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Richard York publishes groundbreaking climate change research

A professor for both Environmental Studies and Sociology, York’s paper is printed in the journal Nature Climate Change. He argues for a shift in policy, rather than pursuing technological change only. The news has spread quickly – York has fielded calls from the BBC over breakfast.

From his abstract, he observes that a “fundamental, generally implicit, assumption of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports and many energy analysts is that each unit of energy supplied by non-fossil-fuel sources takes the place of a unit of energy supplied by fossil-fuel source.” However, York’s research makes it clear that merely bringing more green technologies online, and making them more accessible, does not actually decrease our use of fossil fuels. Our consumption habits are more complicated than ever. “Generating electricity creates the potential to use that energy, so creating new energy technologies often leads to yet more energy consumption,” York explains to the UO Office of Communications. He notes in his paper that a massive amount of non-fossil-fuel sources would have to be built to significantly reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, but cautions that “all energy sources have environmental costs.”

“The most effective strategy for curbing carbon emissions is likely to be one that aims to not only develop non-fossil energy sources, but also to find ways to alter political and economic contexts so that fossil-fuel energy is more easily displaced and to curtail the growth in energy consumption as much as possible,” York concludes. He is seconded by Kimberly Andrews Espy, vice president for research and innovation at the UO: “If we are to truly solve the challenges our environment is facing in the future, we need to consider our own behaviors and attitudes.”

York is not only a highly regarded environmental sociologist researcher, but also a favorite professor among UO students – as evidenced by his growing collection of awards, including the Teaching and Mentorship award from the American Sociological Association. Learn more about Richard York here.