My Work On Climate Policy

Apr 12, 2021 By Deepa Gopal
Deepa Gopal's picture

I play multiple roles as part of my work. I am the research director at Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment. I also advise on topics related to energy and climate research at the California Energy Commission.

Through these roles, I work at the intersection between climate research and policy; I think about how to advance our understanding of climate issues and how research can inform our policy decisions.

For instance, in California, I study the policies that the state is considering to reach its ambitious climate goals. I also look at strategies to manage the risks and impacts of wildfires in the context of climate change.

What My Work Looks Like

The work I do today is mostly computer-based. I conduct analysis and use computer models, but a lot of the work I do consists of writing to describe the results of my analyses.

Climate change remains a polarizing issue, and there is a wide range of ideas on what we should do to combat climate change. Even as we come up with climate policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we need to look at other societal goals -- such as creating new jobs, promoting public health, and advancing equitable solutions.

I love that I’m always learning new things through my work, but that’s also one of the challenges I face. Every day is a new adventure in terms of what I do, and it can sometimes be difficult to determine how to allocate my time.

There have been several milestones on my journey that I am proud of. Working on the IPCC assessment was a unique and fascinating process for me. I had the opportunity to collaborate with the global scientific community and representatives from governments around the world.

The experience taught me how to work together to produce a document that integrates scientific understanding to inform climate decisions. I also enjoyed that I was doing scientific work on an international scale. I am also proud of the work I am doing now to support real-world climate solutions in California and beyond.

My Message For Young Readers

Ultimately, climate change is such a broad field and there are opportunities for all ages to learn and get involved.

My advice to anyone interested in working in the field is to learn about how the natural world works, how it interacts with human systems, and how science integrates with society, all of which is useful no matter what you end up doing. 

You can get started by thinking about what is happening in your own home and community. You can reflect on how your home uses energy, how your town is laid out, what types of transportation your family and other people use to get around. Are there changes you might want to implement?

By picturing these kinds of ideas at a local scale, it can be much easier to then think about changes that could be implemented at a large scale.