CCI Seed Funding Competition Year 2008 - 2009

In order to help achieve the goals of the CCI, a competition for project seed money was held. The CCI Steering Committee received 22 proposals. The proposals were reviewed by the CCI Steering Committee and seven proposals were recommended for reduced funding totaling $200,396. The following provides information on the funded proposals.


Contacts: Susana Adamo, Associate Research Scientist, Center for International Earth Science Information Network, The Earth Institute, and Andrew Moran, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
Title of Project: Integrating Urban-Rural Mapping and Cardiovascular Disease Epidemic Modeling: Urbanization and the future epidemic of cardiovascular disease in China
Scope of Project: China, the most populous country in the world, is rapidly urbanizing. By 2030, 60% of Chinese will live in cities. Many in China have an improved standard of living and life expectancy, but rapid change has resulted in certain adverse effects on health in China: tobacco use remains high, and overweight, hypertension, dyslipidemia, diabetes, and physical inactivity are accelerating in prevalence. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors are associated with urbanization in developing nations, and prevention efforts—e.g., enacting legislation to mandate smoke-free environments and minimize dietary salt and fats in prepared foods, or designing public spaces to promote physical activity—may be easier to implement in urban areas. The Cardiovascular Disease Policy Model-China is a computer predictive model developed at Columbia University that can be used to assess the effectiveness and cost-efficiency of targeting CVD prevention efforts to urban areas in China. This project proposes to develop the multi-disciplinary capacity to integrate CVD risk factor data from national epidemiologic surveys, a national CVD computer policy model, GIS data, demographic models of urbanization, and econometric forecasting in order to model cost-effective CVD health policy decisions in China.

Contacts: Walter Baethgen, Director of the Latin America/Caribbean Regional Program and Research Scientist, International Research Institute for Climate and Society, The Earth Institute; Miguel Pinedo-Vasquez, Director of International Programs and Associate Research Scientist, Center for Environmental Research and Conservation, The Earth Institute; Maria Uriarte, Assistant Professor, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology; and, Vladimir Gil, Adjunct Associate Research Scientist, Center for International Earth Science Information Network, The Earth Institute
Title of Project: Integrating Local Knowledge Systems and Scientific Information for Climate Change Risk Management of Vulnerable Andean Sectors
Scope of Project: Climate change is becoming a major impediment to the ability of Latin American countries to achieve a more equal economic prosperity, reduce poverty and engage in sustainable development initiatives to reach the millennium goals. Many experts are calling on Latin American governments to start building long-term adaptation and mitigation programs. This project seeks to build centers of information on climate change (CICC) in three Andean countries (Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia). CICCs will be composed by two main programs. First, a program on climate change scenarios (SPCC) that can help farmers and other vulnerable social groups to enhance their local knowledge systems of risk management. Second, a sustainable governance program (SGP) that can facilitate the processes of adaptation and mitigation of rural Andean societies to climate change. CICCs will begin by identifying, documenting and studying atmospheric, hydrological, ecological and sociological issues that are emerging due to climatic events. The project team will work in partnership with local research experts from the three countries to design and establish the CICCs.

Contacts: Daven Henze, Earth Institute Postdoctoral Fellow, and Patrick Kinney, Associate Professor, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health
Title of Project: Observations, trends and health impacts for air quality in African urbanization hotspots
Scope of Project: Population growth in Africa is primarily an urban phenomenon, and by 2025 Africa’s urban population will exceed its rural population. Despite the magnitude of these trends, little is known about the implications of African urbanization for human health. Experiences in other places suggest that increased emissions from transport and industrial sectors associated with urbanization, along with increased density, will elevate burdens of air pollution-related morbidity and mortality, along with associated societal costs. Dramatic increases in availability of remote sensing data over the past decade afford intriguing new ways to study air quality in locations that lack reliable ground-based monitoring. The project will use remote sensing data to characterize trends in air quality in the vicinity of twelve African cities. Then project will then use a combination of methods to model and forecast the health impacts of the observed trends in air quality, and to extrapolate the future consequences of urbanization on air quality and the associated economic impacts under a range of policy scenarios.

Contact: Malgosia Madajewicz, Associate Research Scientist, International Research Institute for Climate and Society, The Earth Institute
Title of Project: Evaluating Impacts of Sustainable Development Projects
Scope of Project: Development organizations are striving for an evidence-based approach to policy. They are increasingly relying on impact evaluations, requiring evidence of impacts before they allocate funding. Even impact evaluations which are feasible given existing methods have not been carried out systematically in the past, mainly because they are expensive. However, several decades of ineffective development policies have changed attitudes. Policy makers now believe that they cannot afford not to carry out rigorous impact evaluations, since they cannot afford to spend money on ineffective programs. The goal of the project is to inform the practice of promoting sustainable development, by using impact evaluations to learn from EI’s experience. We will design innovative methods to evaluate impacts which projects undertaken at the EI have on progress toward sustainable development. The science-based methods used in impact evaluations enable us to learn what worked, for what purpose, under what conditions, and why. Impact evaluations can help us understand how policy can raise the adoption rate of health-saving cooking stoves, how an early warning system for drought can improve child nutrition and thereby educational outcomes, or what mix of programs can help farmers adopt sustainable practices, manage climate risks and spur growth in agriculture. Impact evaluations yield results which can be concisely communicated, helping to disseminate the knowledge which they create.

Contacts: John Mutter, Professor, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences; Art Lerner-Lam, Doherty Senior Research Scientist, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, The Earth Institute; and Marc Levy, Deputy Director, Center for International Earth Science Information Network, The Earth Institute
Title of Project: Leveraging the Partnership between the Earth Institute and the UN Environment Program’s Post-conflict and Disaster Management Branch on coupled environment/disaster/conflict research
Scope of Project: The Earth Institute has entered a partnership agreement with the UNEP to work together on the critical issue of environment/conflict/disaster interactions. The purpose of this project is to leverage this partnership to enhance research, education and practice in the study of coupled environment/disaster/conflict interactions at Columbia and prepare a major NSF PIRE (Partnerships for International Research and Education) grant request to support on-going activities. The project will organize seminars during visits by UNEP staff to make the connections of students and post-docs to UNEP staff and familiarize them with UNEP work and projects. The project will also form a Steering Committee at the Earth Institute that will interact with its counterpart, the UNEP Steering Committee, and work on the NSF PIRE proposal.

Contacts: John Taylor, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics; Jeffrey Siegel, Associate Professor, Architectural Engineering, University of Texas-Austin; Patricia Culligan, Professor, Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics; and Richard Plunz, Professor, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
Title of Project: Coupling Technology and Organizational Dynamics to Induce Energy Efficient Behavior
Scope of Project: Research has shown that approximately 33% of energy savings can be attributed to behavior. A LEED Platinum-rated building will be designed with several efficiency measures; however, the individuals that occupy that building may not adopt energy efficient behaviors and thus negate the advantages of the energy-efficient design. We need research that couples advances in building practices and technology with the social systems that occupy buildings to achieve energy efficient behaviors in new and existing buildings. This project seeks to address the massive amount of energy consumed by the built environment – approximately 40% of all energy consumed in the United States – by coupling building information modeling and energy utilization tracking technologies with the ultimate goal of inducing energy efficient behavior. The objectives of this research are to develop a user interface for sharing information about building energy use, design and deploy a toolkit for measuring important energy end uses in a typical office, conduct a pilot study with the toolkit in 25 offices, assess the energy use and economic consequences of different information sharing approaches, and integrate these findings into predictive models.

Contacts: Lex van Geen, Doherty Senior Research Scientist, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, The Earth Institute; Patrick Kinney, Associate Professor, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health; and, Darby Jack, Earth Institute Postdoctoral Fellow
Title of Project: An Earth Institute Program for Environmental Measurements in Development
Scope of Project: People prefer cleaner, safer environments. Why then do so many people drink contaminated water, breathe polluted air, and use dangerous chemicals, even when protective measures are available and inexpensive? This project is based on the hypothesis that they do so -- in some situations at least -- because they lack access to salient, credible information about their environment. Many important environmental variables can now be measured in the field with off-the-shelf materials. Interpreting the results, however, requires expert judgment. Fortunately, the recent explosion in mobile telecommunications opens new avenues for communicating results gathered in teh field by local populations. The purpose of the new program will be to marry existing chemical and biological kits with mobile phone communication to help people in remote, under-served places monitor environmental quality and thus make better decisions about environmental health risks. Activities supported by the program over two years include pilot projects in Peru and Ghana involving students and faculty that are intended to set the stage for proposals to larger-scale funding agencies.