Research Group
Curriculum Vitae
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Steven J. Davis
Publications    Google Scholar Profile
Flexibility and intensity of global water use
Nature Sustainability | June 3, 2019

Some water uses are more or less flexible than others due to larger curtailment costs or social impacts. We construct and present a new water stress index that integrates water scarcity, flexibility, and variability, and use it to evaluate the most-stressed basins worldwide.

Qin et al. 2019

Selected Press: Nature
Emissions from federal lands
Nature Climate Change | January 28, 2019

New research from the USGS shows that fossil fuels produced on federal lands accounted for over 20% of U.S. emissions in recent years. Yet there are numerous ways in which federal lands might instead lead decarbonization.

Ratledge et al. 2019

Human carbon cycle feedbacks
PNAS | December 17, 2018

Climate change impacts on the biosphere tend to increase carbon emissions (a postive feedback). Meanwhile, the impacts on human activities may reduce carbon emissions by a similar amount (a negative feedback). Bad news for both nature and humans, but the feedbacks may largely offset each other.

Woodard et al. 2018

Selected Press: ArsTechnica
Climate impacts on beer supply
Nature Plants | October 15, 2018

Concurrent drought and heat extremes in the future may cause substantial decreases in barley yields, leading to dramatic regional decreases in beer consumption (e.g., -32%) and increases in beer prices (e.g., +193%) in some years.

Xie et al. 2018

Selected Press: AP, WSJ, WIRED, ArsTechnica, NY Times, SciAm
Without a back-up plan
Nature Sustainability | October 15, 2018

Despite increasing access to electricity, the reliability of electricity remains poor in many developing countries. We explain new research showing the magnitude of economic and environmental costs of electricity outages in sub-Saharan Africa.

Xie et al. 2018

Future climate impacts of Arctic shipping
Geophysical Research Letters | September 12, 2018

In the first study to use a fully-coupled Earth system model to look at the future climatic effects of trans-Arctic shipping, we find that clouds formed in response to shipping emissions may offset ~1°C of the overall warming trend in the Arctic by the end of the century.

Stephenson et al. 2018

Structural decline in China’s CO2 emissions through transitions in industry and energy systems
Nature Geoscience | July 2, 2018

China's emissions decreased between 2013-2016. Our analysis shows the decline was largely due to changes in industrial structure and a decline in the share of coal for energy production. Decreases may persist if nascent industrial and energy system transitions continue.

Guan et al. 2018

Selected Press: Bloomberg, Reuters, ArsTechnica
Net-zero emissions energy systems
Science | June 29, 2018

Although there are many options for reducing energy-related CO2 emissions, some energy services entail emissions that are much more difficult to eliminate. We review technological opportunities and barriers for eliminating and/or managing difficult-to-decarbonize services, and critical areas for further research, development, demonstration and deployment.

Davis et al. 2018

Selected Press: MIT Tech, InsideClimate, SciAm
City-level climate change mitigation in China
Science Advances | June 27, 2018

We present new, city-level estimates of CO2 emissions for 182 Chinese cities, decomposed into 17 different fossil fuels, 46 socioeconomic sectors, and 7 industrial processes, and examine three scenarios of technological progress to show that large reductions (up to 31%) are possible by updating a disproportionately small fraction of existing infrastructure.

Shan et al. 2018

Selected Press: Reuters
The rise of South-South trade and its effect of global CO2 emissions
Nature Communications | May 14, 2018

"South-South" trade among developing countries is increasing, and helping to reduce China’s emissions by shifting energy-intensive production to less developed regions. But this may make climate mitigation more challenging; emissions are spread among more and less-developed countries.

Meng et al. 2018

Selected Press: Wired, Reuters
Infrastructure shapes differences in the carbon intensities of Chinese cities
ES&T | April 25, 2018

Differences in Chinese cities’ carbon intensity are largely due to disparities in economic structure that can in turn be traced to past investment-led growth. Related carbon lock-in may hinder China’s efforts to reduce emissions from activities in urban areas.

Zheng et al. 2018

Predicting unpredictability in the U.S. energy sector
Nature Energy | March 26, 2018

Analysts and markets have struggled to predict a number of phenomena in U.S. energy markets over the last decade or so, such as the rise of natural gas. I explain new research that shows this may be a result of the industry--and consequently the market--becoming increasingly volatile.

Davis 2018

Selected Press: NPR
Eliminating natural gas at the UC
Nature Climate Change | February 27, 2018

The Paris Agreement highlights the need for local climate leadership. The University Of California’s approach to deep decarbonization offers lessons in efficiency, alternative fuels and electrification. Bending the emissions curve globally requires efforts that blend academic insights with practical solutions.

Victor et al., 2018

Geophysical constraints on reliability of U.S. solar and wind power
Energy & Environmental Science | February 27, 2018

Analysis of hourly weather data shows that meeting >80% of U.S. electricity demand with only solar and wind would require days' or weeks' worth of energy storage--even assuming a continental-scale transmission grid. Today this would be very costly.

Shaner et al., 2018

Selected Press: MIT Tech Rev, VICE
Global super-polluting power plants
Nature Sustainability | January 8, 2018

We assess fuel- and region-specific opportunities for reducing undesirable air pollutant emissions using a newly developed emission dataset at the level of individual generating units. Retiring or installing emission control technologies on units representing 0.8% of the global coal-fired power plant capacity could reduce levels of PM2.5 emissions by 8–14%.

Tong et al., 2017

Land-use change emissions from soybean feed embodied in Brazilian pork and poultry meat
Journal of Cleaner Production | November 20, 2017

We find that 17% and 39% of the greenhouse gas emissions related to the cultivation of soybean feed for Brazilian pork and poultry, respectively, are embodied in exports to other countries, especially Eastern Europe, Asia and elsewhere in South America.

Caro et al., 2017

Effects of atmospheric transport and trade on air pollution mortality in China
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics | September 5, 2017

33% of premature deaths in China in 2010 (338,600 deaths) were caused by pollutants emitted in a different region of the country and transported in the atmosphere, and 56% (568,900 deaths) was related to consumption in another region.

Zhao et al., 2017

Probabilistic estimates of drought impacts on agricultural production
GRL | August 5, 2017

Using a multivaritate probabilistic model, we quantify the average annual yields of major rainfed crops in Australia as a function of precipitation and soil moisture indices during the growing season. In the period 1980-2012, yields were 25–45% lower in dry seasons.

Madadgar et al., 2017

Evaluating Jacobson et al.'s "WWS" proposal
PNAS | June 19, 2017

Jacobson et al. argue that wind, solar and hydro power alone could meet all U.S. energy demands at "low-cost." Unfortunately, their work contains errors, incorrect and unsupported assumptions, and inappropriate methods. It's possible to get all our energy from renewables, but Jacobson et al. haven't proven it'll be reliable or affordable.

Clack et al., 2017

Selected Press: NY Times,WaPo, MIT Tech Rev
Increasing probability of mass mortality during Indian heatwaves
Science Advances | June 7, 2017

We show that small increases mean temperatures may lead to big increases in heatwave deaths in India. For example, if summer mean temperatures increase by 0.5 °C, the chances of a heatwave that kills >100 people goes from roughly 1 in every 8 years to 1 in 3 years.

Mazdiyasni et al., 2017

Selected Press: NY Times, Climate Central, SciAm
Future CO2 emissions and electricity generation from proposed coal-fired power plants in India
Earth's Future | April 25, 2017

With its growing population, industrializing economy, and large coal reserves, India represents a critical unknown in global projections of future CO2 emissions. As of mid-2016, proposed coal-fired power plants in India are incompatible with its NDC to reduce carbon intensity 33-35% by 2030.

Shearer et al., 2017

Selected Press: Carbon Brief, E&E, VICE, E360
Trade affects location of air pollution deaths
Nature | March 30, 2017

In a groundbreaking interdisciplinary analysis, we quantify the global links among consumption of goods and services, production of air pollution, atmospheric transport of that pollution, and human mortality due to the pollution. We find that roughly a quarter of air pollution deaths are related to goods produced in one world region for consumption in another.

Zhang et al., 2017

Selected Press: New Scientist, Guardian, WaPo, Economist
Global carbon uptake by cement carbonation
Nature Geoscience | November 21, 2016

Globally, carbonating cement materials are a large, overlooked and growing sink of CO2, which has offset 43% of the total process CO2 emissions (excluding those from related fossil energy inputs) from production of cement between 1930 and 2013.

Xi et al., 2016

Selected Press: Science, Architect, MIT Tech Rev
Earth system response to negative emissions
Environmental Research Letters | September 20, 2016

Earth system models suggest significant weakening, even potential reversal, of the ocean and land carbon sinks under future negative emission scenarios. Weakening of natural carbon sinks will hinder the effectiveness of negative emissions technologies and therefore increase their required deployment to achieve a given climate stabilisation target.

Jones et al., 2016

Global climate forcing of aerosols embodied in international trade
Nature Geoscience | September 9, 2016

In recent years, international trade has displaced radiative forcing related to aerosols such as black carbon, sulfate, nitrate and ammonium from developed, net-importing nations like the U.S. to emerging, net-exporting nations like China. We quantify this shift and discuss its policy implications.

Lin et al., 2016

Selected Press: CTV, South China Morning Post
Carbon lock-in
Annual Review of Envt. and Resources | September 2, 2016

Existing technologies, institutions, and behavioral norms constrain the rate and magnitude of carbon emissions reductions in the coming decades. We review the implications of research on "carbon lock-in" for decarbonization efforts and propose a research agenda to bridge the gaps among science, knowledge and policy-making.

Seto et al., 2016

Quantifying expert consensus against the existence of a 'chemtrails' conspiracy
Environmental Research Letters | August 10, 2016

76 of the 77 (98.7%) scientists we surveyed had not encountered evidence of a secret, large-scale atmospheric spraying program, and said that purported evidence are more easily explained by well-understood physics and chemistry associated with aircraft contrails and atmospheric aerosols.

Shearer et al., 2016
Selected Press: NY Times, Forbes, Vice, Slate, Science
Dislocated interests and climate change
Environmental Research Letters | May 31, 2016

Benefits and costs of CO2 emissions are often dislocated across space, time, and organizational level. When beneficiaries have greater political influence than those impacted, the result will be tragically suboptimal. Appeals to the consciences of beneficiaries will not solve the problem.

Smith et al., 2015

Correspondence: Reply to Kotchen and Mansur
Nature Communications | March 18, 2016

Commenting on our work decomposing drivers of recent trends in U.S. CO2 emissions, Kotchen and Mansur confirm our results but take a 'glass is half-full' perspective on natural gas's role in the decline. Our reply further highlights what we think is wishful thinking.

Feng et al., 2016

Biophysical and economic limits to negative CO2 emissions
Nature Climate Change | December 7, 2015

Most scenarios that avoid 2°C of global warming require large-scale deployment of negative emissions technologies. We review the impacts and resource demands of such deployment, and conclude that it's cheaper, easier and less risky to tackle global warming before fossil CO2 is in the atmosphere.

Smith et al., 2015

Selected Press: Climate Central, WaPo
Developing country finance in a post-2020 global climate agreement
Nature Climate Change | October 23, 2015

Emerging markets like China are increasingly financing expansion of fossil energy infrastructure in less-developed countries. The climate finance regime of the future should draw upon the resources of developing (as well as developed) countries to accelerate global low-carbon development.

Hannam et al., 2015

Addressing the climate-trade dilemma in China
Nature Climate Change | September 28, 2015

China's coal-based energy system and emissions-intensive manufacturing technologies produce drastically more CO2 emissions the same sectors in developed countries. We identify specific industries and provinces where improvements are most needed to reduce the CO2-penalty of trade with China.

Liu et al., 2015

Selected Press: Sinosphere, SciAm, ClimateWire
Climate constraints on carbon intensity of economic growth
Environmental Research Letters | September 8, 2015

Using a simple model that includes infrastructural carbon lock-in, we show that avoiding 2 °C of warming with continued economic growth will require extremely low carbon intensity of new infrastructure--even with immediate action, relatively short infrastructure lifetimes, and the possibility of large negative emissions after 2050.

Rozenberg et al., 2015

Rate and velocity of climate change caused by cumulative carbon emissions
Environmental Research Letters | August 28, 2015

Peak warming will be proportional to cumulative CO2 emissions, but the rate and velocity of climate change may be very different under different emissions pathways, even when cumulative emissions are equal. Thus, the ability of ecosystems to adapt or migrate is sensitive to the pathway of emissions.

LoPresti et al., 2015

Reduced estimates of Chinese carbon emissions
Nature | August 20, 2015

Several thousand measurements of Chinese coal and clinker indicate that CO2 emissions in China have been overestimated by 14% in recent years, or about 2.5 billion tons of CO2 per year. This is a very large revision with important implications for international climate negotiations and assessments of the global carbon cycle.

Liu et al., 2015

Selected Press: NY Times, ClimateProgress, BBC
Cost-effective ecological restoration
Restoration Ecology | August 13, 2015

Ecological restoration is big business, but there are few studies looking at the cost-effectiveness of different restoration methods. Using results from a large field experiment, we assess the resulting % native cover per dollar spent according to different methods of site prep, seeding and planting.

Kimball et al., 2015

Relevance of methodological choices for accounting of land use change carbon fluxes
Global Biogeochemical Cycles | July 21, 2015

We present the results of a new bookkeeping model of land-use change emissions, BLUE, and use the model to show the large effects of different accounting decisions on estimated carbon fluxes.

Hansis et al., 2015

Drivers of the decline in US CO2 emissions
Nature Communications | July 21, 2015

US CO2 emissions dropped 11% between 2007-2013;            a trend has been widely attributed to the increased use of natural gas over coal. We decompose the drivers of the decline and show that the recent economic downturn and not the gas boom deserves most of the credit for the decrease in emissions.

Feng et al., 2015

Selected Press: Climate Central, LA Times, CBS, SciAm, BBC
Outsourcing air pollution within China
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics | May 19, 2015

Large amounts of air pollution produced in the northern and central regions of China are embodied in goods imported by its affluent coastal provinces. This consumption-based accounting suggests that economically optimal pollution abatement efforts may need to assess embodied emissions.

Zhao et al., 2015

Systems integration for global sustainability
Science | February 26, 2015

Sustainable development depends upon understanding interactions among multiple complex subsystems, but scientific research tends to focus on one (or part of one) subsystem at a time. This review describes recent progress toward more integrated, interdisciplinary science that is problem-driven, solution-oriented, and intentionally policy-relevant, and then discusses future directions for this science.

Liu et al., 2015

Non-CO2 emissions embodied in traded meat
Environmental Research Letters | November 13, 2014

More than 30 Mt CO2-equivalent CH4 and N2O emissions were embodied in meat traded internationally in 2010, increasing at 4% per year. This reflects a trend of increasing livestock production in countries with lower input costs, less efficient practices, and more permissive environmental regulations, which decrease global food costs and increase demand.

Caro et al., 2014

Selected Press: environmentalresearchweb
A crack in the gas bridge
Nature | October 15, 2014

A suite of global models show that, without new climate policies, abundant natural gas will not act to reduce GHG emissions or mitigate climate change. Consistent with our earlier findings for the US, abundant (and therefore cheap) gas may delay deployment of low-carbon energy sources and increase overall energy use.

Davis and Shearer, 2014

Selected Press: SciAm, The Guardian, CSMonitor
Bridge or detour?
Natural gas and US CO2 emissions

Environmental Research Letters | September 24, 2014

Leaking methane isn't the only reason natural gas may not reduce GHG emissions: gas also competes against lower-carbon energy sources. Without targeted policy, gas substitutes for both coal and renewables and future US GHG emissions do not decline much even assuming no leakage.

Shearer et al., 2015
Selected Press: Science, WaPo, ClimateProgress
Sharing a quota of cumulative emissions
Nature Climate Change | September 21, 2014

We can estimate carbon budgets for different warming targets, but the lingering and contentious question is how to divvy up that budget among countries. Industrialized countries don't want to stop emitting and developing countries want to emit more. This paper proposes a quantitative method for doing the sharing.

Raupach et al., 2014

Selected Press: NatGeo, Vox
Commitment accounting of CO2 emissions
Environmental Research Letters | August 26, 2014

Worldwide, existing power plants represent roughly 300 billion tons of future CO2 emissions if all plants operate for 40 years, and these "committed emissions" in the power sector have been growing at a rate of ~4% per year. This paper proposes tracking these commitments to quantify future emissions implied by current investments.

Shearer et al., 2015
Selected Press: Science, Dot Earth, Newsweek, Guardian
Attributing land-use emissions to products
Carbon Management | August 12, 2014

Land use and use changes produce GHG emissions over years, during which the land may be used to produce different products. We review several methods of assigning land use emissions to specific products, which have dramatically different results. Analysts should communicate their choices and consider the implications in light of their goals.

Caro et al., 2014

Global and regional trends in greenhouse gas
emissions from livestock

Climatic Change | July 12, 2014

A global accounting of GHG emissions from 11 livestock categories and 237 countries. Beef produces far more emissions than does pork or chicken. Emissions per unit of meat produced is decreasing in most places, but not quickly enough to keep up with rising global demand.

Caro et al., 2014

Selected Press: LA Times, AP, CBS News
Export-related Chinese air pollution affects
US air quality

PNAS | January 20, 2014

As much as a third of Chinese air pollution is related to goods exported from China, and some of that pollution blows across the Pacific to the US. Thus, outsourcing of manufacturing from the US to China has improved air quality in the eastern US, but has worsened air quality in the western US. [Cozzarelli Prize]

Lin et al., 2014

Selected Press: NY Times, The Atlantic, LA Times
Climate policy and dependence on traded carbon
Environmental Research Letters | July 24, 2013

Goods and services consumed in one country increasingly depend upon fossil carbon extracted or burned in other countries. This limits the effectiveness of national climate policies that regulate only domestic emissions. Similarly, nations that depend on imports of fuels or emissions-intensive goods will bear costs of climate policies in exporting nations.

Andrew et al., 2013

Selected Press: Shrink That Footprint
Outsourcing CO2 within China
PNAS | June 10, 2013

Rich coastal provinces in China outsource emissions to poorer interior provinces. China's province-specific emissions targets may encourage this dynamic even though the cheapest and easiest emissions reductions are in the less-developed interior provinces where the energy technologies in use are unsophisticated and inefficient.

Feng et al., 2013

Selected Press: The Guardian, BBC, SciAm, Nature CC
Rethinking Wedges
Environmental Research Letters | January 9, 2013

Building on the influential "wedge" paper by Pacala and Socolow, we emphasize that stabilizing emissions is only the first step in solving climate change. Ultimately we have to stop dumping CO2 into the atmosphere altogether; a phase-out of emissions over the next 50 years would require 19 wedges, and more if historical rates of technology improvement falter.

Davis et al., 2013

Selected Press: Science, USA Today
Carbon Budget of Australia
Biogeosciences | February 7, 2013

As part of the Global Carbon Project's RECCAP effort, Vanessa Haverd and co-authors quantified the terrestrial carbon budget of Australia, including emissions embodied in Aussie trade.

Haverd et al., 2012

A Synthesis of Carbon in International Trade
Biogeosciences | August, 2012

This paper synthesizes key differences between studies of CO2 emissions in trade and provide a consistent set of estimates using the same definitions, modeling framework, and data. Included are new calculations of carbon physically present in trades wood, crop and livestock products.

Peters et al., 2012

Cretaceous−Paleogene evolution of the Utah foreland
Geosphere | August 1, 2012

Data from detrital zircon ages, paleocurrent trends, and sandstone petrofacies show that the Colton Formation in northeastern Utah represents the culmination of a persistent pattern of sediment transport northward during Cretaceous and Paleogene time (70-60 Ma).

Dickinson et al., 2012

CO2 from Fossil-fuel Combustion
Biogeosciences | May 29, 2012

CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels has increased steadily since fossil fuels were first used by humans. Despite international efforts, global emissions continue to increase at a rate of ~3% per year. This synthesis describes how emissions are calculated; calculates global, regional, and national emissions at different spatial and temporal scales; and discusses associated uncertainties.

Andres et al., 2012

Cenozoic Topography of Western North America
AJS | February 1, 2012

Using nearly 5,000 oxygen isotope analyses performed over the past decade, we reconstruct the topographic development of western North America over the past 60 million years. The data shows that the landscape west of the modern Rockies grew into a rugged and high mountain range bordered on the west by a high Sierra Nevada Mountains and on the east by large lake basins that captured water draining these growing highlands.

Chamberlain et al., 2012

The Supply Chain of CO2 Emissions
PNAS | October 17, 2011

Nations report CO2 emissions from fossil fuels that are burned within their sovereign terrritory. But both fossil fuels and consumer goods manufactured with fossil energy are commonly transported internationally. We map global emissions according to where fossil fuel resources are extracted and where the goods made with fossil energy are consumed.

Davis, Peters and Caldeira, 2011

Selected Press: The Guardian, BBC, SciAm

The California River
Geology | October 4, 2010

Fifty-five million years ago a river as big as the modern Colorado flowed through Arizona into Utah in the opposite direction from the present-day river. By analyzing the uranium and lead isotopes in sand grains made of the mineral zircon, we show that sediments in northeast Utah came from igneous bedrock in the Mojave region of southern California.

Davis et al., 2010

Selected Press: Discovery News, LiveScience

Infrastructural Inertia of Climate Change
Science | September 10, 2010

What if we never built another CO2-emitting device, but the ones already in existence lived out their normal lives? We calculated the amount of carbon dioxide expected to be released from existing energy infrastructure worldwide, and then used a global climate model to project its effect on the Earth’s atmosphere and climate.

Davis et al., 2010

Selected Press: Wired, TIME, SciAm
Climate Benefits of Increased Agricultural Yields
PNAS | June 15, 2010

Agricultural intensification since 1961 has increased yields so much that the area in crops has not needed to change, even as demand has soared. As a consequence, intensification of agriculture has prevented deforestation that we estimate would otherwise have emitted 161 billion tons of carbon to the atmosphere.

Burney et al., 2010

Selected Press: New Scientist, TIME, BBC, SciAm
Consumption-based Accounting of CO2 Emissions
PNAS | March 8, 2010

Over a third of carbon dioxide emissions associated with consumption of goods and services in developed countries of western Europe, Japan, and the United States are emitted outside their borders, often in China. In contrast, ~24% of the emissions produced in China are exported.

Davis and Caldeira, 2010

Selected Press: The Economist, NPR, NYTimes, TIME
Drainage Patters of the Laramide Cordillera
AJS | September, 2009

This paper synthesizing hundreds of isotopic measurements from the Paleogene (~65-40 Ma) North American Cordillera to reconstruct the evolving hydrology of the Eocene Green River Lake system and shifting Cordilleran drainage patterns as the modern topography of the Rocky Mountains developed.

Davis et al., 2009

Cordilleran Landscape Evolution in the Paleogene
GSA Bulletin | January, 2009

The isotopic composition of 40-60 million year-old lake deposits in Utah may reflect the north-to-south progression of topography and drainage rearrangements as magmatism swept southward through Montana and Nevada and increased the mean elevation of catchments that drained east into the lakes of Utah.

Davis et al., 2009

Drainage Reorganization and Paleoaltimetry
EPSL | November, 2008

Lakes in the Laramide foreland co-evolved with drainage patterns. Such shifting drainages could confound isotopic estimates of paleoaltimetry. In the North American Cordillera of the Paleogene, for instance, it's likely that (1) changing topography in areas hundred of kilometers from foreland lakes altered isotopic composition of lake water.

Davis et al., 2008

Carbon Footprint of New Belgium Fat Tire Ale
Climate Conservancy | March, 2008

A report of The Climate Conservancy, which I co-founded with a goal to label consumer products with their carbon footprints. This work was conducted with data from New Belgium Brewing Company, for whom we assessed the carbon footprint of the well-known Fat Tire Amber Ale. We prepared a detailed report.

Davis et al., 2008

Selected Press: New Belgium, Beer Activist
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