July 29, 2011
Working at the World Bank has been an amazing learning experience! Though I was first set to do a case study on low carbon growth in developing countries, this changed on the first day of my internship. In such a large international organization, things can change very rapidly when political circumstances change. For me this was a meeting between the World Bank President Bob Zoellick, New York City Mayor Bloomberg, and former President Bill Clinton at the C40 Sao Paolo Summit in early June. C40 is a group of large cities around the world committed to tackling climate change. Zoellick, Bloomberg and Clinton discussed the need for the C40 and international organizations like the World Bank to focus on climate forcers other than carbon dioxide when considering climate change mitigation approaches. This discussion led me to spend my summer researching potential initiatives for a partnership between the World Bank and C40 to reduce the anthropogenic emissions of non-CO2 climate forcers.
Non-CO2 climate forcers contribute to climate change but are not CO2. This includes methane, nitrous oxide, black carbon, and fluorinated gases (f-gases) such as hydroflourocarbons (HFCs.) These forcers often have a shorter atmospheric lifetime than CO2 and a greater Global Warming Potential (GWP) than CO2. This means they can do more climate damage in a shorter period of time, but getting rid of them also means more direct results in the short term. For example, methane’s 20 year GWP is 72, meaning one ton of methane is 72 times more damaging over 20 years than one ton of CO2. Yet methane’s atmospheric lifetime is only 12 years while CO2’s is over 100 years. This makes targeting methane and other non-CO2 climate forcers a low-hanging fruit in the fight against climate change.
My research was very multi-disciplinary. I learned about the science behind non-CO2 climate forcers as well as previous projects focused on reducing their emissions and the cost-benefit analysis of them. In many ways this was much more difficult than the research I’ve done in my classes because the information wasn’t easily located in one place. I had to search academic papers for background information and scientific understanding of the issues, then I had to search the World Bank database (which is not the most organized place!) for information on past projects. This often did not yield enough information, so I would then have to search the Internet for NGO’s, governments and businesses working on similar projects. I ended up having to call most of them because their websites rarely had enough data on the topics I was researching.
In-between all this investigating, the Bank kept me busy with lots of interesting lecture series and discussions. There are lectures on various topics almost every day. These varied from a discussion on renewable energy led by our very own Dan Kammen to a lecture on economic development by Lord Nicholas Stern (author of the Stern Review.)
Researching a currently politically relevant topic has been very exciting and influenced my decision to pursue a senior thesis next semester. I’m looking forward to taking my experiences back to the world of academia and continuing to learn more about this topic!