March 8, 2011

U of C combats climate change

Economists, mathematicians, lawyers, scientists, and even high school students will join together to fight global warming under the new Center for Robust Decision Making on Climate and Energy Policy, (RDCEP) a joint effort by nine different institutions, including the U of C’s Computation Institute, founded to address energy and climate change issues.

A five-year, $6 million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will fund the new Center, which will approach problems of energy and climate change policy from various disciplines, ranging from economics to computational mathematics to law.

“There is no more important problem facing humanity today than meeting rapidly expanding energy needs without damaging the environment,” Computer science professor and future director of the Center, Ian Foster, said in a February 17 press release.

The Center, a collaborative effort, will bring together individuals from nine different institutions, including Argonne National Laboratory. The research center aims to serve the government, the public sector, and private individuals.

The MacArthur Foundation contacted Foster in 2007 to develop the premise for a center that would integrate multiple disciplines. Using the $350,000 grant from the Foundation, the team assembled at the University spent a year developing a strong proposal for the NSF’s Decision Making Under Uncertainty program competition (DMUU).

The “open science philosophy” of the Community Integrated Model of Economic and Resource Trajectories for Humankind (CIM-EARTH) will allow scholars and policy makers outside of the Center to access the resources and information produced by the Center in an effort to encourage more collaboration.

As part of the NSF’s proposal requirement to integrate outreach programs, the Center will bring undergraduate, graduate, and even high school students into dialogue at the Center.

In a program that will launch in the summer of 2012, the Center is currently seeking undergraduate students with a strong background in teaching sciences to work with high school students as well as researchers.

According the Moyer, the University will work specifically with students from the Woodlawn Community School and the Lindblom Math and Science Academy to teach students how to “answer real world questions” as well as “get [students] comfortable with a college campus.”

“We want the Center in general to be a place both for faculty research and education, to be a place where people from disparate fields, physics, computer science, economics, geophysical sciences, and policy can come together,” Moyer said.