Public Administration Professor Studies Climate Change, Policy

By Jenn O’Hanlon

UTEP News Service

As a member of The University of Texas at El Paso’s Master of Public Administration Program faculty, Rachel M. Krause, Ph.D., takes climate change seriously, addressing the topic at a policy level.

“Environmental policy is my main interest,” Krause said. “I see public affairs and public policy as an applied multidisciplinary social science. Taking expertise from economics, political science, sociology, management, and business and using the knowledge toward public problems in an applied manner is fascinating.”Rachel M. Krause, Ph.D., researches climate change at the environmental policy level. Photo by Laura Trejo / UTEP News ServiceRachel M. Krause, Ph.D., researches climate change at the environmental policy level. Photo by Laura Trejo / UTEP News Service

Krause’s research centers on issues of urban sustainability, particularly the motivations, implementation and consequences of greenhouse gas abatement efforts taken at the local level. Her research utilizes survey methods, collects data on state and local level policy and quantitatively examines the ways in which decisions are made at the two levels of government and discovers how these branches interact. Policy innovation and diffusion has been a sub-theme of Krause’s work.

“Her work in climate change research is unique and very important,” said Pat Witherspoon, Ph.D., dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “It is of great interest among scholars in her field and among academics looking at climate change through interdisciplinary lenses.”

Krause recently teamed up with experts from Florida State University and the University of Central Florida to develop an integrated city sustainability database.

“There have been seven independently administered nationwide surveys that have been disseminated over the past 18 months to cities about their sustainability measures and activities,” Krause said. “We are partnering to organize those surveys in an effort to harmonize them into one large database. The end goal is to make the information public as a service for other researchers to use.”

According to Krause, climate change has become a political issue and many of the best solutions may not be politically feasible and therefore will not be implemented.

“A lot of the ‘solutions’ that may have the best chance, technologically, of making an impact may not be able to pass through the nation’s political and economic hurdles,” Krause said. “Unfortunately, climate change is not a social priority at the moment. A greater awareness of politics and public policy and an understanding of what can work, given the reality of our institutions and economics, will become increasingly important as the climate change conversation continues.”

Krause said that the immediate future of climate change is at the state and local level.

“One of the reasons we’re seeing things done at the local and state level in the U.S. is because the options are more politically feasible while having an emphasis on co-benefits of climate protection,” Krause said.

A large struggle Krause has found is the difference between the explicit and implicit handling of climate change policy.

“As long as climate change remains a politicized term, discussions may go around the issue of climate change by explicitly focusing on saving energy and money,” Krause said. “We will see a lot of strategic use of what is focused on. It’s the idea of, is it explicitly climate protection with the implicit message of co-benefits, or is there an explicit focus on co-benefits with the implicit added benefits of climate protection?”

Krause is currently working on two other projects that focus on climate change and urban sustainability.

“All of the projects I’m working on are exciting and important to the topic of climate change,” Krause said. “They all have the potential to have a real impact on decision makers and help policy formation, design and implementation.”

Krause recently was selected to participate as one of 34 scholars at the upcoming Dissertations Initiative for the Advancement of Climate Change Research (DISCCRS) VII Symposium to be held in Colorado. The symposium is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

“Dr. Krause’s selection as one of 34 scholars to participate in this symposium is a testament to the reputation she is developing in her field,” Witherspoon said. “Her involvement in the symposium enhances not only her own reputation but that of UTEP among research universities.”

DISCCRS was initiated in 2001 to foster interdisciplinary understanding and collegial peer interactions across a range of disciplines associated with the study of climate change and its impacts. This year, 215 applications from around the world were submitted and each was reviewed by natural and social scientists. Selection for the symposium was favored to those with interdisciplinary interests as well as candidates who demonstrated excellence in scientific research.

The goal of the symposium is to bring together an interdisciplinary group of promising new climate scholars for a week in order to build communication and networks that will carry on and shape future research.

“I am looking forward to the symposium because it will put me in touch with many future collaborators and with people who have big ideas and interesting ways of weaving disciplines together,” Krause said.