Recommended Reading

This portion of my Lifestreaming Portal shares with you the best books, articles, and videos I have been reading or listening to which relate to the four Calit2 Next Decade Application Arenas: Energy, Environment, Health, and Culture. My goal is to periodically refresh this list on the home page and to include here the complete set of recommendations which will accumulate over time.

If you would like to jump to one of the four major Application areas, use the links to the right.


American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment

Larry's comment: Most people don't realize that over 677 American College and University Presidents have signed a Climate Commitment pledge. This site records all those campuses and lays out what needs to be done to move the campus toward carbon neutral. It is a great site to get tips from other campuses that share news here. If we use our campuses as "Living Laboratories of the Greener Future" to sort out all the system issues of urban living, it gives our society at large a badly needed head start on moving from a high carbon to a low carbon economy. See our article in EDUCAUSE in December 2009.

Read Type: Weblink. created on 2010.03.25
Energy Technology Perspectives 2008: Scenarios and Strategies to 2050 (2008)
by the International Energy Agency

Larry's comment: This cogent summary of the full 650 page report provides an authoritative view of how hard it will be to reduce carbon emissions fast enough over the next few decades. The report has two scenarios: the first ACT scenario projects increases in global carbon emissions with a peak ~2025 and reduction back to today's levels by 2050. Although this will be very challenging and cost some $17 Trillion, it isn't radical enough to keep the resulting global temperature rise below 2 degrees Centigrade. The IEA analysis suggests to do that requires a much more ambitious set of actions, captured in their BLUE scenario. Here, CO2 emissions peak in 2012 and are reduced to 50% below today's level by 2050. Not only will this cost much more, but the IEA concludes: "While the ACT scenarios are demanding, the BLUE scenarios require urgent implementation of unprecedented and far-reaching new policies in the energy sector." The study then breaks out what is needed by sector. For those who think we can afford to wait any longer for dramatic change in the energy sector, I urge you to read this report.

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.03.25
How green is your campus?
Nature. Amanda Leigh A L Mascarelli (2009)

Larry's comment: A short overview of how campuses are beginning to drive toward lower carbon sustainable operations. The good news is that usually this also saves money. As the article says, many schools are viewing themselves as a a test bed for green living from which communities and cities can learn, just as we are at UCSD and UCI.

Read Type: Journal. created on 2010.02.08
Powering the Planet
by Nathan Lewis

Larry's comment: Nate Lewis is my favorite analyst of how rapidly alternate energy sources must be ramped up in order to avoid catastrophic levels of climate change. It is sobering to realize that to keep CO2 from rising from today's 390ppm to 550ppm by 2050, we would have to build the clean energy sector up to roughly 50 Exxon-Mobils over the next 40 years. Another way Nate says it is that we will need 10-15 Terawatts of clean energy by 2050, which if we wanted to do it all with nuclear would mean building 10,000 Gigawatt nuclear power plants (there are 400 today), or one every other day for 50 years. If you want to go with geothermal, you need to capture all the outgoing heat from the Earth's core over all its land area with 100% efficiency to get 10TW. Clearly this is a staggering challenge. I think we need to move in this direction as quickly as possible, but Nate has taught me to appreciate how big a challenge it is, converting me from an unbridled optimist to a sober optimist.

Read Type: Journal. created on 2010.03.25
SMART 2020: Enabling the low carbon economy in the information age
Report by The Climate Group on behalf of the Global eSustainability Initiative (GeSI)

Larry's comment: Required reading for anyone interested in how Green IT and Telecom can play a leading role in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the near future. A comprehensive global analysis of both the life cycle emissions as well as those from operating and cooling our Internet infrastructure (including wireless and smart phones), our rapidly growing server complex, and our PCs and peripherals. Even though the ICT industry represents 2-3% of total GHG emissions today, it is growing at 6% annually. By 2020, nearly 60% of the ICT emissions will be caused by the 4 billion laptops and their peripherals. The report shows we must have a global response, since by 2020 the U.S. and Canada will account for only 14% of the ICT related emissions. Most hopefully, the report shows that extending the Internet throughout the physical world (smart buildings, intelligent transportion, logistical chains, etc.) could save up to five times the emissions from the whole ICT industry!

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.03.04
Sustainable Energy-without the hot air (2009)
David JC MacKay

Larry's comment: Anyone who is serious about alternative energy scaling up should read this book. In a delightful mix of deep engineering analysis with sociopolitical reality, MacKay takes us through every conceivable alternative energy source and shows what can realistically be achieved and on what timescale. His quantitative approach will shatter some of your preconceptions, but leave you will a much more solid grounding on the road ahead.

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.03.04


Abrupt Climate Change : Inevitable Surprises (2002)
Committee on Abrupt Climate Change, National Research Council

Larry's comment: The authoritative National Research Council compilation of data and research on the sudden changes which frequently occur in the Earth's climate history. Learn how unusually stable the climate of the last 10,000 years have been, during which our civilizations emerged and human population increased enormously, compared with the devastating abrupt changes which might be in store for us in the future. Much scientific progress has been made during the intervening 8 years on this topic, which I will be covering in my suggested research article section.

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.02.08
Evidence of a Warming Earth - The Woods Hole Research Center
Woods Hole Research Center

Larry's comment: The Wood's Hole web site gives a good introduction to the evidence for how human generated greenhouse gases are altering the planet's climate. It is clear that the Earth's global average temperature is increasing, but this site shows how one has to consider both natural forcing as well as human forcing to account for the data.

Read Type: Weblink. created on 2010.02.08
Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States (2009)
Thomas R. Karl, Jerry M. Melillo, and Thomas C. Peterson, (eds.).

Larry's comment: This is a comprehensive guide to the latest scientific results on how global climatic disruption will impact regions of the United States with a treasure trove of graphs and images. This is the official U.S. Government view prepared by the cross-Federal Agency U.S. Global Change Research Program.

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.02.08
Global sea level linked to global temperature
Martin Vermeer and Stefan Rahmstorf, PNAS, v. 106, 21527-21532 (2009)

Larry's comment: One of the controversial issues in climate change has been the amount of sea level rise expected this century. In a new approach (published in December 2009), the authors calibrate a model relating global temperature to sea level rise on the data of the last hundred years, explaining 98% of the variance. When projected forward to 2100 using a variety of global warming scenarios, they find a much larger sea level rise than the 2007 IPCC report, with one meter or more being likely.

Read Type: Journal. created on 2010.03.04
Homo Britannicus: The Incredible Story of Human Life in Britain (2006)
Chris Stringer

Larry's comment: This is a comprehensive story of how the dramatically changing Earth climate has determined the human occupancy of the British Isles over the last 700,000 years. Chris Stringer, Britain's foremost expert on human origins and director of the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project, explains in detail how the archaeological and climate sciences can be woven together to reveal a detailed history of which species of humans and animals were able to live in Britain as ice ages came and went. Amazingly, Britain was repeatedly swept clean of humans by the advancing ice and when it was repopulated as the ice retreated often it was with a new species of human. This is one of the most remarkable accounts I have read of how intimately human culture is connected to climatic disruption. Yet these huge climate changes were associated with carbon dioxide levels oscillating between only ~170 to 300ppm. Today's industrialization has raised the CO2 levels to ~390ppm, a level higher than any experienced by humans over the last 700,000 years and if business as usual continues, the CO2 level will reach ~900ppm by 2100. As Stringer notes, the implications are profound . 'We have been truly fortunate to enjoy one of the most stable periods of climate during the last 11,000 years. ..[However], we can predict that the present stability will end very soon. The history of Britain and Europe over the last 700,000 years is littered with rapid and severe climatic changes, when apparently settled plant, animal and human communities were swept away in periods as short as ten years…'

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.06.09
Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution-and How It Can Renew America (2008)
Thomas Friedman

Larry's comment: This book is the essential reading on how a convergence of three historic global changes (lifting large populations out of poverty, the coming fifty percent increase in human population, and the internet's radical "flattening" of the Earth) have led to a climate crisis so vast that meeting it will be "the biggest single peacetime project humankind will have ever undertaken." Regardless of your take on the reality of future human-enduced climate change, you will find his economic arguments compelling for the U.S. to lead the planet in a Green technology revolution.

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.02.08
John Holdren on Global Climatic Disruption
John Holdren

Larry's comment: Not only is this a very good introduction to the physics and earth science of global climatic disruption, it also covers a number of disastrous impacts on society. It is impressive to see how technically informed Holdren is, given that he is President Obama's science advisor.

Read Type: Video. created on 2010.02.08
Odyssey in Climate Modeling, Global Warming, and Advising Five Presidents (2006)
by Warren Washington, edited by Mary C. Washington

Larry's comment: An inspiring book on personal struggle and public service by one of the leading climate scientists in the U.S. I was privileged to work with Warren over twenty years ago when our graphics group at NCSA created a scientific visualization of the earth's warming response to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.02.08
On avoiding dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system: Formidable challenges ahead (2008)
PNAS vol. 105, 14245-14250 (2008)

Larry's comment: This paper has had the most impact on me of any research paper I have read on climate change. In a very clear manner, Ramanathan (a Professor at UCSD's Scripps Institution of Oceanography) and Feng show that the amount of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere will most likely raise the Earth's average temperature by 2.5 degrees C. However, to date only 0.8 degrees C has been realized. They show that this is because of two effects: first, the ocean has a thermal inertia time scale of 50-100 years and second, the aerosols caused by industrialization and deforestation fires mask some 40% of the projected warming by temporarily cooling (essentially as a volcanic eruption does). They also point out that several major climatic impacts are already past their tipping points (melting of the polar summer ice, melting of the Himalayan glaciers), which indeed there are signs of today.

Read Type: Journal. created on 2010.02.08
Our Changing Climate: Assessing the Risks to California (2006)
A Summary Report from the California Climate Change Center

Larry's comment: The authoritative scientific report on how regional climate change will unfold across California over the next forty years. Water availability and growing intensity and frequency of wildfires are major results. Also temperature increases over inland California where much of the population growth will occur. This is the first of these reports which will come out every two years. Dan Cayan at UCSD's Scripps Institution of Oceanography is one of the leaders of the effort. Highly recommended.

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.03.04
Permafrost and the Global Carbon Budget
Science vol. 312, pp. 1612 - 1613 (2006)

Larry's comment: One of the most worrisome aspects of human-induced global warming is that it could set off natural releases of greenhouse gases, which would amplify the expected global warming. A good example is the permafrost in the northern latitudes, which is beginning to thaw as the polar icecap retreats and the arctic warms much faster than the global average. This article gives good estimates of the carbon reservoir in the permafrost that could be released as methane, a by-product of the bacterial decomposition of the thawing organic material heretofore locked up in the permafrost.

Read Type: Journal. created on 2010.02.08
Population, area and economy affected by a 1 m sea level rise
Prepared by the United Nations Environment Programme

Larry's comment: Prepared by the United Nations Environment Programme, these graphs are the societal impact companion to the global sea level rise analysis paper by Vermeer and Rahmstorf discussed above. Over 150 million people will be affected with a financial impact of nearly a trillion dollars in GDP if there is a sea level rise of one meter.

Read Type: Weblink. created on 2010.03.04
Recent Warming Reverses Long-Term Arctic Cooling
Darrell Kaufman, et al. Science 325, 1236-1239 (2009)

Larry's comment: Amazingly, the Arctic region has been cooling down for at least the last 2000 years. This paper pulls together over 20 high-resolution Arctic proxy climate records to establish a trend line on Arctic summer temperature. They find a steady cooling, including through the Medieval warming period, until roughly the start of the Industrial Revolution, when greenhouse gas emissions began their rapid rise. The twenty century cooling trend was reversed during the 20th century, with four of the five warmest decades of their 2000-year-long reconstruction occurring between 1950 and 2000. This gives the longer term context for the recent observations of rapid melting of the Arctic summer ice.

Read Type: Journal. created on 2010.03.25
The Complete Ice Age: How Climate Change Shaped the World (2009)
edited by Brian Fagan

Larry's comment: It is important to remember that humans have lived through changes in the Earth's climate much more dramatic than anything humans have experienced in recent times, however they did so with vastly smaller populations to support. This is a beautiful book, edited by one of my favorite climate authors, which gives easily accessible stories and pictures of our species hardships dealing with a dynamic climate. It has helped me understand better what may be in store for us...

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.02.08
The Copenhagen Diagnosis: Updating the World on the Latest Climate Science (2009)
by I. Allison, et al.

Larry's comment: The last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) came out in 2007 and since it is a consensus review of previously published papers, it is a number of years out-of-date. Since there are a great number of peer reviewed articles published on climate per year, a lot of new information is available now that wasn't able to be included in the 2007 IPCC. This valuable update reviews the new information and was prepared by an international set of experienced researchers, including UCSD's Scripps Institution of Oceanography's Richard Somerville. Their summary of the recent scientific findings include: rapid melting of the Arctic summer ice, acceleration of melting of Greenland, Antarctic, and Himalayan ice sheets, faster sea level rise than expected, and increase in severe weather events. As others are finding, unless carbon emissions peak by 2020 and decline rapidly, it is unlikely global warming can be held below 2 degrees Centigrade. The report concludes with a valuable set of up-to-date references.

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.03.25
Transient Simulation of Last Deglaciation with a New Mechanism for Bolling-Allerod Warming
Science vol.325, pp.310-314 (2009)

Larry's comment: This is the most computationally intensive supercomputer climate simulation ever run. It attempts one of the most difficult challenges in Earth climate modeling-the reproduction of an abrupt climate change, an almost discontinuous in time change of the Earth climate system. Amazingly, after using millions of processor-hours of the Department of Energy's Phoenix and Jaguar supercomputers (the world's fastest) the code reproduces some key features of one of the most recent abrupt global warming events-- the Bolling-Allerod (BA) warming of 14,500 years ago. The plan is to continue the computation through the Younger-Dryas abrupt climate change, up to the present day and then 200 years into the future. This bleeding edge supercomputer project will give us a good idea how well we can trust climate code predictions for the next century.

Read Type: Journal. created on 2010.02.08
UCSD: A Living Laboratory for Real-World Solutions
UC San Diego

Larry's comment: An inspiring video created by the students of UCSD sharing their enthusiasm for the many ways in which UCSD is using its "small city" and research innovations to live in the greener future. From algae as biofuel ("pond scum can save the planet") to greening data centers, I hope you will watch this video and then share it with as many of your friends as possible. Whenever I get depressed from the enormity of the climate challenges facing us, I just watch this video again!

Read Type: Video. created on 2010.03.04


A Doctor's Vision of the Future of Medicine
by Leroy Hood. Newsweek. Published on-line Jun 27, 2009

Larry's comment: Leroy Hood is a visionary with a strong track record of innovation. His vision of an emerging P4 medicine-predictive, personalized, preventive and participatory-is a vision I personally believe in and it is the basis of much of Calit2's research into the Digital Transformation of Health over the next decade. Many aspects of the advances in technology that will radically change the practice of medicine are already reality in laboratories. I have worked with Lee for over 15 years and look forward to deeper collaborations to bring this vision into reality.

Read Type: Weblink. created on 2010.03.25
Food Rules: An Eater's Manual (2009)
Michael Pollan

Larry's comment: Another useful book by Pollan, one of the leaders in the movement on how best to grow and consume nutritious food.

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.02.08
The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest (2009)
by Dan Buettner

Larry's comment: The rapidly growing field of research on successful aging takes an anthropological twist. This book describes the lifestyles of those who live, with high quality of life, well beyond 100 in four "Blue Zones" located in Sardinia, Okinawa, California, and Costa Rica. Besides the expected factors of diet and exercise, Buettner shows that social networks, family ties, and spirituality are key factors. He reduces what he has observed into nine sensible strategies, which are quite similar to other books I will describe here. It would seem that a fairly solid basis for healthy living is emerging from many different directions of research.

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.03.25
The Program: The Brain-Smart Approach to the Healthiest You (2009)
by Kelly Traver and Betty Kelly Sargent

Larry's comment: Kelly Traver, who is on the Board of the Institute of the Future with me, distills her experience as a doctor into an easy-to-understand and follow 12 week program for increasing your health. Her conclusions are similar to other books I will review here: eat less, eat high quality real food, exercise regularly, get sufficient sleep, and manage stress. What makes her book different is the first section describing the results of the last few decades of brain research, which give us insights into how we can modify our behavior in a sustainable fashion. She then applies these neuroscience insights in her 12 week program. Note the focus is NOT on losing weight or dieting, but rather on becoming a healthier person. If you do that your body naturally adjusts itself to a weight, which is likely lower than your current weight, unless you are already following these suggestions. Kelly also describes how her Program, adopted by Stanford University and Google, can promote successful aging, while helping to prevent or reduce the impact of a wide range of chronic diseases. If you have been having problems following diet books, give this one a read!

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.03.25


Rainbow's End (2006)
by Vernor Vinge

Larry's comment: Our local (SDSU) Hugo Award winning science fiction author has given us a very insightful and readable views of the near future. Through the characters we see how society changes in the mixed virtual/physical space of wearable Internet interfaces, augmented reality, and the emerging superhuman intelligence. He mixes in major transformations of medicine and longevity science, with a plot centered in San Diego and UCSD. Great mind food!

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.03.04