UCAR Communications


staff notes monthly

September 2003

Will tomorrow's cities have clean air?

Mitali Das Gupta, a doctoral candidate in energy economics at Jadavpur University in India, worries about the air quality in New Dehli and Calcutta. “People in those cities breathe really dirty air and also pay a heavy economic price for the cities’ emissions,” she explains. “So I’m looking at the health impact of emissions on the cities and the socioeconomic factors that contribute to these emissions.”

Mitali was one of 19 participants in the Advanced Institute on Urbanization, Emissions, and the Global Carbon Cycle, held 4–22 August in FL3. With urban areas growing ever larger and emitting significant amounts of pollutants, the institute sought to foster more research into the impacts that cities around the world have on air quality and climate change.

The Environmental and Societal Impacts Group sponsored the institute with the SysTem for Analysis, Research and Training; the David and Lucille Packard Foundation; and the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research.

Denver has battled air pollution for decades.

Participants submitted draft proposals for projects to reduce the emissions, and they had the opportunity to receive up to $20,000 from the Packard Foundation to help fund the research projects. They also received new laptop computers and software for analyzing greenhouse gases emissions and planning mitigation.

“The concept is to give participants sufficient funds to test an idea of how urbanization relates to emissions and global change,” says ESIG director Bob Harriss. “They would use their preliminary results to write a larger proposal to an appropriate funding source.”

Bob codirected the institute with Richard Rockwell, executive director of the University of Connecticut’s Roper Center for Public Opinion Research and Institute of Social Science.

Ernesto Arias, professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Colorado–Denver, led one section of the institute. He pointed out that by the year 2015, nearly half of the world’s population will live in urban centers in developing nations. “It’s very important that we translate knowledge into policy,” he stressed to the participants.

Rosendo Pujol, director of the Research Program on Sustainable Urban Development at the University of Costa Rica, had high expectations for the participants. “The problems ahead are very complicated,” warned Pujol, an instructor at the institute. “You are the generation that needs to find solutions.”

The participants consisted of a diverse mix of young engineers, urban planners, and social and natural scientists. Chosen from a large pool of international applicants, most of them came from developing nations where they either are pursuing doctoral degrees or are in the early and middle stages of their careers.

They shared an eagerness to spend three intense weeks at NCAR scrutinizing the sources and possible impacts of urban emissions on the crowded, warmer world of the 21st century. “I’m here because I want to gain knowledge and keep up to date so I can transfer what I know to students,” says Dewi Kirono, a lecturer on climate and urban air pollution at Gadjah Mada University in Indonesia. “I also want to build a network to know what others are doing and strengthen my research capability.”

During the institute, the group heard from more than 20 experts on topics ranging from world population growth to urban transportation. Participants examined case studies from the Front Range and abroad, visited Rocky Mountain National Park, rode bikes around Boulder to look at ecology and urban design, and drafted proposals for further research. Topics covered by the institute included

• Urban emissions of both long-lived greenhouse gases and shorter-lived polluting gases
• The effect of a city’s geography and infrastructure on emissions
• Reasons why cities differ in the volume and contents of their emissions, even when they have the same standards of living
• Institutions that shape production and consumption in cities
• Methods for reducing emissions in cities of particular climates, economies, and political systems
• Ways to move toward more sustainable cities.

The participants will continue to consult with mentors from SysTem for Analysis, Research and Training as they implement their projects over the next two years, at which point the group will reconvene to review everyone’s results. •Nicole Gordon


Also in this issue...

In the thick of climate change

UCAR quilters stitch for babies

Up-the-Hill 2003

Time for a Realignment

Recollections from Steve Dickson

Random Profile

Delphi Question: Nap room


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