Kurt Kornbluth works with UC Davis facilities management to identify on-campus opportunities for carbon reduction. He has also created new climate-focused, project-based curriculum through his collaborations with faculty from multiple disciplines.

Kurt is a professor in the department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at UC Davis. He holds a PhD in Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering from UC Davis. Kurt is also an Associate Director for the UC Davis Blum Center for Developing Economies and the founder of both the Program for International Energy Technology (PIET) and the D-Lab, a program that enables students to find energy solutions around the world.

Kurt is working towards energy efficiency around the world

Kurt works in the fields of international development, Zero-Net Energy, and Climate Neutrality. In addition, to the Program for International Energy Technologies (PIET), he founded the D-Lab, which are series of courses to educate and engage students in finding tangible solutions to energy issues. The D-Lab works with international partners to find scalable, sustainable solutions for energy issues within a community. They work with local communities to understand energy needs and assess proposed energy solutions through technical, social, environmental, and financial lenses.

To learn more about the D-Lab and PIET, and see the locations their projects are helping, please visit: http://piet.ucdavis.edu/.

Kurt is educating students on how to participate in reducing our carbon footprint.

Kurt is helping to develop a roadmap for carbon neutrality at UC Davis. To do this, he is educating students on how to think critically about energy production and use. The D-Lab is the place for them to go, interact with each other, and come up with ideas towards carbon neutrality. In addition, Kurt is teaching project-based courses, such as “A Path to Zero-Net Energy (ZNE)”. Students are learning by doing and working with clients on renewable energy options.

Kurt’s Team in Action

Kurt awarded a team from his Zero-Net Energy (ZNE) class $1,200 for best project (Photo 1). The funds can be used to attend a conference to present their research. This project discussed methods of financing to convert UC Davis’ current heating system to a hot water heating system (Photo 2).  Also, Kurt’s students investigated the effectiveness of the commuter incentive program at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento (Photo 3).


What is a common misperception from non-scientists about climate research?

  1. People assume that scientists must know what they are doing and are able to make accurate predictions. However, research is not exact and is full of assumptions, making predictions difficult and sometimes inaccurate.
  2. People assume scientists are politically motivated and climate science is bunk
  3. Another misconception is the doomsday scenario: The future is bleak and climate change is inevitable and there is nothing anyone can do about it. This is not true.

What is the most rewarding part about being a UC Climate Action Champion?

The most rewarding parts are meeting and collaborating with others from all disciplines, working on building a more sustainable future, and working with students to understand the problems.

What do you hope your project contributes to your university, the UC-system, and society?

Achieve climate neutrality at UC Davis (just that). 

What is one thing you want to tell non-scientists about climate change?

Best to do your own research and decide for yourself. If you travel you can already see the effects of climate change and environmental degradation in many places. Climate change is not a temporal question (when?), but geographic (where?).


• Created a basic climate module for his existing course, A Path to Zero-Net Energy (ZNE)

• Performed climate projects in ZNE class including 1) commuting emission study for Sacramento campus 2) steam to hot water financing

• Collaborated on a new physics course “Pathways to Climate Neutrality”

• Authored the Big Idea proposal “Leading the Way to Climate Neutrality through Innovative Planning, Research, Education, Operations, and Financing,” which was selected by UC Davis Chancellor’s Office to move forward


Kurt Kornbluth shows two students how to work a machine in their lab.
"If you travel you can already
see the effects of
climate change...
in many places."
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Kurt Kornbluth discusses his project-based learning technique that uses an interdisciplinary and international scope to apply sustainable solutions to campus and local problems.

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