Tailoring scientific research

UCI Solutions that Scale is getting climate change knowledge to the people who need it

Any piece of media, once unleashed, will travel to places we’ll never know about and stir others in ways that can’t be easily measured. But when the knowledge you want to share carries a sense of urgency, like ensuring that the right climate change science finds its way into the hands of those with the power to make decisions informed by that science, you need to tailor it to its intended audience.

Steven Davis
Meet the Expert: Steve Davis, professor of Earth system science

The Solutions that Scale program at UCI is becoming one such tailoring service. It aims to bring together scientists of diverse expertise with community leaders and government and industry decision-makers to focus research efforts on solutions to global environmental problems. Under the program, Steve Davis, professor of Earth system science, is leading a charge to take the science from labs like his – which has assessed in detail the opportunities and barriers for achieving net-zero CO2 emissions in the energy sector – and tailor it for industry and government leaders.

“We cannot just put out an idea and expect people to take it up,” says Davis, who likened the effort to communicate the costs of continued climate change to public health campaigns trying to convince people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Having the vaccine is not enough; you have to have the buy-in,” he says. “We’re working with the private sector to eliminate UCI campus energy emissions, drawing upon our distinct and collective experience in modeling and deploying different systems and technologies.”

It’s a practice that Davis wants to continue fine-tuning by starting a climate change school at UCI geared specifically for executives in industry and finance. The school will bring them up to speed on the latest climate and energy system science and, ideally, prompt insights about the business implications of the energy transition that’s already underway.

“I think that dialogue and collaboration will speed up the sort of systemic change we need,” Davis says. “And excluding and demonizing incumbent corporations could slow it down.”

Indeed, he sees this as one of the key elements often missing from quests to enact climate change solutions: the people involved getting to know each other.

“Just because the science is clear doesn’t mean people will make the right decisions,” Davis says. “There has to be some socialization.”

– Lucas Van Wyk Joel, UCI