As our world’s population grows and geopolitical powers shift, humanity faces global challenges to the protection of our planet as a habitable place for all. These challenges affect both the social order (through migration, economic disparity, and availability of water, natural resources, healthcare, data security) and the natural order (through depletion of non-renewable resources, food waste, climate change). Tufts has the expertise to address these challenges, which lie at the junction of society, natural resources, and our changing ecosystem. The strength of our impact will depend on synergies between schools and programs devoted to these concerns from the School of Arts and Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Friedman School, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, School of Engineering, and School of Medicine.
Climate Renewable Energy Agriculture Technology Ecology (CREATE)
Three-quarters of the greenhouse-gas emissions causing climate change derive from fossil fuel extraction and combustion. Climate-related damage is already evident in its effects on ecosystems, water and food security, health, human security, and economic growth. To limit further catastrophic climate change, countries around the world have set the now familiar goal of not exceeding 2 °C warming (ideally, 1.5 °C). To achieve this goal, the United States made a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. We will need to address greenhouse emissions through a combination of behavioral changes, energy efficiency, switching to cleaner fuels, and making profound changes to our energy infrastructure by expanding and modernizing the power grid while retiring half of the U.S.’s existing power plants and transitioning to a low-carbon energy system.
This, then, is the ideal time to bring together experts in technology, behavioral science, economics, ecology and policy to integrate the energy research, education, and impact that will help us to avoid further catastrophic climate change. Tufts University is well-positioned to help the United States and the world transition to a clean energy economy, define energy literacy, and educate a new generation of professionals who can tackle all aspects of renewable energy development.
To make the large-scale changes needed to address global climate change, the Climate & Energy Priority Area Working Group is exploring collaborations across traditional disciplinary boundaries. These include programs that bridge students across schools at all levels and build on Tufts’ strong research programs in the policy, engineering, and economics arenas, including projects on offshore wind energy, grid integration, and domestic and international climate policy.
This transdisciplinary group will position Tufts to host technical demonstrations that integrate climate policy expertise and encourage progress toward a common language between policy and engineering. Literacy within this common language will enable tomorrow’s leaders to achieve our goals for 2050. Through its strong relationships with local, state, and federal governments; national laboratories; other research centers; and industry, particularly in the area of offshore wind, Tufts has an opportunity to act as a convener on issues critical to the low-carbon energy transition.
Tufts University already has considerable strengths in climate and energy, and the group has created an infrastructure to engage and strengthen the climate and energy research community across Tufts. To lead these efforts, the group is building new leadership capacity through a Faculty Research leadership team, a Research-to-Practice leadership team, and a Leadership-in-Development team to ensure sustainability of these efforts long into the future.
The group is focused on strengthening existing centers of excellence, including the internationally-recognized Climate Policy Lab in the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy at The Fletcher School, the Tufts Offshore Wind Initiative, and the renewable energy and materials faculty cluster in the School of Engineering. Many opportunities exist to vault Tufts into a leadership position in research on achieving deep decarbonization and education on energy and climate.
Faculty Research Leadership Team
Kelly Sims Gallagher, Fletcher
Tim Griffin, Friedman
Dan Kuchma, SoE
Colin Orians, A&S
Research-to-Practice Leadership Team
Eric Hines, SoE
Barbara Kates-Garnick, Fletcher
Luke Davis, A&S
Jonathan Lamontagne, SoE
Deborah Sunter, SoE
Ujjayant Chakravorty, A&S
Alva Couch, SoE
Gilbert Metcalf, A&S
Matthew Panzer, SoE
Alex Stankovic, SoE
Tom Vandervelde, SoE
If current population and consumption trends continue, humanity will need the equivalent of two Earths to support it by 2030.[i] As a species, we must find ways to feed a growing population with changing dietary demands, while moderating/mitigating resource demands and conflicts under changing climatic conditions environmental, economic, social, and health/nutrition outcomes. Water resources and quality are inherently linked with agriculture – a food and water nexus. Fresh water supplies are globally oversubscribed with at least 70% of fresh water being consumed, or wasted, by agriculture – primarily on resource-intensive crops. In the likely event that more land is converted to food production to cope with food demand increases, this figure will most certainly rise.[ii] Short of creating a second planet, addressing this urgent need will require us to find ways to create a balance that is as radical as it is delicate.
Tufts is leading work at the food and water nexus from a holistic standpoint by leveraging research and scholarship focused on the interconnectedness of safe food and water. There are already numerous examples of research on the specific linkages between food, water and climate, and it is the goal of this effort to expand in this realm. Tufts scholars published nearly 6,000 journal publications on food or water over the last decade (2009-2018). Leveraging this expertise, recent innovations that link dietary demand and resource use, including water and land; impacts of agricultural land use on climate feedback loops at the local level; and water diplomacy to develop transdisciplinary solutions are emerging. Over 200 of these publications spoke specifically to challenges, innovations, and solutions at the food and water nexus. Tufts University will be the leader, in the U.S. and globally, in defining the critical intersections of Food and Water, and developing innovative solutions at this intersection.
Tufts is uniquely placed to lead research on food, water and climate. There is on-going work not only on nutrition and health, but also on the implications of food and the food system, which includes nutrition as well as livelihoods, resource use (including water) and degradation, and policy development and implementation. Tufts also has a significant and on-going commitment to interdisciplinary research, education, and graduate training, which is a critical component to work in this area. This includes programs like Environmental Studies, Water Diplomacy and Agriculture, and the Food and Environment (AFE) program at the Friedman School, along with the Tufts Institute of the Environment (TIE) and The Fletcher School’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy (CIERP). Tufts seeks to ensure a food system that sustainably supports healthy individuals and safe water supplies for the 21st century and beyond.
Tim Griffin, Friedman
Linda Abriola, SoE
Nicole Blackstone, Friedman
Sean Cash, Friedman
Avery Cohn, Friedman
Ujjayant Chakravorty, A&S
Kyle Emmerick, A&S
Janet Forrester, TUSM
Shafik Islam, SoE
Jon Lamontage, SoE
Elena Naumova, Friedman
Colin Orians, A&S
Christian Peters, Friedman
Mary Jane Shultz, A&S