Global climate change is the subject of policy debate within most nations and of international negotiation within the Framework Convention on Climate Change. To assist in the policy process, Global Climate Change researchers in the Energy Laboratory work to address and to integrate the diverse components of the problem, which include climate and ecosystem predictions, technology assessment, economic and social analysis of climate impacts, and study of policy and technical responses.
Sea Surface Temperature, July 1984 (NASA)
The challenge of bringing together these components and the urgency of the climate change issue led to the formation in 1991 of the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change. Through the program, collaborating experts in the relevant disciplines are creating an integrated framework for the analysis of climate issues. This framework adds factors now missing from most policy analyses (for example, economic-based forecasts of emissions and new understandings of atmospheric chemistry and deep ocean circulation) to existing computationally feasible models in order to conduct studies of the sensitivities and uncertainties that are crucial to policy evaluation.
Energy Laboratory teams also address the three main technological approaches
to mitigating potential global climate change: improving efficiency, developing
non-fossil energy sources, and introducing technologies for controlling CO2
Another potentially attractive non-fossil source is geothermal energy from
hot dry rock (HDR). Energy extraction from HDR involves circulating pressurized
water in a closed loop through deep zones of fractured hot rock and recovering
the thermal energy from the water. HDR systems have essentially no emissions;
and they can provide energy continuously, unlike intermittent renewable resources
such as solar or wind energy. We are examining the reservoir characteristics
of heat mining and the economics of various process options. We are also investigating
developments that could substantially reduce the cost of drilling--a major expense
in the exploitation of geothermal reserves. Research topics include systems
integration using advanced geophysical characterization of the rock coupled
to on-line control of key drilling parameters and advanced penetration concepts
involving thermal spallation, erosion, and cavitation, with and without coupling
to rotary methods. The work is performed under the National Advanced Drilling
and Excavation Technology program.
Control technologies such as scrubbers have long been used to reduce power
plant emissions such as particulates and sulfur dioxide. However, applying such
technology to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions
is a challenge because of the large volume of CO2
that must be captured and disposed of. Our work on various aspects of CO2
capture, use, and disposal has earned us an international reputation as a leader
in this field. Current work focuses on the critical problem of how to use or
dispose of the captured CO2. Attention has
been directed particularly to ocean disposal of CO2
and the associated environmental impacts. Another major activity in this research
area is planning for the Third
International Conference on Carbon Dioxide Removal, which was hosted on
the MIT campus in September 1996.
Howard J. Herzog
- Rafael L. Bras, Civil and Environmental Engineering: hydrometeorology; hydroclimatology;
streamflow and rainfall simulation and forecasting; data collection network
- Sallie W. Chisholm, Civil and Environmental Engineering: biological oceanography;
ecology; phytoplankton physiology.
- Elisabeth M. Drake, Energy Laboratory: primary energy technology analysis; evaluation of carbon dioxide avoidance technology.
- Richard S. Eckaus, Economics: development economics; energy-economy interactions;
economics of global climate change for less-developed countries.
- John M. Edmond, Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences: marine chemistry; development and application of chemical analytic techniques.
- A. Denny Ellerman, Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research and Sloan School of Management: energy markets; productivity change in energy supply; emissions trading.
- Howard J. Herzog, Energy Laboratory: carbon dioxide capture and sequestration; energy systems modeling; assessment of hot dry rock systems.
- Henry D. Jacoby,
Sloan School of Management: integrated assessment of global change; oil and
natural gas markets; project evaluation and risk assessment; energy policy.
- Gordon M. Kaufman, Sloan School of Management: decision analysis; modeling
oil and gas exploration productivity.
- John Marshall, Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences: general circulation of oceans and atmospheres; numerical modeling.
J. McRae, Chemical Engineering: air pollution, regional to global scales;
computer-aided design of chemical reaction path synthesis.
- Robert S. Pindyck, Sloan School of Management: econometrics and managerial economics; project evaluation; resource economics; energy policy.
- Ronald G. Prinn, Earth Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences: atmospheric chemistry; measurement of greenhouse gases; integrated assessment of global change.
- James Poterba, Economics: taxation of energy and environmental resources.
- Richard Schmalensee,
Sloan School of Management: industrial organization, regulation, and managerial
economics; environmental policy; electric utility industry structure and regulation.
- Eugene B. Skolnikoff, Political Science: international governance, non-governmental organizations.
- Thomas M. Stoker,
Sloan School of Management: energy and environmental economics and policy;
- Peter H. Stone, Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences: global climate modeling.
W. Tester, Energy Laboratory and Chemical Engineering: primary energy
technology analysis, options, and projections; separation and disposal technology
for carbon dioxide.
- David C. White, Energy Laboratory and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science: energy technology evaluation; technology development for the 21st century; international gas trade.
- Carl I. Wunsch, Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences: ocean circulation using observational data and computer models.
The Joint Program on the Science
and Policy of Global Change is an organization for research, independent policy
analysis, and public education in the area of global environmental change. The
program seeks to provide world leadership in understanding scientific, economic,
and ecological aspects of this difficult issue and in bringing together such understanding
to form policy assessments that serve the needs of ongoing national and international
discussions. To that end, the program assembles an interdisciplinary group from
two established research centers at MIT: the Center
for Global Change Science and the Center
for Energy and Environmental Policy Research. These two centers bridge many
key areas of the needed intellectual work. Additional essential areas are covered
by the involvement of experts from other MIT departments and by formal collaboration
with the Ecosystems Center of the Marine Biological
Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The joint program involves sponsorship
and active participation by industry, government, and nonprofit organizations.
The program's co-directors are Professors Ronald Prinn and Henry Jacoby.
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