How to Reduce Greenhouse Gases, Not Kill the Economy

GEORGE A. OLAH, professor of chemistry, USC Dornsife, and Chris Cox, USC trustee.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal on Oct. 10.

In the three weeks since the Obama administration issued its long-promised proposal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, it has become clear the plan is far from perfect. By placing the burden of expensive new carbon capture and sequestration technology on the U.S. alone, and potentially requiring steep cuts in domestic energy to conform to carbon caps, the proposal could send the U.S. economy into shock without making a significant dent in global emissions.

There is a better approach that can reduce greenhouse-gas emissions while growing the economy and increasing U.S. energy independence.

How Los Angeles Can Become Water Independent

KEN MURRAY, clinical assistant professor of family medicine, Keck School of Medicine at USC.

This op-ed appeared in Time magazine on Oct. 11 2013.

As a nation, we dream of energy independence. But in Los Angeles, we wouldn’t dream of water independence. Our local groundwater resources, in this partial desert with Mediterranean weather, provide only 13 percent of what we need. State politics are now consumed with a proposal by the governor for another massive infrastructure project that will move more water, cost billions, and make us even more dependent.

But we may have to think of this problem differently. All three sources of L.A.’s water imports – the Delta in Northern California, the eastern Sierra, and the Colorado River – are maxed out and likely to decline with global warming. The risks of dependence are growing.

So how can we wean ourselves on distant water? Desalination gets attention, but the energy costs are prohibitive. Instead, we should be examining every bit of water that is already here in Southern California.

The Lake Wobegon Effect at Cal State

WILLIAM G. TIERNEY, professor of higher education, USC’s Pullias Center.

This op-ed originally appeared at the Huffington Post on Sept. 27.

Garrison Keillor has long told stories about Lake Wobegon, his mythical home out there on the edge of the prairie “where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” California State University is inventing its own Lake Wobegon in dealing with entering freshmen who need to take remedial classes in math and English.

For years, Cal State University has had a significant remediation problem, spending about $30 million annually – or 2 percent of its instructional budget — on preparing entering freshmen for college-level work. In spring 2004, it rolled out the Early Assessment Program to reduce its remedial burden. Prospective students take a test before their high-school senior year that tells them if their English and math skills are college-level. If not, they are encouraged to take courses to correct their deficiencies before enrolling in the fall.

Shame on the Metropolitan Opera

KENNETH FOSTER, director of the Arts Leadership Program, USC Thornton School of Music and Price School of Public Policy.

So, I signed the online petition.

Which petition? The one organized by composer Andrew Rudin urging the Metropolitan Opera to dedicate its opening night, which was Sept. 23, to the LGBT people of Russia in protest of that country’s recently approved anti-gay laws.

I’ll confess I don’t usually sign these online petitions, thinking them largely a waste of time. And I had no real expectation that it would have any real impact on Russian President Vladimir Putin. Still, it seemed important to be part of a growing effort to call out Russia for its barbaric laws banning so-called “propaganda on nontraditional sexual relationships”?

It’s OK to Lose a Little Face Over Syria

K.C. COLE, professor of journalism, USC Annenberg.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Sept. 23.

A mathematical solution in Syria? That’s not as crazy as it sounds. In fact, the working compromise is a classic case of the power of game theory, a branch of mathematics that analyzes the best possible outcomes in conflicts where neither side knows what the other will do. It’s not about winning as much as it is finding the least worst option, which is precisely what Presidents Obama, Vladimir Putin, Bashar Assad and company have done.

No one gets exactly what he wants. But no one loses everything either.

Iran’s in the Mood to Negotiate on its Nuclear Program

HASHEM PESARAN, professor of economics, USC Dornsife.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Guardian on Sept. 17.

It is well documented that economic sanctions on their own have not generally been effective in achieving their political aims, particularly when they are imposed against non-democratic regimes. Sanctions have their greatest impact in the short term, as their effects tend to be mitigated in the longer term by structural economic and political adjustments. Overall, effective sanctions have been short-lived, whilst ineffective ones have lasted a long time.