Student Lunch Series: A Conversation With Sue Biniaz

Sue Biniaz, the US Department of State’s top climate lawyer, has been at the center of all major international climate agreements for more than 20 years, including the Paris Climate Agreement. She joins EPIC as a distinguished visiting fellow this winter quarter and as a visiting lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School. Come hear an insider’s view on the art and craft of international negotiations, what tools and strategies have proved most (and least) successful, and what a Trump administration might mean for both existing agreements and America’s negotiating posture in the world going forward. Join us as we welcome her to campus and don’t miss the opportunity to get your questions answered at this special edition of the student lunch & learn series.

Learn more about the student lunch & learn series, and sign up for the distribution list, here.

Do Two Electricity Pricing Wrongs Make a Right? Cost Recovery, Externalities, and Efficiency (with James Bushnell)

Advocates of using market mechanisms for addressing greenhouse gases and other pollutants typically argue that it is a necessary step in pricing polluting goods at their social marginal cost (SMC). Retail electricity prices, however, deviate from social marginal cost for many reasons. Some cause prices to be too low–such as unpriced pollution externalities–while others cause prices to be too high–such as recovery of fixed costs. Furthermore, because electricity is not storable, marginal cost can fluctuate widely within even a day, while nearly all residential retail prices are static over weeks or months. We study the relationship between residential electricity prices and social marginal cost in the US, both on average and over time. We find that the difference between the standard residential electricity rate and the utility’s average (over hours) social marginal cost exhibits large regional variation, with price well above average SMC in some areas and price well below average SMC in other areas. Furthermore, we find that for most utilities the largest source of difference between price and SMC is the failure of price to reflect variation in SMC over time. In a standard demand framework, total deadweight loss over a time period is proportional to the sum of squared differences between a constant price and SMC, which can be decomposed into the component due to price deviating from average SMC and the component due to the variation in SMC. Our estimates imply if demand elasticity were the same in response to hourly price variation as to changes in average price, then for most utilities the majority of deadweight loss would be attributable to the failure to adopt time-varying pricing. Nonetheless, in a few areas–led by California– price greatly exceeds average SMC causing the largest deadweight losses.

Technology, Globalization, and Sustainable Development

Join the Environmental Law Society (ELS) and EPIC for a talk with Nicholas Ashford, professor of technology and policy and director of the Technology & Law Program at MIT. Ashford will pull from his new book, “Technology, Globalization, and Sustainable Development,” in covering issues regarding the relationship between industrial growth and climate change in developed and developing nations. He also will discuss ways in which law and economic policy can address income inequality and green technology innovation.

No registration is required. Lunch will be served.

Protecting the Environment: A How-To

Join EPIC and the Program on Global Environment for an Earth Day seminar with David Hindin, director of the Office of Compliance in the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In this lunch talk, he will explore how policymakers can design regulations to improve compliance from industry and ensure that the human health and the environment are protected.

Lunch will be available starting at 12:30pm. The seminar will begin promptly at 12:45pm.

Student Lunch Talk—The Story of the Century: Covering Climate and Energy Policy

***Note: This event is open only to University of Chicago students. You will be prompted to enter your student ID number upon registration.***

Over the course of more than a decade in journalism, Axios reporter Amy Harder has written widely about climate and energy policy. From oil fields to solar arrays, carbon taxes to climate agreements, Harder has thought deeply about not only how to get the big stories, but also how to navigate the nuanced political challenges of her chosen beat. At this EPIC lunch talk, get an insider’s look at the most important stories in climate and energy policy, and at what it takes to cover some of the country’s most complicated and controversial topics.

Energy/Climate Lunch and Learn

Energy/climate lunch and learn is a great way to meet other researchers interested in climate science, policy, and interdisciplinary research. We feel that there is potential for our research to make an stronger impact on society when we are better aware of the advances being made in fields broadly united under the theme of energy policy and climate change. Lunch and learn serves as one friendly and diverse venue where researchers spanning the fields of physical science, social science, policy, and law can gather and learn from each other’s unique expertise.

Our first lunch and learn will take place Monday, October 7 from 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm in Hinds 176. It will be an introductory session where you can meet each other and discuss your research interests and ideas.

All students and postdocs are welcome.

Climate Science for Non-Scientists

Building an intuition for theories of climate change: simple explanations using analogies from science in everyday life.

An Introduction to the Energy & Environment Lab

The Energy & Environment Lab works in close partnership with government leaders to identify and test innovative approaches to pressing environmental challenges. We combine methods in data analytics with underutilized administrative datasets to improve regulatory effectiveness. In this lunch & learn, we’ll overview our project portfolio, highlighting our work with the EPA, the city of Fresno, the California Air Resources Board, and others to improve environmental compliance using advances in remote sensing and data analysis.

Low Bias in CAPE Distributions High-Tail in both Reanalysis and Convection-Permitting Models


Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE), the integral of buoyancy of air parcels arising from the surface, is closely linked to extreme weather and an important parameter that models should capture. Recent studies have been interested in showing projections of CAPE into future as a climatological index. However, to date, limited use has been made of the decades of observational record of CAPE from radiosondes to evaluate model performance or to attempt to confirm trends. We compare CAPE values over North America from the observational radiosonde network (IGRA), 12.5 km reanalysis (ERA-I; ERA5), and 4 km convection-resolving regional WRF simulations. We show that surface-based CAPE in both reanalysis and convection-resolving ERA-I reanalysis is systematically biased low, primarily driven by low humidity at the high tail, corresponding to the most impacts-relevant conditions. The “missing tail” implies that models may underestimate the intensity of convective processes and extreme precipitation. Reproducing observed distributions of CAPE is an important diagnostic for ensuring confidence in future projections.

Environmental Advocacy Through Lawyering: A Brief Overview of U.S.

A discussion of environmental regulations and how lawyers and policymakers work to strengthen environmental protections.