SPRING 2019 Speaker SERIES
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APRIL 22: PROF. MARGARET MCCONNELL
MAY 6: BINA VENKATAMARAN
MAY 20: PROF. JULIE KLINGER
A partial list of our past speakers follows along with their presentation abstracts.
Professor Margaret Mcconnell (spring 2019)
Dr McConnell is currently a professor of Global Health Economics in the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Her research combines behavioral economics with field and laboratory experiments to understand and evaluate policies designed to change health behaviors, with a specific focus on maternal and child health. Her ongoing research in Kenya examines the effect of cash transfers incorporating pre-commitment on the choice of a high quality maternal delivery facility and the impact of vouchers with and without deadlines on the uptake of postpartum family planning. Her work among low-income populations in Boston examines the impact of cash assistance on the amount of time that families spend engaging in Kangaroo Mother Care with babies born prematurely. Her work focuses largely on urban areas with poor populations. Dr McConnell enjoys broad collaboration with social scientists, physicians and health services researchers.
Presentation Abstract: Behavioral nudges toward increased consumption of improved maize by young children: a cluster randomized experiment in Ethiopia
Undernutrition and stunting are serious problems in Ethiopia, where two out of five children are stunted. Improved crop varieties have the potential to improve child nutrition in agricultural communities, but their introduction has often not translated into meaningful nutritional gains. We tested whether the distribution of Quality Protein Maize, together with a set of behavioral interventions targeted at increasing young children’s consumption of the fortified maize, could change caregiver feeding and cooking practices and improve child growth. We conducted a cluster randomized trial in Oromia, Ethiopia with 610 households that had at least one child between 6 and 35 months (the index child). All households were provided with free Quality Protein Maize (QPM), a conventionally modified maize variety with improved protein quality. Households were randomized with equal probability into either a “QPM-only group” or an arm that was provided with QPM and a targeting intervention, which included a set of tools and messages that used labeling and salience to try to increase child consumption of QPM (“QPM+targeting group”). The intervention package was associated with a 17 percentage point increase in the probability of the index child consuming QPM in the previous week (95% CI 9 to 25), and an average increase in days QPM was consumed in the past week of 0.83 days (95% CI 0.33 to 1.33). There were, however, no positive impacts on anthropometric outcomes such as height-for-age and weight-for-age z-scores. In settings like Ethiopia, child consumption targeting campaigns focused on improved crop varieties that use behavioral nudges such as labeling and earmarking appear to be effective at changing food consumption and cooking behaviors. These changes did not, however, translate into improvements in child anthropometrics, possibly given the short time frame of the study.
DOROTHY TANG (SPRING 2019)
Dorothy Tang is currently a doctoral student at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning. She is a landscape architect interested in the intersections of infrastructure and everyday life. Her work engages with urban and rural communities situated in landscapes confronting large-scale environmental change. She was the co-curator for Counterpart Cities, a design and research workshop addressing the challenges of climate change in the China’s Pearl River Delta, and has collaborated with rural communities to develop sustainable landscape prototypes. Current research projects include urban storm water management in Chinese cities, urban development in the post-industrial gold mining lands in Johannesburg and the proliferation of Chinese urban investments in Africa.
Presentation Abstract: Southern Solidarity? Special Economic Zones and the Circulation of Planning Models in Zambia
Special economic zones (SEZs) have played an important role in China’s global investment strategies since the “Going Global” policy in 2000 and the recent “Belt and Road Initiative” of 2013. Currently, there are 113 Chinese-financed economic zones in 46 countries underway—of which twenty are officially and funded recognized by the Chinese government. This paper examines the design and planning of SEZs in Zambia to understand the relationship between Chinese state-led overseas development projects and their relationships to the host countries. As one of the first sites of Chinese development aid in the 1970s and subsequent investment in the 2000s, Zambia has a long-standing history of “Southern Solidarity” with China. Zambia is also one of the first sites of Japanese experiments in “South-South Cooperation” in which a tripartite collaboration, including Malaysian consultants, were crucial in shaping Zambian foreign investment policies. A spatial comparison of SEZs separately funded by Chinese investors and the Zambian state suggests that urban design decisions, such as location, infrastructural connections, land-use planning, and environmental concerns are subject to competing domestic politics and geo-political interests. In addition, while the SEZ model has largely been credited for the China’s miraculous urban and economic transformation since the 1980s, its origins and proliferation are far more global. By tracing the genealogy of Zambian SEZs, we uncover a diverse network of international actors, deep histories of engagement, and a wide circulation of planning ideas that collectively shape Zambia’s urban landscape.
PROFESSOR VALERIE KARPLUS (SPRING 2019)
Valerie Karplus is an Assistant Professor of Global Economics and Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Karplus studies resource and environmental management in firms operating in diverse national and industry contexts, with a focus on the role of institutions and management practices in explaining performance. Karplus is an expert on China’s energy system, including technology and business model innovation, energy system governance, and the management of air pollution and climate change. She works with a collaborative team of researchers to study the micro and macro determinants of clean energy transitions in emerging markets, with a focus on China and India. She teaches Entrepreneurship without Borders, New Models for Global Business, and is currently developing a new course, together with Professor Chris Warshaw in Political Science, on Global Energy Markets and Policy.
Presentation Abstract: Did Scrubbing the Government Clean Up the Air? Polluter Responses to China’s Anticorruption Campaign
We examine whether targeting city mayors during a nationwide anticorruption campaign in China affected the concentration of sulfur dioxide (SO2), a major air pollutant, emitted from local coal power plants. Using the quasi-random timing of mayor investigations in an event study design, we show that investigating a mayor led to substantial reductions in SO2 concentrations at private coal power plants, but not state-controlled coal power plants. Private plants are less connected politically and receive less state support; for them, forming relationships with officials may be a low-cost alternative to environmental compliance. We find suggestive evidence that environmental improvements resulted from an increase in plants’ operation of SO2 pollution control equipment. Our results show empirically that efforts to improve local governance can sustainably reduce pollution.
Professor Cziczo, mit eaps (FALL 2018)
Daniel J. Cziczo is a professor of atmospheric chemistry in the Departments of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received a bachelors in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Illinois and a masters and doctorate in Geophysical Sciences from the University of Chicago. His group develops and deploys instrumentation to determine aerosol phase change (deliquescence and efflorescence) and the chemical composition of particles that nucleate liquid water and ice.
Presentation Abstract: The Science and Side Effects of Geoengineering
The purpose of this forum discussion is to explore the science behind different ideas to deliberately manipulate the Earth’s climate to offset the warming due to the anthropogenic addition of greenhouse gases. The basis for this discussion will be the recent National Research Council reports “Climate Intervention: Carbon Dioxide Removal and Reliable Sequestration” and “Reflecting Sunlight to Cool Earth”. We will begin with the history of intentional climate manipulation and lessons that have been learned from attempts at weather modification
DR. LAURENCE DELINA (FALL 2018)
Laurence Delina conducts research at the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future at Boston University. He is an Earth System Governance Research Fellow and an Associate at the Center for Governance and Sustainability at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Dr. Delina’s research explores the governance and institutional arrangements in the politics and policy of sustainability, focusing on accelerated sustainable energy transitions and the climate action movement in the context of rapid mitigation to anthropogenic climate change.
Presentation Abstract: Accelerating sustainable energy transitions in developing countries: energy democracy in a non-democracy
Accelerating sustainable energy transition to address the rapid impacts of anthropogenic climate change is now an imperative; but can these processes be accomplished democratically even in non-democratic places? In this talk, I will show how energy transition and democracy can be mutually inclusive—and go further to explore the promise of scaling up democratically produced energy transitions. This talk will focus on a case study of deliberatively produced energy transition as a communal practice for expanding energy transitions in rural Thailand. Using field/site observations, complemented by face-to-face interviews and group discussions, the talk will proceed in two stages. I will first empirically describe how such rural energy transition practice performed well against the ideals of deliberation: inclusive, authentic, and influential—thus underlining the compatibility between a robust democratic exercise and green outcomes. Second, I will normatively propose how such small-scale transitions can be scaled up in a deliberative system for its scaling potential—and what could be the tensions and challenges.
Dr. JING LI (SPRING 2018)
Jing Li is currently a Postdoctoral Associate of the MIT Energy Initiative. In Fall 2018, she will join the MIT Sloan School of Management as Assistant Professor of Applied Economics. Her research interests include Industrial Organization, Environmental and Energy Economics. She holds a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard and BS in Mathematics and economics from MIT.
Presentation Abstract: Compatibility and Investment in the U.S. Electric Vehicle Market
Competing standards often proliferate in the early years of product markets, potentially leading to socially inefficient investment. This paper studies the effect of compatibility in the U.S. electric vehicle market, which has grown ten-fold in its first five years but has three incompatible standards for charging stations.I develop and estimate a structural model of consumer vehicle choice and car manufacturer investment that demonstrates the ambiguous impact of mandating compatibility standards on market outcomes and welfare. Compatibility may benefit consumers by providing access to all existing charging stations. However, firms may cut back on their investments because the benefits from one firm’s investments spill over to rivals. Firm response in investment may erode consumer gains from compatibility. I estimate my model using U.S. data from 2011to 2015 on vehicle registrations and charging station investment and identify demand elasticities with variation in federal and state subsidy policies. Counterfactual simulations show that mandating compatibility in charging standards would decrease duplicative investment in charging stations by car manufacturers and increase the size of the electric vehicle market.
Dr. Afreen Saddiqi (Spring 2018)
Afreen Siddiqi is a Research Scientist at MIT’s Institute of Data, Systems, and Society. She is an Associate Director of the MIT Strategic Engineering Research Group, and is also a Visiting Scholar at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Dr. Siddiqi’s research interests are at the intersection of technology, management, policy and development. Her work is focused on quantitative analysis of complex socio-technical systems, using tools of systems analysis, to inform design, planning and policy. Dr. Siddiqi has an S.B. in Mechanical Engineering, S.M. in Aeronautics and Astronautics, and a Ph.D. in Aerospace Systems, all from MIT.
Presentation Abstract: Bringing Equity and Inclusivity in the Objective Function: New Methods for Planning and Management of Energy and Water Systems
Traditional methods for infrastructure planning and design optimization of systems providing important services (such as energy and water supply) focus on least-cost and maximum technical performance objectives. Furthermore, such systems are often analyzed for impacts and benefits at large scales such as at national or state level. The primary focus on cost and technical efficiency leads to solutions that optimize on these objectives, while other important issues such as of equity and inclusivity (that are important for systems providing vital societal services) are left unaddressed. Such technical solutions provide aggregate benefits but often mask important distributional aspects and can add to widening disparities such as in access to energy and clean water. In this seminar, concepts of inclusive development are used to formulate quantitative metrics and employed for system planning, design optimization, and management strategy. The approach is illustrated through a set of case studies on micro-hydro power portfolios, waste-to-energy systems, and canal irrigation systems.
Professor William clark (Spring 2018)
William Clark is the Harvey Brooks Professor of International Science, Public Policy and Human Development at the Harvard Kennedy School. Trained as an ecologist, his research focuses on sustainability science: understanding the interactions of human and environmental systems with a view toward advancing the goals of sustainable development. He is particularly interested in how institutional arrangements affect the linkage between knowledge and action in the sustainability arena.
Presentation Abstract: Crafting Usable Knowledge for Sustainable Development (presentation)
This talk will distill core lessons about how researchers (scientists, engineers, planners, etc.) interested in promoting sustainable development can increase the likelihood of producing usable knowledge. I will draw the lessons from both practical experience in diverse contexts around the world and from scholarly advances in understanding the relationships between science and society. Many of these lessons will be familiar to those with experience in crafting knowledge to support action for sustainable development. However, few are included in the formal training of researchers. As a result, when scientists and engineers first venture out of the laboratory or library with the goal of linking their knowledge with action, the outcome has often been ineffectiveness and disillusionment. I will therefore articulate a core set of lessons that I believe should become part of the basic training for researchers interested in crafting usable knowledge for sustainable development. These lessons entail at least four things researchers should know, and four things they should do. The knowing lessons involve understanding the coproduction relationships through which knowledge making and decision making shape one another in social–environmental systems. I will highlight the lessons that emerge from examining those coproduction relationships through the ICAP lens, viewing them from the perspectives of Innovation systems, Complex systems, Adaptive systems, and Political systems. The doing lessons involve improving the capacity of the research community to put its understanding of coproduction into practice. I will highlight steps through which researchers can help build capacities for stakeholder collaboration, social learning, knowledge governance, and researcher training.
Professor Rohini Pande (Spring 2018)
Rohini Pande is an economist at Harvard Kennedy School whose research examines the economic costs and benefits of informal and formal institutions in the developing world and the role of public policy in affecting change. Pande is Professor, co-director of the Evidence for Policy Design Initiative, and Area Chair for International Development at the Harvard Kennedy School, co-chair of the Political Economy and Government Group at J-PAL and Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).
Pande received a BA in Economics from Delhi University, a Master's from Oxford University and a PhD in Economics from London School of Economics.
Presentation Abstract: Lining the `Right Pockets': Using economic insights to address the political challenges of development policy
The share of the global population living in extreme poverty has dropped 34 percentage points since 1981. Such reductions are unlikely to automatically continue, given the shifting distribution of a majority of the poor into middle-income countries, the sharp rise in inequality within these countries, and the changing nature of growth. The talk will discuss the case for investments in the "invisible infrastructure" that allows the poor to exit poverty, and argue that an effective domestic state remains central to its provision. Using the case study of India’s federal workfare program the talk will discuss research learnings on how to improve implementation of components of the invisible infrastructure and the importance of giving the poor the power to demand the reforms they need by solving agency problems between citizens, politicians, and bureaucrats.
Professor Corwin zigler (fall 2017)
Corwin Zigler is an assistant professor of biostatistics at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. He specializes in the development and application of Bayesian methods for causal inference in complex observational studies, with particular focus on policy evaluation and comparative effectiveness research. He directs one project of the EPA-funded Harvard/MIT Air Climate and Energy Center focused on evaluating health impacts of regulations targeting US power plants.
Presentation Abstract: Combining Statistical Methods with Atmospheric Models for “Direct” Accountability Assessment
Evaluating the health impacts of specific air quality interventions (sometimes referred to as “accountability assessment”) is fundamentally challenged by long-range pollution transport since interventions taken at specific locations can impact population health at great distances. To accommodate transport, many health impact investigations combine outputs from chemical transport models with “health effect” estimates from other (e.g., epidemiological) studies to indirectly infer the health impacts of interventions. This talk outlines the distinction between this “indirect” approach and one that more directly evaluates the health impacts of specific regulatory interventions. We describe ongoing projects related to the development of statistical methods for “direct” accountability assessment of the effectiveness of interventions, with a focus on studies that attempt to combine statistical methods for causal inference with (possibly simplified) knowledge of atmospheric processes. We illustrate with a source-oriented approach to estimating the association between coal power plant emissions and IHD hospitalizations among Medicare beneficiaries, and also outline ongoing statistical methods work for settings where pollution transport yields the setting of so-called “interference” between observations.
Philip henry de frahan (FALL 2017)
Philip Henry de Frahan leads Global Business Development for Enernet Global in its markets: Australia, Philippines, and the Caribbean. Prior to joining Enernet, Philip managed 300MW of distributed generation (solar, storage, microgrids, V2G, back-up diesel generation, and demand response) at NRG. This followed his first job at Eos Energy Storage, a grid-scale energy storage technology developer. Philip graduated with a CEMS Master in International Management from the Louvain School of Management and the Graduate School of St. Petersburg, Russia.
Presentation Abstract: Building a Renewable Energy Business in a Developing Country
With limited transmission and distribution infrastructure and an economy growing at 7%, the Philippines desperately needs cheaper and more reliable power. On one hand, many community islands depend on expensive, and polluting diesel generation for 12-16 hours of power a day. In addition to hampering health and education, this leaves them at the mercy of spotty fuel deliveries, and exposed to the volatility of fuel prices. On the other hand, grid-connected businesses suffer from brown-outs and poor power quality that damage expensive equipment.
Enernet Global, a renewable energy development and financing startup based in New York, recognized the opportunity to move in this market. Creating a business from scratch involves consideration of market selection, market entry, local hiring, corruption, deal-making in renewables, and more.
Professor siqi zheng (fall 2017)
Siqi Zheng is Samuel Tak Lee Associate Professor at MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and Center for Real Estate. Her field of specialization is urban and environmental economics, urban development and real estate market, with a special focus on China. She published in many peer reviewed English journals including the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and the Journal of Economic Literature, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Journal of Economic Geography, European Economic Review, Journal of Urban Economics, Regional Science and Urban Economics, Transportation Research Part A, Environment and Planning A, Ecological Economics, Journal of Regional Science, Real Estate Economics, Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics. A book she has co-authored, Blue Skies over Beijing: Economic Growth and the Environment in China (Princeton University Press) was published in May 2016. She has also published more than 100 papers and two books in Chinese. She is the Associated Editor of Journal of Economic Surveys, and is on the editorial board of Journal of Housing Economics and International Real Estate Review. She is the Vice General Secretary of the Global Chinese Real Estate Congress and on the board of the Asian Real Estate Society. Prior to coming to MIT, she was a professor and the director of Hang Lung Center for Real Estate at Tsinghua University, China.
Presentation Abstract: Blue Skies over Beijing: Economic Growth and the Environment in urban China
Focusing on day-to-day choices made by the nation's citizens, families, and government, Siqi Zheng examine how Chinese urbanites are increasingly demanding cleaner living conditions and consider where China might be headed in terms of sustainable urban growth.
Radhika Khosla, Ph.D. (FALL 2017)
Radhika Khosla is a Fellow at the Center for Policy Research in India. She is a Visiting Scholar at MIT’s Energy Initiative, and a Visiting Scholar at the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy, University of Pennsylvania in the fall of 2017. She works on the integrated nature of India’s energy sector to examine the linkages between energy, development and climate change, particularly in urban areas. She also focuses on the demand-side of Indian energy, with attention to the technological, institutional and behavioral aspects of energy use and its lock-in to a rapidly growing built environment. In addition, her work examines the analytic and strategic dimensions of India’s energy and climate policies.
Presentation Abstract: Examining energy services in Indian households
Demand-side measures, such as energy management in buildings, are central to addressing global climate change. The window of opportunity to maximize these measures is particularly important in the developing country of India, which is at the brink of unprecedented urban transitions. It is estimated that two-thirds of India’s commercial and high-rise building stock in 2030 will be built in the next 15 years, and the path-dependency from the lifespans of new buildings makes the carbon lock-in risk higher in India than anywhere else. At the same time, the early stages of India’s buildings stock provides an opportunity to examine and inform practices that will significantly influence the country’s energy, development, and climate change agenda. This presentation aims to establish residential building electricity use as central to demand-side mitigation in India’s rapidly urbanizing cities. Based on large-scale surveys undertaken in 2016-17, the work will provide empirical evidence for: (1) the energy efficient lighting transition taking place in urban India; (2) an “appliance ladder” which demonstrates which appliances people buy, and at what stage during their transitions to higher consumption levels; and (3) establish the significant role of behavior in energy services consumption. In sum, this work lays forth new knowledge on mitigation pathways in Indian urban residences, and in doing so identifies gaps and opportunities to stimulate a socio-technical research agenda for India’s buildings stock.
wei peng, Ph.D. (FALL 2017)
Wei Peng is a Giorgio Ruffolo Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Sustainability Science in the Belfer Center for Science and International affairs at the J.F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Her research utilizes modeling tools to inform energy policy in both emerging markets (e.g. China) and developed countries (e.g. U.S.) to align their decarbonization efforts with local environmental and socioeconomic concerns. She also connects these local impacts of decarbonization with the public opinion on carbon policies. She holds a Ph.D. in Public Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, and a B.S. in Environmental Sciences from Peking University.
Presentation Abstract: Air quality and water implications of power sector decarbonization: Effects of strengthening environmental policies
Global climate change and local environmental issues are both heavily impacted by power sector decisions. Decarbonizing the power sector can bring air quality co-benefits, while its water implications depend on the choices of low-carbon technologies (e.g. nuclear generation can be water-intensive). Using China’s 2030 power system design as a test case, we demonstrate that strengthening the air quality or water policy in isolation (e.g. increasing air pollution or water price) can lead to a trade-off between air quality and water conservation benefits of decarbonization at the national level, as well as uneven regional impacts at the subnational level. This is because air-pollution-oriented and water-oriented transmission system designs can be different, due to the regional variations in low-carbon deployments, air pollution and water scarcity. Therefore, integrating both air pollution and water concerns into power sector strategies is critical to simultaneously address local and global sustainability challenges.
Professor kelsey jack (fall 2017)
Kelsey Jack is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Tufts University and a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Prior to joining the faculty at Tufts, she was a Post-Doctoral Associate at MIT, with the Agricultural Technology Adoption Initiative (ATAI) at the Jameel Abdul Latif Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). Her research explores incentive-based approaches to encourage the private provision of public goods with a focus on the environment. She combines environmental economics, contract theory, development economics, and behavioral economics to examine individual decision-making in settings where decisions create social externalities. Kelsey Jack holds a PhD in Public Policy from Harvard University.
Presentation Abstract: Charging ahead: Prepaid electricity metering in South Africa
The standard approach to recovering the cost of electricity provision is to bill customers monthly for past consumption. If unable to pay, customers face disconnection, the utility loses revenue, and the service provision model is undermined. A possible solution to this problem is prepaid metering, in which customers buy electricity upfront and use it until the prepaid amount is consumed. We use data from Cape Town, South Africa to examine the effects of prepaid electricity metering on residential consumption and returns to the electric utility. Over 4000 customers on monthly billing were involuntarily assigned to receive a prepaid electricity meter, with exogenous variation in the timing of the meter replacement. Electricity use falls by about 13 percent as a result of the switch, a decrease that persists for the following year. This creates a tradeoff for the utility: revenue from consumption falls but more of it is recovered on time and at a lower cost. The benefits to the electric utility outweigh the costs, on average, though results are very heterogeneous. Poorer customers and those with a history of delinquent payment behavior show the greatest improvement in profitability when switched to a prepaid meter. These findings point to an important role for metering technologies in expanding energy access for the poor.