messages these diverse groups agree on. To analyze this, we analyzed 11 statements on climate change from religious groups, science, businesses, NGOs and the G7. The goal was to find out if the different groups speak the same language. That is, we wanted to see if the most commonly used words in the different statements overlap, which would indicate similar perspectives on the issue of climate change. We used an online word cloud generator to identify the 25 most commonly used words in each statement, and looked for words that were shared between statements (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Quantitative word analysis of 11 climate change statements originating from statements in five categories: four religious statements, three scientific, two business, one NGO consortium, and the G7 leaders. The four most commonly used words within each category are shown in each bubble, while the words that are overlapping between categories are marked with arrows. See footnote (1) for list of statements analyzed.
Our analysis showed the words ‘carbon’, ‘climate’, and ‘change’ are all among the most used words for science, business, NGOs and G7, but not the religious statements, indicating a technical and problem-oriented approach among these groups. The word ‘Earth’/’global’ shared similar ground between religion, science and NGOs, indicating a political or philosophical outlook shared by these groups. Surprisingly, religion and science shared the word ‘human’ among their most used words, indicating a shared worldview seeing people as both the cause and the solution to the problem of climate change.
In the beginning of the study we hypothesized that there would be words that would be found among all categories, but as the figure shows, there was no word that all five sectors used most commonly. However, the existence of these statements still sends a strong message that the international community - from religious groups to businesses and from scientists to NGOs - wants their leaders and policymakers to focus on stronger action, leading to solutions to tackle human-induced carbon emissions driving climate change in Paris. At the same time, the religious perspectives highlight the social values these choices represent, and how fundamental they are to our way of life.
Religious statements: Pope Francis’ Encyclical (http://tinyurl.com/ptcm9bz), A Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change (http://tinyurl.com/p9ge6xj), Islamic Climate Declaration (http://tinyurl.com/nqg98o7), A Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis (http://tinyurl.com/qcyzmqg).
Scientific statements: Earth Statement (http://tinyurl.com/nqw7d9b), Our Common Future under Climate Change (http://tinyurl.com/q5oy4x5), Planet under Pressure (http://tinyurl.com/7mvc9vq)
Business statements: Institutional Investment Group on Climate Change (http://tinyurl.com/oaf6ooz), The World Bank: Putting a Price on Carbon (http://tinyurl.com/nrkagpx).
NGO statement: Paris 2015: getting a global agreement on climate change (http://tinyurl.com/mhbqt2r).
National leaders: Leaders’ Declaration G7 Summit 2015 (http://tinyurl.com/nmuagfd)
Here are some tips I compiled with my friend and colleague Josh Goldstein when we were both finishing our PhDs and tackling the job market. Good luck, job seekers!