AREA 4: SCIENTIFIC TOOLS FOR
RESPONDING TO SUSTAINABILITY CHALLENGES 

(6 Credits)

In this area, students learn how to use scientific tools in order to prevent, detect, respond and adapt to pressing sustainability issues, such as the loss of biodiversity, climate change impacts, soil and water contamination, and threats to populations.

SUSC PS5120 The Technology of Renewable Energy

Instructor: Jonathan Hollander

Renewable energy is generated from natural processes that are continuously replenished. Aside from geothermal and tidal power, solar radiation is the ultimate source of renewable energy. In order to have a sustainable environment and economy, CO2 emissions must be reduced (and eventually stopped). This requires that the fossil fuel based technologies underlying our present electricity generation and transportation systems be replaced by renewable energy. In addition, the transition to renewable technologies will move nations closer to energy independence and thereby reduce geopolitical tensions associated with energy trading.

This course begins with a review of the basics of electricity generation and the heat engines that are the foundation of our current energy systems. This course will emphasize the inherent inefficiency associated with the conversion of thermal energy to electrical and mechanical energy. The course then covers the most important technologies employed to generate renewable energy. These are hydroelectric, wind, solar thermal, solar photovoltaic, geothermal, biomass/biofuel, tidal and wave power. The course ends with a description of energy storage technologies, energy markets and possible pathways to a renewable energy future.

SUSC PS5135 Air Pollution and Measuring the Environmental Burden of Disease

Instructor: Dr. Steve Chillrud

 

In this course, students will first be provided with a global perspective on the current status of environmental problems and the leading environmental contributors to the burden of diseases. Students will then introduce how air pollutants are produced, transported, and what are their environmental fates. This course will cover how air pollutants are measured and monitored, including government monitoring networks, NASA remote sensing techniques, and research tools for fixed site monitoring (indoor and outdoor) and personal level monitoring. Students will be able to learn basic concepts about the toxicity and target organs of different pollutants, both of which are important to understand dose-response and health outcomes. Building on knowledge of exposure and toxicity, Students will then introduce risk assessment and the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) associated with air pollution. Their usage in evaluating sustainability as well as their limitations will be introduced.

 

The course will provide students with the methods and tools to understand, monitor, and analyze current environmental health threats in air, and explore strategies for policy interventions for solving these at times complex challenges. Students will leave the course with a stronger sense of the power, and limitations, of environmental data and better equipped to evaluate and communicate the effectiveness of new interventions. After completing the course, students will more confidently be able to apply core scientific concepts to evaluating and addressing public health challenges posed by, for instance, fine particulate (PM2.5) contamination.

SUSC PS5350 Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage

Instructor: Dr. David Goldberg

 

This course covers the technical and non-technical aspects of Carbon Utilization and Storage (CCUS), one of our most important and achievable tools to mitigate climate change. The course begins by presenting our global energy needs and the environmental motivation for CCUS and its natural analogues. Students will review the basic concepts and methods involved in CO2capture, trapping, and monitoring, as well as established methods for modeling the fate of CO2in the subsurface. Students will then consider the needs and implications of CO2capture from industrial sources (power plants) and directly from ambient air and examine current examples from around the world. This course will go on to discuss integrating CCUS with renewable energy sources (negative emission) and ocean storage options. Students will think through the challenges associated with CCUS, including the transportation of CO2to storage locations, regulations and incentives, and the public view and acceptance of this technology. The course will end with a discussion of where to go from here to find pathways to a carbon neutral future.

 

At the conclusion of this course, each student will have gained a practical understanding of the potential for CCUS solutions to mitigate climate change and gain experience in presenting related technical and non-technical information to their peers. This will critically inform decision making and hone communication skills for future careers in fossil and renewable energy generation, power distribution, manufacturing, environmental policy, and scientific outreach.

SUSC PS5130 Improving Health through Environmental Measurements in Water and Soil

Instructor: Dr. Lex van Geen

 

This course will lead participants through a series of case studies of environmental contaminations of natural or man-made origin. Topics include soil contamination with lead from mining and other industrial activities, and natural well-water contamination with arsenic are some of the topics to be covered. One of the goals of the course will be to develop the critical sense needed to distinguish undisputable harm from poorly substantiated claims and concerns by both reading the primary environmental and public health literature and analyzing existing data sets. The course will cover cases of egregious exposures in developing countries, as well as some environmental issues in and around New York City. The course will provide students with the opportunity to learn how to use and deploy several field kits and monitors for analyzing water, and soil, and assess the quality and implications of their own data. An emphasis on empowerment through measurement, mapping, and sharing of information will lead to a discussion of regulation, policies, and mitigation to reduce the burden of disease caused by environmental exposures in both industrialized and developing nations.

The course will provide students with the methods and tools to understand, monitor, and analyze current environmental health threats in water and, and explore strategies for solving these at times complex challenges. Students will leave the course with a stronger sense of the power, and limitations, of environmental data and better equipped to evaluate and communicate the effectiveness of new interventions. After completing the course, students will more confidently apply core scientific concepts to evaluating and addressing public health challenges posed by, for instance, soil and water contamination with lead.

SUSC PS5040 Sustainability in the Face of Natural Disasters

Instructors: Dr. Einat Lev and Dr. Suzana Camargo

 

Natural hazards, naturally occurring phenomena, which can lead to great damage and loss of life, pose a great challenge for the sustainability of communities around the world. This course aims to prepare students to tackle specific hazards relevant to their life and work by providing them the scientific background and knowledge of the environmental factors that combine to produce natural disasters. The course will also train students about the methods used to study certain aspects of natural hazards and strategies for assessing risk and preparing communities and businesses for natural disasters. The course will cover a range of natural hazards, including geological, hydro-meteorological, and biological. The course will emphasize the driving physical, chemical and biological processes controlling the various hazards, and the observation and modeling methods used by scientists to assess and monitor events. Many case examples, including hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that occurred in the last five years, will be given and analyzed for the characteristics of the event, the preparation, and the response.

 

By providing students with a solid understanding of past natural disasters, the course prepares them to think more critically about creating more resilient communities, which can resist catastrophic events. Students will be studying the underpinning scientific principles of natural disasters but will also learn specific strategies for planning, mitigation, and response. During the course, students will master cutting-edge tools and technologies that will prepare them to work in the complex and demanding field of disaster management. After completing the course, students will be able to understand past events, communicate risk, and make critical decision related to disaster and preparedness. In increasingly unpredictable times, there is a need for more resilient and connected communities, and this particular course will train students in both the knowledge and skills needed to lead and strengthen those communities and resilience efforts at scale.

SUSC PS5250 Quantifying the Financial Impact of Climate Change: Scientific Tools and Applications

Instructor Dr. Marco Tedesco

 

Investors in residential and commercial real estate, and those in infrastructure, are potentially exposed to risks of flooding, droughts and forest fires as a consequence of the reverberations of climate change on environmental factors and weather. Such risks are higher for stakeholders with properties close to the coast or in regions where drought and forest fires are increasing (e.g., the Western U.S.) as well as for financial institutions that finance their purchases and hold their securities. Risks associated with sea level rise, flooding, inundation and other extreme events have generally not been properly assessed nor quantified and it is currently hard for investors to assess the risks that they now face, and will face in the future, from climate change. Since Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy this has been changing and the 2017’s hurricane and forest-fire seasons (with four major hurricanes landing over southeast U.S. and fires in northern California killing more than twenty people) have been catalyzing this change.

This course will cover issues related to quantifying the impact of climate change on the financial and house markets and provide the students with updated references and recent progress on sea level rise, inundation and floods. This will be followed by the introduction, explanation and implementation of analytical and quantitative tools for estimating the increasing risks of extreme events using global and local scales. This will be complemented by a similar approach focusing on the financial and house markets. Students will be applying these concepts and knowledge to case studies concerning extreme weather and flood events such as Sandy, Katrina (or similar) to develop professional skills that will be applicable to other sustainability or extreme cases, either for mitigation and adaptation or for response purposes. Moreover, ‘Modules’ will be developed and offered that will specifically focus on practical aspects of the course and its applications. These include: GIS software (QGIS), basic programing (Python, Matlab, etc.) and other related aspects.

SUSC PS5330 Environmental Investigation and Remediation

Instructor: Dr. Edward Garvey

 

This course covers the major steps in the investigation, assessment, and remediation of contaminated sites. The course will introduce the student to the multidisciplinary aspects of environmental remediation, an important background for any environmental career, such as an environmental consultant, a corporate remediation manager or a government regulator. Management and remediation of contaminated sites is an important consideration in sustainable regional development, since failure to control contamination usually yields an ever-increasing area of impact, with greater environmental and societal costs. Using US EPA Superfund guidance as a framework, the course will explore the major steps in identifying a site, establishing the degree of contamination, identifying the likely ecological and human receptors, and selecting and implementing a remedial action. The Superfund process has been extensively developed through more than 30 years of legislature and agency guidance, and now provides a robust approach for pollution assessment and remediation. Contaminated sites typically involve a broad spectrum of contaminants across at least two media, including soils, sediments, groundwater, surface water, and air. This course examines the main steps involved in environmental investigation and remediation primarily from a technical perspective, although legal aspects will be incorporated at the major decision points in the process. The course will also discuss the typical viewpoints and concerns of the responsible parties, government regulators, trustees and the public throughout the investigation and remediation process. The course focuses on the main environmental sampling and analytical techniques needed to conduct a remedial investigation, and covers the main remedial engineering considerations for the successful selection and implementation of a remedy. Students will be assigned one of several completed Superfund sites to track the application of the Superfund process to a real-world example as the class proceeds, providing a regular link between theory and application.

PRE-APPROVED COURSES

ARCH A4010 Planning for Urban Energy Systems

Instructor: Peter J. Marcotullio

This class explores planning for urban energy systems and is divided into four sections. The first section examines the concept of “urban sustainability”. What does this concept entail, how it is used, does it apply to urban energy use? The second part of the semester focuses on energy use and infrastructure generally. We examine the electric grid, primary energy supply, end uses and policies. The third section examines these aspects at the urban scale. In this section we cover issues of urban energy first and second low­carbon urban planning and policies.

 

The learning objectives for the course include:

  • Identification of the general dynamics and components of energy systems

  • Identification of the urban aspects of energy systems

  • Explanation of shifts in urban energy planning and policy over the last two decades

  • Synthesis and prediction of major future challenges for urban energy systems

ARCH A6832 Resilient Landscapes (Area 1 or 4)

This course examines the role and function of the modern zoo in the context of the modern conservation movement.  Students will learn about the evolution of the zoological park from an entertainment venue to a reservoir of rare or otherwise endangered species of animals, and as a catalyst for conservation of these species

EEEB 4129 Zoo Conservation Biology 

Instructor: Dr. David Goldberg

 

This course covers the technical and non-technical aspects of Carbon Utilization and Storage (CCUS), one of our most important and achievable tools to mitigate climate change. The course begins by presenting our global energy needs and the environmental motivation for CCUS and its natural analogues. Students will review the basic concepts and methods involved in CO2capture, trapping, and monitoring, as well as established methods for modeling the fate of CO2in the subsurface. Students will then consider the needs and implications of CO2capture from industrial sources (power plants) and directly from ambient air and examine current examples from around the world. This course will go on to discuss integrating CCUS with renewable energy sources (negative emission) and ocean storage options. Students will think through the challenges associated with CCUS, including the transportation of CO2to storage locations, regulations and incentives, and the public view and acceptance of this technology. The course will end with a discussion of where to go from here to find pathways to a carbon neutral future.

 

At the conclusion of this course, each student will have gained a practical understanding of the potential for CCUS solutions to mitigate climate change and gain experience in presenting related technical and non-technical information to their peers. This will critically inform decision making and hone communication skills for future careers in fossil and renewable energy generation, power distribution, manufacturing, environmental policy, and scientific outreach.

EHSC P6340 Sustainable Development and Global Environmental Health (Area 1 or 4)

Instructor: Yasmin Von Schirnding

 

Prerequisites: One semester of college-level calculus and chemistry; Plus one semester of college-level physics or geoscience. Or instructor's permission.

This course is intended to give students a broad overview and introduction to global environmental health issues in relation to sustainable development. Environmental health and sustainability issues of concern worldwide are highlighted, and global trends in health status and environmental quality discussed in relation to driving forces and pressures on the environment which lead to adverse health consequences. The historical roots and changing nature and scope of environmental health is discussed in relation to global environmental change, sustainability and the evolving global agenda on sustainable development. Concepts and interpretations of environmental health, sustainability and sustainable development are examined and critiqued, and their various dimensions, underlying principles and values assessed.

The concept of ecosystem health and planetary health is introduced and the implications for health and well-being of the deterioration of ecosystems and ecosystem services is examined. The overloading of ecosystems, evidenced by such factors as climate change, biodiversity loss, land degradation and related factors are highlighted. Conceptual frameworks for understanding the multiplicity of sources and pathways and complexity of linkages between health, the environment and development sectors are presented and compared, and methodological challenges in assessing such linkages focused on. The relationship between sectors like agriculture, energy, housing and urban settlements - with sustainability and environmental health is examined through case studies.

The policy and planning process for addressing environmental health and sustainable development concerns at various tiers of government is examined, with a focus on the concept of intersectorality. The underlying principles of intersectoral action and its application to addressing complex, multifaceted problems, whose determinants lie outside of the health sector, is discussed. Issues such as environmental justice and equity, and the role of partnerships and stakeholders in the different phases of the policy and planning cycle is highlighted. Tools for policy and decision- makers in environmental health and sustainable development such as indicators and health impact assessment methodologies are emphasized. Finally, the different disciplines, professionals and players associated with environmental health and sustainable development, and the implications of the expanding and changing nature of environmental health is discussed in relation to the organization and delivery of environmental health services at different tiers. Training, education and career opportunities for professionals in the future are highlighted.

ARCH A6065 Environmental Impact Assessment

       

EAEE E4001 Industrial Ecology of Earth Resources (Area 1 or 4)

Instructor Nickolas Themelis

 

Industrial ecology (IE) investigates analytical methods to be used for reconfiguring industrial activities so as to reduce pollution and conserve natural resources. With regard to engineering and technology, IE is also known by other names such as “green chemistry”, “green architecture”, “environmental manufacturing”, that have similar objectives to IE. Engineers in the 21st century must take into account the needs of both market and environment. IE is concerned with a) quantifying the effect of anthropogenic material/energy flows on the environment, and b) the design/redesign of processes and products so as to minimize the sum total of environmental impacts over the entire life of a product or service, from extraction of raw materials, to production, use, and recycling or disposal. Some of the IE tools that will be discussed and applied during this course are: Material and energy flows studies ("industrial metabolism"); potential for increasing service per unit of material/energy used (“dematerialization and “decarbonization”);  Life Cycle Assessment (LCA); environmental load units of different emissions; and “product stewardship”. The course concentrates on the use of the primary Earth resources (i.e., fuels, minerals, land, and water).

EESC GU4020 Humans and the Carbon Cycle (Area 1 or 4) 

Prerequisites: One semester of college-level calculus and chemistry; Plus, one semester of college-level physics or geoscience, or instructor's permission.

The accelerating climate change of the current day is driven by humanity’s modifications to the global carbon cycle. This course offers an introduction basic science of the carbon cycle, with a focus on large-scale processes occurring on annual to centennial timescales. Students will leave this course with an understanding of the degree to which the global carbon cycle is understood and quantified, as well as the key uncertainties that are the focus of current research. We will build understanding of the potential pathways, and the significant challenges, to limiting global warming to 2o C as intended by the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. The course will begin with a brief review of climate science basics and the role of CO2 in climate and climate change (weeks 1-2). In weeks 3-4, the natural reservoirs and fluxes that make up the global carbon cycle will be introduced. In week 5-6, anthropogenic emissions and the observed changes in climate associated with increasing atmospheric CO2 will be discussed. In weeks 7-11, we will learn about how the land biosphere and ocean are mitigating the increase in atmospheric CO2 and the feedbacks that may substantially modify these natural sinks. In weeks 12-13, the international policy process and the potential for carbon cycle management will be the focus. In weeks 14, students will present their final projects

SUMA PS6110 Sustainability and Urban For

Instructor:  Allison Bridges

With over 4.5 billion people living in cities worldwide, innovations in urban land management and infrastructure redevelopment are increasingly imperative. Whether cities are transitioning industrial districts into commercial areas or striving to meet sustainability goals, brownfield redevelopment and urban renewal are a mainstay of urban modernization. Reimagining obsolete urban structures – while also improving equity, resiliency, and environmental performance – often requires creative partnerships and non-traditional financial arrangements. The barriers to getting projects from concept to completion are numerous. This class examines these barriers, as well as pathways to success, through the weekly exploration of the most pressing sustainability issues facing cities today.

Using a case-study format, course modules guide analysis of redevelopment projects in three key areas: (1) the various policy incentives and approaches to sustainable urban renewal, (2) the stakeholders in the planning and implementation process, and (3) the impact on the social fabric of the community. By the end of the course, students will have the skills necessary to analyze urban form from an environmental and social standpoint as well as an understanding of the key components of the redevelopment process. Students will gain familiarity with a variety of redevelopment partnership arrangements as well as implementation strategies. These skills are applicable across a range of professional contexts including project design and management within municipal departments, private and non-profit organizations, multilateral organizations, and development finance institutions.

This course fulfills curriculum requirements in Content Area 3: The Physical Dimensions of Sustainability or Area 4: Public Policy. The course explores human-environment linkages in urban areas through the lens of environmental planning to highlight the critical importance of urban redevelopment in the sustainability transition.