The Institute for Energy Research: To Believe or Not to Believe?

In my time researching for the essay on evaluating the credibility of President Donald Trump’s statements as he announced the country’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords, I came across an article from the Institute for Energy Research (IER) on the topic of carbon dioxide emission reductions. After briefly skimming the article I had already noted several instances of bias, and so I began to look into what IER publishes.

The Institute for Energy Research is a nonprofit public policy think tank based in Washington, DC. Most of their publications focus on government regulation of the energy industry. None of those attributes send up a red flag on their credibility, but taking a closer look at the organization’s donors does. I often spend a couple minutes researching an organization or author of assigned readings, and one of the biggest indictors of bias is affiliation with other particularly biased groups. I ask myself what the motivation of the author and these groups is in publishing an article or report. Upon examining IER, I discovered that they regularly receive donations from the United States multinational oil and gas corporation ExxonMobil, the largest US trade association for the oil and natural gas industry the American Petroleum Institute, and the largest private-sector coal company in the world, Peabody Energy. It is not in the interest of these businesses to fund research that would endanger their profits, and I therefore question the credibility of scientific reports from IER. If they wanted to continue receiving funding, it makes sense that they would publish material supporting energy industry rhetoric.

Another indication of potential untrustworthiness of a source is the language used in the writing itself. I noticed that in the article detailing the United States’ decrease in carbon dioxide emission rates, the language used was far from neutral. Words with strong positive or negative connotations related to politicians or policies along a clearly partisan line. Facts should not be manipulated to fit along political divides. In a perfect world, policy would be implemented that correlates with what facts are communicating is happening in reality. The IER website seems to have nothing beneficial to say about renewable energy sources such as wind or solar. The organization does its best to make its reports sound academic and factual. However, a big indicator that they are not as credible as they would prefer to be is that these studies are not peer-reviewed. Examining the literature on topics such as climate change actually illustrates a widespread disagreement with IER’s stance.

The IER website devotes an entire topic page covering climate change and stating that reducing carbon emissions or transitioning away from fossil fuels is not the right answer. Whether or not these views are true, I would be skeptical of considering these articles credible sources. The motivation behind these publications is to defend energy companies, discredit the majority of climate scientists, and create confusion in the public on environmental issues.

Works Cited

The Institute for Energy Research.” IER,

“U.S. Outshines Other Countries in CO2 Emissions Reductions.” IER, 6 May 2016,

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Is the IDS-Nepal Report Credible?

In a time of constant doubt about the truth, it is ever important to have credibility in sources, when reading or writing about a relevant topic.  I believe that the three criteria needed for a source to be credible is reliable sources of information such as governmental offices as well as powerful nongovernmental organizations. A credible source also needs to have been peer reviewed by experts in the field before being published. This paper examines different factors that make the Economic Impact Assessment of Climate Change in Key Sectors in Nepal Technical Report a credible source.  These strengths in credibility can be seen in the combination of governmental groups and private organizations that worked on producing this piece, the amount of people who peer reviewed this source, and finally through the language used as it admits its own short comings.

One of the main strengths of this paper informative report is the amount of high diversity of organizations that were involved throughout the process.  These organizations include different sectors of the Nepali Government lead by the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment.  Other members represented the Ministry of Energy, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Agricultural Development.  A few other governmental groups, the National Planning Commission and the Department of Water Induced Disaster Prevention, were also involved with this report.  The fact that so many of these groups were involved with the creation of this report is a wonderful indication towards its credibility.  When addressing the impacts that climate change is and will have on an area it is necessary to use an interdisciplinary approach as the issues being faced do not cover simply one field of study.

Another strength of this report is found in the nongovernmental organizations that also helped to produce this report.  These groups include the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), the Global Climate Adaptation Partnership (GCAP), Integrated Development Society Nepal (IDS-N), and Practical Action Consulting (PAC).  This combination of groups, like the diversity of governmental groups, shows the thoroughness and thought that went into the creation of this report.  It is important to have the presence of both governmental and nongovernmental groups throughout a strong research based report and this paper clearly had that.  This project was requested by the government but carried out by the NGO’s.

Before being published this paper was peer reviewed by many people in CDKN.  This peer review process is an important step to take before publishing because experts can catch any mistakes or misrepresented information.  Peer reviewing with experts is also useful because it is a way to make sure that the information being represented in clear for the reader to understand.

The IDS Nepal report is a trustworthy source in the field of climate change.


IDS-Nepal, PAC and GCAP (2014). Economic Impact Assessment of Climate Change In Key Sectors in Nzepal. IDS-Nepal, Kathmandu, Nepal.

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Understanding Climate Models

Climate models help show different scenarios as to what could happen.  For example, some models run their simulations as if there will be no attempts to mitigate climate change, while others show what would happen if the greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions stayed constant to their current level.  This variance in scenarios is importance because it takes in to account one the of the largest reasons that future climate is so uncertain.  The amount ghg emissions directly impacts the temperature of the Earth.  By running scenarios with different amounts of ghg emissions climate models show a wide range of outcomes that could be the future of Earth’s climate.

As seen in the climate model below, each situation provides a range of the different outcomes from each scenario as well as a median line.  These ranges show outcomes from every climate scenario ran, which is helpful because it can inform decision makers of what they can expect for future climates relative to mitigation efforts.

Mean Temp Anomaly

Climate models can also represent the importance of acting against ghg emissions as shown in the four degrees Celsius gap from the median of scenario A2 to the median of B1.  The increase of global temperatures has extremely negative global connotations so the fact that climate models can show how much change mitigation can make is inspiring.

Regional climate models are another tool for local and national governments when making decisions regarding climate of the future.  These localized maps show expected changes in small given areas, such as states and counties.  When deciding on ways to approach future climate this information is helpful as it provides a region specific picture of what is likely to occur in a given area.

One limitation for using climate models can be seen particularly in precipitation models.  These models provide a range of likely outcomes of future climate, yet nothing shown is definitive.  The inconsistency is results from these scenarios is highlighted in precipitation models.  For example, in Nepal the climate models predict “changes between -30% and +100% in the annual rainfall” (p. 57).  The change in -30% and 100% precipitation would have vastly different impacts of on life, agriculture, flooding, droughts, in Nepal so, it would be hard for decision makers to use that information to create effective policy.  However, the models did show that an increase in the amount of rain days with 10 mm or more.

It can also be hard to make decisions using climate models on temperature.  While the information provided in climate models show a clear trend in the likelihood of an increase in global temperatures, the exact amount of an increase is very hard to pin down.


IDS-Nepal, PAC and GCAP (2014). Economic Impact Assessment of Climate Change In Key Sectors in Nepal. IDS-Nepal, Kathmandu, Nepal.

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Landscape as History

Students in Dickinson have commonly heard about how historical Carlisle is and about how Dickinson was the first college established after the Civil War ended. For this assignment, I went into town and looked at some of the places within the border of the historic district. I viewed the place through the lens of “landscape as history.” I specifically looked around the intersection between Hanover and High street. I noticed that there were two churches across from each other. One church was the Presbyterian Church, which was made starting in 1854. The church across is a catholic church. Across the street from the Catholic Church is the new courthouse and across that courthouse is the old courthouse, which was built in 1846.

Old Courthouse

A few blocks down is the old Cumberland county prison, which has the shape of a castle, and is made of bricks. The prison was used from 1854-1984 to house inmates and is now used for offices. Looking at these places gave me a sense of what was important to the people in Carlisle a few centuries ago. They seemed to value religion a lot and politics was very present. In the sign by the Presbyterian Church it states, “here colonists met to declare for independence in 1774.” In addition, by the old courthouse there is a memorial dedicated to the fallen soldiers of the civil war from 1861-1865. It shows that Carlisle was an important place when it came to the war and the declaration of independence from the British. There are many American flags in the corners of the old courthouse and it seemed as though the people in Carlisle were very patriotic. In contrast to the more modern buildings, the older buildings in the area are either made of bricks or have a brown/ maroon/ beige color, which emphasizes their age.

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Landscape as Habitat

I chose examine the street outside of the Quarry using the lens of landscape as habitat. The most notable feature of this habitat right now is the construction in the middle of the road, blocking off one of the lanes. The street is littered with cones, a small crane, and the occasional construction worker. In the background, the crossing guard guides students across the street and in the foreground construction workers guide cars through the intersection. Across the street is the Holland Union Building and on my side, further up the street is Althouse. Both sides of the streets have flower beds and patches of grass with trees.

Examining this landscape through the lens of habitat was somewhat difficult and depends on what you describe as nature. On one hand, Meinig describes altered landscapes as “man’s selection from earth’s great bounty and his reworking, retraining, rearranging in to desirable forms.” This is true of the landscape I observed. We paved streets and sidewalks to make it easier to travel between locations, built buildings to protect us from the elements while we eat and study, and even kept some trees and flowers so it would look pretty. The construction workers are actively engaged in rearranging something underground so it works better for human use. There are clear examples of man “altering [landscapes] in productive ways.”

However, what I found difficult to grapple with was the idea of man working towards symbiosis with nature. From what I was observing, the habitat I observed has almost no relationship with what I would consider to be natural. There are a few trees, flowers, and grass and while I could hear the birds and I know there are squirrels around, there are no signs of the other animals and plants that must’ve lived here before we paved it over. I also struggled with Meinig’s idea of man as both the steward and cultivator for earth. He uses those two words as if they are synonyms but I don’t think they mean or imply the same idea at all. A steward is somebody who protects and perhaps uses responsibly, but a cultivator is somebody who utilizes or harvests something for personal gain. If I had gone into my observations knowing I would be using the gaze of landscape as habitat, I would have shifted my gaze further left of the road where there is a lot more natural, green space between Althouse and the Quarry. The paths there are narrower and the greens pace bigger. It still serves our purpose of ease of passage, but retains more of what I think of as the natural world.


Meinig, D.W., “Landscape as Habitat.”

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Observation Assignment: The Center for Sustainable Living through the Lens of Ideology

Common Area of the Treehouse

A space can be observed through ten different lenses, each of which offers unique insights to various attributes of that space. One of those lenses is examining a space through the eyes of ideology. The observer views characteristics as outputs of underlying values, ideas, and philosophies of a particular culture. I chose to view the common area of the Center for Sustainable Living, also known as the Treehouse, through the lens of ideology. I wanted to see if the individual objects, setup, and architecture of the space could communicate the culture of the Treehouse and it residents.

I first looked at and thought about the space itself, as in the walls and open spaces. Anyone entering the Treehouse must pass through the common area to access their own private room, which increases interactions among residents. The open spaces contain comfy, welcoming armchairs and sofas for people to lounge on and socialize. They are arranged in a rough circle to facilitate open discussion and participation. Furniture can be easily moved around the common space for flexibility in activities. The walls are covered with posters and artwork covering a diverse array of topics and mediums. Many of them focus on an issue of sustainability or social justice. A piano in the corner is covered with paint, photographs, newspaper cutouts, and glitter. Two metal ventilation pipes layered in a plethora of colorful stickers dominate the central space. Large windows with heavy dark curtains can be opened for a sunny and breezy open atmosphere, or they can be closed for a darker, more intimate and warmer space. The choices offered to residents in changing their surroundings creates a dynamic space that can shift to meet the needs of a social, active and creative group.

The various elements of the common space in the Center for Sustainable Living illustrate a philosophy and way of viewing and interacting with the world particular to the culture of the Treehouse residents. There is an obvious acceptance and encouragement of sustainable habits and thinking. Clothing is hung on clothing lines on the building’s ceiling. Banners and paintings feature trees, nature, slogans proclaiming action on climate change, and activism. But beyond a green lifestyle, collaboration is also celebrated in the Treehouse. By being encouraged to include their own stickers or artwork on the walls, residents grow to feel a responsibility to respect their home. The space becomes more personalized and friendly. The relaxed atmosphere and eclectic assortment of furniture and decorations supports a culture of expression and open communication. What others may view as disorder is utilized as living spaces for casual and creative thinking and learning.

The residents of the Treehouse cannot avoid displaying key components of their culture through the objects making up their common area. They are also in turn influenced by the space itself in how they interact with each other. The ideology of prioritizing eco-friendly living, creativity, cooperation, and self-expression is apparent in analyzing what is included in the common area.

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Observing Britton Plaza: History

Britton Plaza: the heart of campus. How has this area changed through history? When completing this assignment, I imagined hands of a clock spinning back in time. 50 years. 100 years. 1000 years.

First, I observed the nature. I imagined the dense forests, spanning for miles, only to be cleared and turned into the buzzing hub of activity it is today. I see several large oaks are placed tastefully in the Plaza, perhaps a century old. Next, only a few feet away are young saplings. How will these look in a couple hundred years? Will they still be there? Or will time and advancement drive them away as it did for their grandfather trees? I then turned to the woodchip walkway. Once large trees as well, they are now chopped and grinded, simply for our aesthetic and walking convenience. Why has this nature been manipulated throughout history? It tells a story about our human needs and what we believe is important for the center of our campus.

Then, I turned to the people. I imagined the original students of Dickinson College, walking through this area, whatever it may have looked like. I then pictured the subtle changes over time- styles, mannerisms, technologies, and areas of studies changing. I imagined the innovation and ideas accompanying this time lapse.

I then turned to the buildings in this area: the HUB, the Library, and Biddle House. I observed and noted their vast differences in architecture. Biddle House, a former private home, is tasteful and elegant, whereas the HUB and Library has a more severe, practical vibe. I imagined how striking the difference in architecture would have been at one point, only to fall basically unnoticed today.

This exercise helped me realize the vast amount of history and information stored all around us. Each landscape tells an ongoing, different story. While we cannot know the exact time and date of every major occurrence, if we open our eyes, we can look to the landscape to provide us with patterns and insight we may have originally overlooked.

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Briton Plaza as an aesthetic landscape

When viewing Briton Plaza as an aesthetic three main interaction most be considered. These include the presence of nature, the mark of history on the land, and the intersection between man and nature.

Nature can be seen on Briton in the open grass that faces Morgan Field. A plethora of trees and seasonal flowers is also present. On a clear day such as today, the warm sun beats down through the clouds. Birds can be seen chirping the trees, while squirrels hop from nut to nut.

The mark of history can be seen in two main ways. This includes the emblematic Dickinson College sea, that represents the historical background and values of the college.  Surrounding Briton Plaza are the buildings Waidner-Spahr Library, Biddle House, and the Holland Union Building (HUB). Each of these places hold their own unique story and value. The history of the plaza should also be considered. This is an area that student groups use to express ideas they feel passionate about.

Finally, when examining the local aesthetic, it is important to view the intersections between man and nature. This can be seen in students lounging and picnicking on the grass.  There are also solar panels present in front of the HUB, as man caputres the natural energy provided by the sun for personal usage. In a larger sense, every human interaction on Briton Plaza encompasses the natural landscape and humans.

Another analysis of aesthetics deals with the artistic features of a place. The colors of Briton Plaza include a variety of grays bricks, limestone walls, green leaves, red umbrellas, and black tables. A rainbow can be seen in the passengers through this place through bags, belongings, and clothing. The texture of Briton varies through the soft brick, the jagged limestone, and rough bark. Images of symmetry can be seen throughout. The patterns of brick surrounding the college seal provide an elegant image of symmetry.  Briton Plaza

Symmetry of the table pattern.



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A view of Briton Plaza through the lense of landscape as ideology

Humans are social creatures that are drawn towards self-organization, establishing social norms and decreasing anarchy within the system. This idea is prevalent in our daily life, from the community level, to the larger-scale society and governmental institutions. Even since the beginning of human history, we have organized as hunter-gatherer communities. Soon after the discovery of agriculture, we form communities, develop religions, establish governance systems and social norms.

Upon examining Britton Plaza, I have noticed many examples of this human nature. In the center of the image, we see a group of students standing and talking to each other – representing the idea of self-organization. Chairs and tables, as facilitators of conversations, where students hang out during the day, are arranged in an organized matter surrounding the plaza. Bike racks are set so that all bicycles coming into the HUB can be chained in a designated area that is not obtrusive. All the posts used previously for some event had been neatly put in one place, to be collected the next day. Near the HUB, we see trash cans placed so that students can dispose of their trash. As we can see, Britton plaza is a small representation of social norms and rules of law established by an institution. The organization of the plaza could have been in complete anarchy. Students could have taken the chairs or moved them around as they will. They could have thrown trash anywhere they wished, or chain their bikes to any place that they wanted. Yet, they chose to follow the rules that had been previously set by the school. Perhaps they fear punishment and judgment from societal pressure, or because they understand that having objects set up a certain way increases the productivity and efficiency of the community. Nonetheless, there will always be those who defy social norms, those who don’t believe in the rules that are set. The seal on the plaza is the perfect embodiment of this. There is a general belief among students that stepping on the seal will make you not graduate on time. People avoid the area surrounding the seal, in the fear of stepping on it. However, there are those students who casually walk over the seal, completely undermining the belief system.

I find it very interesting that through the application of a different perspective on viewing a landscape, I am able to draw these connections between the organization of the space on Britton Plaza to the ideas of human nature itself.

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Landscape as Nature: Britton Plaza

The songs of birds are eclipsed by the roaring of trucks and cars behind me. While I see leaves on the ground before me and grass on the hills to my right, florescent light bulbs cast unnatural shadows upon those things around me. What was this place like when it was once pristine? Cicadas humming on prairies and bison grazing in the background. The moon casting its natural light on the peaceful grasses and forests below. Mother Earth in its intact state, supporting ecosystems that coexist and are connected as they once were for millennia.

The only humans in sight are Native American Tribes that have come to live in harmony with the natural landscape. They revere these lands as not theirs, but rather as a part of them. Their symbiotic relationship allows for the natural functions of the land to remain nearly untouched. The trees that I see before me today which are isolated and merely used as ornaments were once bountiful and commanding of this territory. Wild flowers have gone from being in the soil of the earth to being planted in pots and rows. The grassy mounds of Britton Plaza, while still retaining their natural shape, have more than likely been fertilized only for aesthetic purposes.

Natural soils have turned to scattered mulches, and what was once ordinary characteristics of this land have only been brought back to appease the eyes of those who walk our campus grounds. And as the air around me smells of manmade pollution and horns of cars fill my ears, I cannot help but ask one thing: are we humans not from and still a part of nature? I know that the environment that we have created and destroyed is from our own doing, but just like the Native Americans, are we still not dependent upon these lands? Our transformation is unnatural in the sense that it has been done by the hands of humans, but is a bird’s nest unnatural in this sense then too?

With no doubt in my mind, I can say that what we have done and are doing to the earth is in a sense unnatural. However, perhaps it is more that we have simply forgotten our inherent connection to the Earth as our Mother. We have transformed Her into a subservient mass that is now focused on giving us what we want, rather than what we need. We are no longer coexisting with the other parts of the earth that were once free and lived amongst these lands. But when you take a moment to truly listen, look, and feel the remaining bits of nature around us, you will realize that it is all still here.

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