CCI Seed Funding Competition Year 2011 - 2012

In order to help achieve the goals of the Cross-Cutting Initiative (CCI), a competition for project seed money was held. The CCI Steering Committee received 13 proposals. The proposals were reviewed by the CCI Steering Committee and five proposals were recommended for funding totaling $132,000. Information on the funded projects is below.

Contact: Shama Perveen, Associate Research Scientist, Columbia Water Center
Title of Project: Impact of Climate Variability and Urbanization on Water Storage Practices and Vector-borne Disease Incidence: Developing an Understanding for Risk Prediction and Response Using Delhi, India, as Context
Scope of Project: Rapid urbanization and poor water management in urban settings in India have resulted in a wider spread of the mosquito-borne diseases dengue and malaria. Shama Perveen and collaborators from the Columbia Water Center will coordinate a study of how select patterns of urbanization and climate variation modify the impact of human water storage practices on dengue and malaria in a setting such as Delhi, India. After identifying and observing case study sites within Delhi, Perveen and her team of researchers will use ArcGIS technology to define and spatially map baseline information characterizing the urban, peri-urban and rural areas in order to assess the role that living conditions, human behavior and infrastructure play in determining malaria and dengue transmission.
Working in Delhi, the research team will meet with local partners to define, obtain and analyze available data about water supply management and incidences of malaria and dengue. Using this information, contributors will be able to characterize the role of water storage and supply infrastructure across the urbanization gradient with respect to disease epidemiology. The final step will identify how water storage practices and climate change affect mosquito habitats and disease transmission, especially with regard to extreme climate conditions. Information acquired during this study will allow for increased accuracy in risk prediction and response, as NGOs and public officials seek sustainable solutions to public health issues.

Contact: Deborah R. Coen, Assistant Professor of History, Barnard College
Title of Project: Historicizing Hazard: An Interdisciplinary Workshop on Environmental Learning, Ignorance and Fear
Scope of Project: Turning to the past can reveal how societies have learned to cope with repeated environmental hazards over the course of generations. This project will historicize the category of environmental hazards and examine public tendencies to over- or under-estimate environmental risk due to dual problems of public apathy and anxiety in the face of environmental change. Deborah Coen and her team of collaborators will develop a workshop during which presenters and participants will consider the changing practices of environmental management and the environmental frameworks available for conceptualizing the relationships among the self, society and the environment.
The workshop will take place in April 2012, bringing together leading scholars in environmental history, sociology, anthropology, and the history of modern and pre-modern science. The case studies presented at the workshop will explore shifts in societal perceptions of and responses to environmental challenges, including water scarcity, nuclear risk, industrial pollutants, epizootics and plague. Papers will be pre-circulated and the focus of the workshop will be on discussion, with graduate students invited to serve as commentators. The workshop is conceived as the first step toward an edited volume or special journal issue.

Contact: Michael Gerrard, Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice in the Faculty of Law; and Vijay Modi, Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Title of Project:Facilitating Combined Heat and Power Projects in New York City
Scope of Project: The use of distributed generation energy in the form of combined heat and power increases energy efficiency and reduces emissions. Under the guidance of Michael Gerrard and Vijay Modi, the Center for Climate Change Law and the Department of Mechanical Engineering will study the feasibility of combined heat and power (CHP) projects in New York City. Combined heat and power systems use waste heat from energy generation to heat water and provide heat and cooling for buildings. CHP systems achieve total system efficiencies of up to 80 percent. In power plants in the United States, the average efficiency rate for conversion of fuel to useful energy is 33 percent. Combined heat and power systems also generate fewer emissions than conventional power plants because they use less fuel and displace high-emissions generators on the grid.

Modi and the Department of Mechanical Engineering will develop a model that analyzes the technical and economic viability of implementing combined heat and power (CHP) on a tax lot and block basis, and Gerrard, with the Center for Climate Change Law, will compile and analyze the laws and regulations applicable to CHP projects in New York City. The researchers will compile information about the incentives programs available to New York City property owners who install and operate CHP systems. A two-part report will provide an analysis of the technical and economic feasibility of implementing combined heat and power in buildings throughout New York in part one. In part two, the researchers will identify and analyze the regulatory and permitting impediments to CHP, set forth suggestions for surmounting those impediments, and propose new legal and policy mechanisms for incentivizing CHP projects.

Contact: Sonali Deraniyagala, Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs; and John Mutter, Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Title of Project: Is Corruption Always Bad for Post-disaster Economic Recovery?
Scope of Project: New models of the economics of corruption challenge earlier assumptions that corruption is a necessarily negative economic force. John Mutter, Sonali Deraniyagala and their collaborators undertake a detailed analysis of economic models that promote corruption and assess their relevance to post-disaster contexts. In the aftermath of natural disasters, it is common for large injections of capital to enter a country’s economy and create conditions of increased corruption. The researcher teams will develop a nuanced understanding of the corruption-economic reconstruction relationship on both conceptual and empirical levels. This project will address issues in three Cross-Cutting Initiative areas: Climate and Society Interactions, Poverty Alleviation, and Hazards and Risk Reduction.
The empirical analysis will involve the aggregation of corruption impacts across countries, identifying broad patterns in the corruption-recovery relationship. A country-level analysis of the corruption-economic recovery relationship will investigate how corruption has affected economics in three post-disaster countries: Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Pakistan. The study will also address the issue of market-enhancing governance versus growth-enhancing governance in the post-disaster context. Deraniyagala and Mutter will lead their teams in an analysis of the nature and form of corruption in order to develop a clear understanding of the role that corruption plays in disaster recovery and to provide new insights into the determinants of post-disaster economic performance.

Contact: Hope Michelson, Postdoctoral Research Scholar, Tropical Agriculture Program
Title of Project: Testing the Capital Constraint: Designing Policies to Promote Small Farmer Organic Fertilizer Use in Sub-Saharan Africa
Scope of Project: Low soil fertility in sub-Saharan Africa contributes to regional poverty, food insecurity and hobbled economic growth, but achieving widespread adoption of the use of fertility improvement technologies has proved a challenge in the region. Principal investigators Hope Michelson, Pedro Sanchez and Elke Weber study the ways that improved information and financial incentives might affect farmers’ adoption of organic fertilizers. Their project will assess data on farmers’ wealth and demographic characteristics, natural resource endowments, and attitudes toward risk and the future. This data will be combined with a multi-year field experiment testing the use of incentives for promoting the adoption of organic fertilizers. Working in Malawi and Mozambique, the researchers will identify incentive schemes calibrated to the local economy of the research site. The team will design and implement a set of experiments to determine farmers’ willingness to accept payment in exchange for adopting organic fertilizers. An assessment tool designed by Columbia professors to measure households’ time and risk preferences will be adapted and implemented at the sites. A one-year pilot study will test the feasibility of incentives schemes in encouraging small farmers to use organic fertilizer.