2014 Climate Change Solutions Fund Award Winners

Reducing Food Waste As A Key to Addressing Climate Change
Emily Broad Leib, Harvard Law School 

Currently, food waste contributes significantly to global greenhouse gas emissions. In this regard, the Food Law and Policy Clinic proposes to identify key legal and policy levers that impact how much food is wasted by researching and advocating for changes in state and federal legislation regarding the expiration date system used on food labels, by investigating the possibility of voluntary expiration date reforms within the corporate food industry, and by amending and enacting new policies that act as barriers for food recovery programs such as tax and liability protections. In addition to this legal advocacy work, we hope to raise awareness of food waste policy issues and solutions among citizens, building a coalition of informed advocates.

Sustainable Adaptation Measures to Extreme Heat Events
Jose Guillermo Cedeno Laurent, postdoc/felllow, Harvard School of Public Health, Department of Environmental Health

In collaboration with:
John Spengler, Harvard School of Public Health 
Steven Lockley, Harvard Medical School
Jose Vallarino, Harvard School of Public Health

This research team will study the effects of extreme temperature events on human health among two relevant populations to our community: the elderly and university students. They hypothesize that the effect of heat waves on physical decompensation and cognitive function is mediated by sleep quality. Therefore, their goal is to find sustainable ways to provide thermal comfort at nighttime during heat waves that allow more efficient energy use in residential settings and provide safe environments, specially to vulnerable populations.

Patterning Silicon with Catalysts for High Efficiency Solar-to-Fuels Conversion
Daniel Nocera, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Chemistry and Chemical Biology

Meeting the energy demands of a rapidly increasing world population while mitigating the impact of carbon-based emissions in the atmosphere mandates the development of clean energy resources on a rapid time-scale. The direct integration of catalysts for water splitting with semiconductors forms the basis of promising solar-to-fuel conversion devices such as the artificial leaf. This proposal defines a program to deliver a high throughput, scalable, and low cost method of patterning Si with water splitting catalysts.

Market-Based Policy Design to Mitigate Climate and Local Air Pollution in India
Rohini Pande, Harvard Kennedy School 

In collaboration with:
Michael Greenstone, University of Chicago 
Nicholas Ryan, Yale University
Anant Sudarshan, Chicago University

As a result of rapid economic growth, India’s greenhouse gas emissions now rank third among nations while its cities are perhaps the most polluted in the world. Particulate matter air pollution—tiny particles of dust that lodge deep in the respiratory system—poses a staggering cost to India’s heath and is also the source of a potent climate pollutant called black carbon. This project will use data from a survey of roughly 1,000 industrial facilities, currently being conducted as part of an ongoing research engagement with the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests, Central Pollution Control Board and three State Pollution Control Boards, to develop recommendations on the design of an emissions trading system for the regulation of particulate matter emissions from heavy industry. Effective market-based regulation for particulate matter will not only reduce emissions of climate pollutants from the combustion of carbon intensive fuels, it will also develop the technical expertise and regulatory institutions in India necessary to address complex global pollutants like greenhouse gases. The project will generate rigorous evidence about the regulatory reforms India—along with other countries that also struggle with poor regulatory institutions—must make if it is to be effective in tackling climate change.

The Critical Moment: Climate Means Versus Weather Extremes in the Economics of Climate Change
Jisung Park, PhD Candidate, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Department of Economics

Hurricane Sandy cost the US economy upwards of one hundred billion dollars in damages. Businesses and financial analysts have noted for some time that heat waves and unusually cold winters can significantly dampen economic growth. But how well do we understand the degree to which local economic activity is determined by weather fluctuations, especially those that occur on a more regular basis without grabbing news headlines? More importantly, to what extent can we take information about the weather-dependency of economic output (GDP) to project possible economic damages from future climate change? Emerging scientific and social-scientific research suggests that labor productivity, retail sales, and even educational outcomes may be more intricately tied to day-to-day weather shocks than previously thought. This research project looks to undertake a systematic econometric analysis of the extent to which US counties’, cities’, and states’ economies depend on weather shocks of various kinds, including extreme hot and cold days, snow, rain, and wind storms. By quantifying the precise magnitude of such weather-driven economic impacts, and, crucially, using economic models to examine the speed and scope of local adaptation to changing weather patterns (and existing institutional incentives), we hope to provide clarity over the controversial links between weather and climate. The ultimate aim will be toward informing the important debate regarding the economic costs of climate change.

Investigation of Market Impediments to Biofuels Penetration
James Stock, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Department of Economics

The proposed research will study apparent market failures that are preventing expansion of first-generation biofuels in the United States. Because of their interaction with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), these market failures both impose substantial RFS compliance costs and inhibit the long-term prospects for low-GHG second- and third- generation ethanol biofuels. The funding will pay for assembling and analyzing a unique data set on Minnesota gas stations and flex fuel vehicles.

Harvard-China Partnership for Low-Carbon Energy Policy 
(Supported by a special grant from the Hanergy Corporation)

Michael McElroy, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

In collaboration with:
Dale Jorgenson, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard School of Public Health
Anthony Saich, Harvard Kennedy School
Chongqing Kang, Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management

A research team led by faculty at four schools of Harvard seeks to raise the resonance to Chinese policymakers of joint Harvard-China research on low-carbon energy options in China by: 1) strengthening in three ways the team’s existing analytical investigations of China’s options to reconcile economic growth with increased deployment of renewable energy options, reduced emissions of CO2, and reduced air pollution and impacts on public health; 2) applying this enhanced framework to evaluation of a set of policies and options in China, both technology mandates and market instruments; and 3) presenting results in a newly initiated policy advisory conduit that targets top levels of China’s central government. The team also proposes: 4) to conduct all elements of its research jointly with proven partners at Chinese institutions—notably three leading universities in China—strengthening Harvard’s footprint on the ground in China; 5) to leverage this research into classroom teaching of students both at Harvard and partner institutions in China on the nexus of economy, energy, environment, health, and policy; and 6) to present results in peer-reviewed publications and meetings in both countries.