CCI Seed Funding Competition Year 2010 - 2011

In order to help achieve the goals of the CCI, a competition for project seed money was held. The CCI Steering Committee received 21 proposals. The proposals were reviewed by the CCI Steering Committee and 6 proposals were recommended for funding totaling $161,705. Information on the funded projects is below.

Title of Project: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Evaluating Missing Data When Relying on Participatory Reports of Unusual Events
Contacts: Susana Adamo, Associate Research Scientist, Center for International Earth Science Information Network, Adjunct Associate Professor; Tiffany Bogich, Senior Research Fellow, Wildlife Trust; Ilana Brito, EI Postdoctoral Fellow, Wildlife Conservation Society and Center for International Earth Science Information Network
Scope of Project: Events, be they infectious disease outbreaks, conservation successes, outbreaks of invasive species, local disasters, climate change events, crimes, or others, are tracked globally so that policies can be crafted equitably and risks can be mitigated. Each type of event depends on its own variables that may or may not be reported. When analyzing global event reports, it is imperative to understand what biases impact these reports in order to ensure that true differences are reported rather than differences due to artifacts of bias. This project seeks to create a general framework for reporting bias that is applicable across many topics and disciplines. The research will focus on four areas where case reporting is important for policy development: (i) invasive species outbreaks, (ii) crimes and accidents, (iii) forest fires and small-scale natural disasters, (iv) emerging infectious disease events.

Title of Project: Building capacity for managing climate risk from drought in Guatemala
Contacts: Kevin Anchukaitis, Doherty Associate Research Scientist, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Scope of Project: While the signature of anthropogenic climatic change is most often associated with increases in global mean and regional temperatures, it is the changes in precipitation and the frequency and duration of drought that will have the most direct and immediate consequences for human populations. Changes in regional hydroclimate will exacerbate already existing and rapidly emerging threats to sustainable water supplies from growing populations, pollution, declining infrastructure, and transboundary resource conflicts, which, in turn, may lead to food insecurity and civil instability. Guatemala sits in the veritable ‘bulls‐eye’ of future precipitation declines predicted by state‐of‐the‐art general circulation models. Critical to mitigating the consequences of changes in water availability in Guatemala and the surrounding region is a long‐term understanding of the potential range and signs of variability in precipitation, an understanding of drought conditions on seasonal and decadal time scales, and an eventual integration of this knowledge into water and natural resource policy. This project seeks to build capacity for managing climate risk by developing formal collaborations between the Earth Institute and the Centro de Estudios Ambientales at the Universidad del Valle in Guatemala on issues related to water and drought risk in Guatemala.

Title of Project: Elucidating Near-Term Climate Change Information to Guide Water Resources Decisions and Foster Sustainability
Contacts: Paul Block, Associate Research Scientist, International Research Institute for Climate and Society
Scope of Project: Water resource management is often faced with the challenge of offsetting dynamic, human-induced and naturally-occurring climate change in operations, planning, and design. Variability in human activity and climate change inevitably lead to risks in designing and operating water systems, and in allocating available water supplies; these risks also vary systematically over time. For these reasons, predicting and managing such risks has become increasingly attractive. Thus far, considerable effort has been undertaken to improve seasonal forecast skills, however only minimal effort has been devoted to understanding and creating projections at time-scales ranging from years to decades.  Near-term climate change (NTCC) is an emerging field of study that focuses on both naturally occurring and human-induced climate change over the next 10-20 years. NTCC has the potential to provide decadal-scale information to water resource managers for both the year-to-year management of water infrastructure, and for planning purposes over the next 5-20 years. This project seeks to initiate place-specific NTCC simulations and projections of precipitation, temperature, and stream flow, to identify relevant decadal-scale water resource decisions, and to write a proposal soliciting additional funds for further study.

Title of Project: Drowning Island Nations: Legal Implications and Remedies
Contacts: Michael B. Gerrard, Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice, Director, Center for Climate Change Law
Scope of Project: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has projected sea level rise at an average rate of about 5 mm/yr over the 21st century, with the maximum rate of rise in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean. These projections raise concerns for the low-lying island states of the world – the 50 or so nations scattered throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and South China Seas, a vast majority of which are developing countries and homes to unique cultures and languages. Rising sea levels and the associated inundation risks and erosion effects raise grim prospects of land loss, vital infrastructure loss, and population relocation and displacement.  Climate change-induced shifts in historical rainfall patterns, increased occurrence of extreme weather events, increased sea surface temperature and acidification also pose unique dangers for the already-vulnerable water supply, marine resources, and subsistence and commercial agriculture in these islands. This conference will explore the novel legal questions that face low-lying island states in light of climate change and sea level rise. Papers presented at the conference will be published to help policymakers, academics and others who have influence over how these legal implications are handled to be able to make more informed decisions and implement solutions to the emergent issues. 

Title of Project: Atmospheric Aerosol Impacts on Health in Sub-Saharan Africa
Contacts: Carlos Perez Garcia-Pando , Earth Institute Fellow, NASA GISS and International Research Institute for Climate and Society, and Sylwia Trzaska, Associate Research Scientist, International Research Institute for Climate and Society
Scope of Project: Composed of mixtures of mineral dust particles from arid and semi-arid areas, and combustion aerosols emitted from biomass burning, domestic fires and fossil fuel sources, atmospheric aerosol can cause a number of life-threatening diseases. The information on the role of exposure to atmospheric aerosol in the development of MM or respiratory/cardiovascular disease is sparse in the low-income countries of the Sahel. Studies have been limited by the use of horizontal visibility data or column-integrated measurements from satellites as proxies for exposure. The determination of surface aerosol concentrations and their chemical and mineralogical characterization are needed to establish an assessment of exposure levels. This project seeks to quantify atmospheric aerosol levels in order to better understand and quantify related health impacts in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as support related projects and activities in the Earth Institute, such as the ongoing CCI project, “Towards improved control of meningitis outbreaks in sub-Saharan Africa.” This project will culminate with the submission of a NSF “integrated approach” proposal on Coupled Natural and Human systems in 2010 and/or 2011 with the aim of understanding and quantifying the complex relationships among land use, atmospheric aerosol emissions, climate and health in sub-Saharan Africa.

Title of Project: Teaching Toward an Ethic of Enough: Curriculum Development of an Undergraduate Course on the Ethics of Sustainable Development
Contacts: Cynthia Peabody, Associate Director, Center for the Study of Science and Religion Scope of Project: The Earth Institute’s exciting new undergraduate major in Sustainable Development occasions the need for a course on the ethics of sustainability.  Given that students who elect this major will be concerned with poverty, peace, and environmental degradation, there is a need for students to understand the moral and ethical issues that are inherent to these issues.  In order to engage in frontline organizational and academic work in their field, students majoring in sustainable development should study the ethical frameworks within which so much of the relevant discourse and action occurs or ought to occur. This project will design a course that will effectively introduce students to the ethics of sustainability. The course will take an interdisciplinary approach in determining learning objectives while engaging students in a creative, interactive learning environment, using the Morningside Heights/Harlem communities as venues for hands-on learning. The last phase of the project will convene a day-long conference or workshop designed to give instructors from all over the United States a chance to help each other learn to teach this subject.