Thursday, August 18, 2011

Homage to Lee Schipper: We were all his students

From Steve Winkelman:
Our dear friend and valuable colleague, Lee Schipper, transportation research guru par excellence, died on August 16th after a fast and fierce battle with cancer. We’ve lost a giant.

We will miss Lee for his deep knowledge, thorough analyses, quick wit, frank assessments and passionate presentations. Lee accomplished and published so much — influencing so many policies, ideas and people during his intriguing career. Go ahead and Google him (and he could’ve told you the CO2 impact of that search).

Lee was brilliant at articulating the connections among technology, economics, culture, policy and politics. He understood the technical details and could see the big picture. And he was never shy about calling it as he saw it.

Yeah, Lee Schipper was opinionated, you bet. But those opinions were so well informed, and he always sought the best information to get as close to the truth of the matter as possible. Lee knew transport and energy data intimately — where it came from, who collected it, who paid for it, and how it could be improved.

And no one did bad puns, double entendres and goofy titles as well as Lee (Fool Economy, Kyotus Interruptus, Counting Carbs to Lose Tonnes, ASIF the Details Mattered…). And who can forget his original collection of funny transport photos, including his signature green car?

I got to know Lee over the past decade through wonky work on improving transportation data, sustainable transport research and numerous climate policy dialogues. While I was not one of his closest colleagues, he treated me with tremendous warmth and was generous with his time.

Wherever he did roam, no matter the hour, Lee was always happy to help with a research question, provide a lead on a data source or share his wisdom. His guidance was invaluable, as were his musings and our games of Yiddish geography. In 2007, when Lee was unable to attend a climate conference in Montréal, he passed the baton my way. My wife joined me and we fell in love with the town; we moved to Montréal last year. Lee invited me to speak at an IEA workshop in Paris; I invited him to speak at a CCAP dialogue in Costa Rica.

In the climate policy field one always hopes that the value of their work will more than offset their carbon footprint; in Lee’s case, in spite and because of his extensive travel, I expect he succeeded.

Lee was a miraculous combination of hardy skepticism and optimistic vision; intensity and joie de vivre. His energy and knowledge were inspiring, often challenging, but always constructive. Lee worked hard to help solve big problems ASIF they truly mattered. ASIF we, collectively, could make a difference.

Thank you Lee. You left the planet a better place. We’re all lucky to have studied with you. May your final trip be peaceful.

Steve Winkelman, CCAP

To read more tributes to Lee, visit his family’s website:

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Steve is Director of the Transportation and Adaptation Programs of the Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP). He has given increasing attention to the importance and cost-effectiveness of slowing growth in travel demand to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, popularized with his phrase, “Sidewalks are as sexy as hybrids.” Steve directed the Urban Leaders Adaptation Initiative, helping local governments to “Ask the Climate Question” when making infrastructure and land use decisions.

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