SDG 15

There are some encouraging global trends in protecting terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity. Forest loss is slowing down, more key biodiversity areas are protected and more financial assistance is flowing towards biodiversity protection. Yet, the 2020 targets of Sustainable Development Goal 15 are unlikely to be met, land degradation continues, biodiversity loss is occurring at an alarming rate, and invasive species and the illicit poaching and trafficking of wildlife continue to thwart efforts to protect and restore vital ecosystems and species.

Recent research at the School of Global Policy and Strategy

The Big Pixel Initiative is developing geospatial capacity to address our world’s greatest challenges at scale. Founded in partnership at UC San Diego’s Qualcomm Institute and School of Global Policy and Strategy, we have partnered with the DigitalGlobe Foundation to grow a living, learning laboratory related to everything spatial, to investigate and design best practices in geospatial data visualization, user experience interfaces, and design techniques for scientific discovery and decision-making. Resources The Big Pixel Team has partnered with the…
Technological transformations open new opportunities and disrupt old patterns. Founded in 2006, Center on Global Transformation (CGT) provides a new framework for vanguard exploration of topics critical to analyzing and shaping the forces of economic change in a deeply interconnected, thoroughly dynamic world. CGT and its Pacific Leadership Fellows program focus on academic inquiry and policy analysis of international issues. CGT’s core mission is to: Foster and disseminate research that addresses global economic and technology transformation Develop and maintain a network…
The FABLE Consortium has released its 2020 Report on Pathways to Sustainable Land-Use and Food Systems. Explore the latest trends in food and land-use with the new ‘Scenathon’ dashboard. Explore Scenathon Read Report Overview FABLE is a global consortium with teams of scientists in 20 countries modeling land use to 2050 in an integrated framework. Land use and land use change accounts for 23% of GHG emissions globally, biodiversity loss is accelerating at alarming rates, and the food system is…

RESEARCH

Teevrat Garg

Through a field experiment in Indonesia, we show that worker productivity was 8.22% lower in deforested relative to forested settings, where wet bulb globe temperatures were, on average, 2.84 °C higher in deforested settings. We demonstrate that productivity losses are driven by behavioral adaptations in the form of increased number of work breaks, and provide evidence that suggests breaks are in part driven by awareness of heat effects on work. Our results indicate that the cooling services from forests have the potential for increasing resilience and adaptive capacity to local warming.

RESEARCH

Jennifer Burney

Historically, human uses of land have transformed and fragmented ecosystems, degraded biodiversity, disrupted carbon and nitrogen cycles, and added prodigious quantities of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to the atmosphere. However, in contrast to fossil-fuel carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, trends and drivers of GHG emissions from land management and land-use change (together referred to as ‘land-use emissions’) have not been as comprehensively and systematically assessed. Even where land-use change emissions are negligible or negative, total per capita CO2-equivalent land-use emissions remain near 0.5 tonnes per capita, suggesting the current frontier of mitigation efforts. Our results are consistent with existing knowledge—for example, on the role of population and economic growth and dietary choice—but provide additional insight into regional and sectoral trends.

2021

RESEARCH

Teevrat Garg

There is a long-standing debate over whether new roads unavoidably lead to environmental damage, especially forest loss, but causal identification has been elusive. Using multiple causal identification strategies, we study the construction of new rural roads to over 100,000 villages and the upgrading of 10,000 kilometers of national highways in India. The new rural roads had precisely zero effect on local deforestation. In contrast, the highway upgrades caused substantial forest loss, which appears to be driven by increased timber demand along the transportation corridors. In terms of forests, last mile connectivity had a negligible environmental cost, while expansion of major corridors had important environmental impacts.

RESEARCH

David Victor

One of the most significant impacts of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has been the establishment of a participatory process for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). We analyse the case of Brazil, the country whose land-use emissions from deforestation and forest degradation have declined the most. Through semi-structured interviews with 29 country policy experts – analysed in full text around 7 categories of activities that existing literature identifies as central elements of an effective governance system – we find weak links between the international REDD+ system and what actually happens on the ground inside Brazil.

RESEARCH

Peter Cowhey

Many researchers around the world are working to apply gene editing technologies with the hope of safely and effectively engineering populations of insects and other pest arthropods in the wild either to reduce diseases, such as malaria or dengue fever, or to control agricultural pests, such as those that transmit the bacterium that causes citrus greening disease. Important benefits could be realized if these research efforts are successful, but realizing these benefits requires sustained, open, and inclusive attention to potential environmental and social impacts and regulatory and implementation challenges.