ARB Research Seminar

This page updated July 25, 2013

From Science to Regulation (with the additional perspective of ten months of on-the-job training.)

Photo of Robert F. Sawyer, Ph.D.

Robert F. Sawyer, Ph.D., Chair, California Air Resources Board and Class of 1935 Professor of Energy Emeritus at University of California, Berkeley

November 01, 2006
Cal EPA Headquarters, 1001 "I" Street, Sacramento, CA



California's worst-in-the-nation air quality a half-century ago both required and allowed California to take a leadership role in air pollution control, nationally and internationally. From Cal Tech Professor and first Air Resources Board Chair Dr. Arie Haagen-Smit's identification of the nature of photochemical smog and its automotive source to the present, science has played the central role in the understanding, assessment, and regulation of air quality. Since early in the process, the science and its implications for public policy has always been controversial.

The relation among vehicle exhaust, atmospheric chemistry, and smog was highly contentious. As the science developed, and was accepted, California adopted automotive emission standards that led to revolutionary changes in engine design and motor fuel formulation. The result has been improving air quality at the same time that population, vehicles, and vehicle miles traveled increased greatly.

While the adverse health effects of particles were recognized early, understanding of the nature of the particles, the mechanisms of their health effects, the processes by which they are formed, their sources, and the mechanisms of their control continues to evolve. As measurement methods have advanced, the presence and importance of nanoparticles in the atmosphere has become an issue. Nanotoxicity is an evolving science. The regulation of nanoparticles awaits improved understanding of their adverse health consequences.

Perhaps the most controversial and important air pollution issue of our age is the relation of greenhouse gases and other species to global warming. The identification of carbon dioxide as an air pollutant is the subject of a lawsuit which will be heard by the Supreme Court early next year. The scientific evidence that global warming is occurring and that it is the result of anthropogenic emissions is solid. The global warming controversy is shifting to what will result from these emissions and how and when public policy should respond. California and the Air Resources Board are again in a leadership role. Science will guide the policies we adopt and the policies we adopt should include the flexibility to respond to new, evolving science.

Speaker Biography

Robert F. Sawyer, Ph.D., in January 2006, left the University of California after forty years as a faculty member to accept the appointment by Governor Schwarzenegger to head the California Air Resources Board. He had previously served on the Board in the 1970s as the automotive engineer member. Dr. Sawyer served as a senior policy advisor at the US EPA, was a member of federal, state, and National Academy of Sciences Committees, was president of the International Combustion Institute, and chaired the Bay Area Air Quality Management District Advisory Council.

During his forty year career at Berkeley as a professor of mechanical engineering, Dr. Sawyer's teaching and research included rocket propulsion, energy conversion, combustion, air pollution, and regulatory policy. He is the author or co-author of more than 350 technical publications and two books. Dr. Sawyer chaired the Energy and Resources Group and was the first Class of 1935 Professor of Energy. He is a graduate of Stanford and Princeton universities. Dr. Sawyer is a recipient of the Berkeley Citation and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers' Soichiro Honda Medal and is a fellow of the Society of Automotive Engineers.

For a complete listing of the ARB Research Seminars and the related documentation
for the seminars please view the Main Seminars web page