Climate change and national security

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By Matt Collette | Northeastern News | February 20, 2013

Cli­mate change is causing sea levels to rise, and that’s a serious con­cern for the United States Navy, according to David W. Titley, a retired rear admiral.

“We tend to build our bases at sea level,” dead­panned Titley, who led the Navy’s first Task Force for Cli­mate Change and built a career studying the world’s oceans. “This is some­thing we’re going to have to deal with. We’re not the Air Force—we can’t build our bases at 6,000 feet.”

Last week, Titley was the fea­tured speaker at the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs’ Open Class­room series, which this semester focuses on the impact of cli­mate change.

Titley said rising seas—which he pre­dicts could increase by as much as a meter by 2100—are just one con­cern for the Navy and the nation’s mil­i­tary com­mu­nity. Rising tides and envi­ron­mental changes could for­ever alter water sup­plies, food chains, and geog­raphy that have stayed largely the same for thou­sands of years. Read More

Researchers transcend boundaries for science

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By Angela Herring | Northeastern News | February 19, 2013

To under­stand and over­come the com­plex­i­ties of cli­mate change, sci­en­tists, engi­neers, social sci­en­tists, and policy makers must tran­scend the bound­aries that have tra­di­tion­ally con­fined their work, according to North­eastern Uni­ver­sity pro­fessor Matthias Ruth. He deliv­ered the state­ment on Sunday at a sym­po­sium he hosted on urban adap­ta­tion to envi­ron­mental changes.

As Con­gress races to find a solu­tion to impending cuts to research and other funding, com­mu­ni­cating across dis­ci­plines and other tra­di­tional bound­aries was a recur­ring theme at the 179th annual meeting of the Amer­ican Asso­ci­a­tion for the Advance­ment of Sci­ence, where Ruth’s ses­sion was one of hun­dreds aimed at high­lighting the “Beauty and Ben­e­fits of Sci­ence” — the summit’s theme. An esti­mated 8,700 scholars from around the globe descended on Boston’s Hynes Con­ven­tion Center between Feb. 14–18 to share their work at the meeting, which is billed as the world’s largest sci­en­tific conference.

Throughout the con­fer­ence, North­eastern fac­ulty led pre­sen­ta­tions high­lighting their work to address real-​​world chal­lenges in areas ranging from health to tech­nology to sus­tain­ability. April Gu, a civil and envi­ron­mental engi­neering pro­fessor at North­eastern and one of three scholars pre­senting in Ruth’s ses­sion, noted that our cur­rent strate­gies for water resources man­age­ment may not stand the test of time. “Water quality reg­u­la­tion itself is not enough,” she said. “We need a gov­er­nance way beyond that.” Read More

New journal explores urban climate change

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By Matt Collette | Northeastern News | December 11, 2012

Matthias Ruth, a pro­fessor with joint appoint­ments in the Col­lege of Engi­neering and the Col­lege of Social Sci­ences and Human­i­ties, is the co-editor in chief of a new aca­d­emic journal that takes an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary look at the rela­tion­ship between urban dynamics and cli­mate change.

“We have long thought about changing the global cli­mate problem through global accords—which have had lim­ited suc­cess, at best—and with this journal we want to look back at what cities can do to change cli­mate on their own,” said Ruth, who is editing the journal with Alexander Bak­lanov of the Danish Mete­o­ro­log­ical Insti­tute in Copen­hagen, Den­mark. “Within our own envi­ron­ment, there is so much we can do to impact cli­mate, which is increas­ingly becoming a focus for cli­mate researchers.” Read More

Environmental economics reframe pipeline debate

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By Matt Collette | Northeastern News | October 10, 2012

A 750-mile pipeline across Canada cuts through First Nation lands and pris­tine envi­ron­ments to bring oil-rich tar sands to a new ter­minal on the Pacific Ocean. The com­pany behind the project, the Cal­gary, Alberta-based Enbridge Inc., argues that the pipeline will create thou­sands of jobs and an influx of cash from the Asian com­pa­nies that will buy and process the tar sands.

But the eco­nomic analysis pre­sented to the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment does not account for the pipeline’s envi­ron­mental impact, including the poten­tial for a spill, said Matthias Ruth, a North­eastern pro­fessor with dual appoint­ments in the Col­lege of Engi­neering and the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs.

Ruth is at the fore­front of the emerging field of envi­ron­mental eco­nomics, which focuses on devel­oping methods to account for unquan­tifi­able envi­ron­mental con­tri­bu­tions to the economy. Read More

An economics approach to sustainability

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By Matt Collette | Northeastern News | September 18, 2012

Matthias Ruth had long been inter­ested in envi­ron­mental issues but found it hard to use his own discipline—economics —as a tool to unite eco­nomic deci­sion making with indus­trial and urban con­straints. “Econ­o­mists are really good at devel­oping models of things that are traded in mar­kets, but a lot of things we value—like the environment—have no market and no price,” said Ruth, who is joining Northeastern’s fac­ulty this fall as a pro­fessor with joint appoint­ments in the Col­lege of Social Sci­ences and Human­i­tiesSchool of Public Policy & Urban Affairs and the Col­lege of Engi­neering.
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