Climate Change Science and Policy in India (Summer 2014)

Professor Auroop Ganguly travelled with 26 Students from multiple discplines to Indian cities and coastal communities for a study abroad program (called Dialogue of Civilizations at Northeastern University) on climate change science, impacts, adaptations, and policies. Devashish Kumar, TA for the course and a PhD student in the Department of Civil and Enviornmental Engineering at Northeastern University and Dr. Jonna Iacono, Director of University Scholars Program, accompanied the students. Rajarshi Majumder, professor of economics in India, was embedded with our group as a visiting faculty in Bangalore and Kerala. Sahana A.S., a native of Kerala, an Indian classical dancer, and a Ph.D. student at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, Mumbai working on the onset of Indian monsoons with Prof. Subimal Ghosh, joined us for the Kerala part of the trip.

The two courses comprised a total of 10 core lectures, five per course. In addition, we had strong interactions with the IIT Bombay (multiple departments and centers: Climate Change, Civil Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Urban Sustainability, Rural Sustainability, Energy, and Nanotechnology), with the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bangalore (social entrepreneurship) and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore (water resources and civil engineering), as well as with local entrepreneurs (e.g., a startup owner) and private companies such as Swiss Reinsurance Company and Ernst & Young with groups in sustainability and hazards resilience, as well as a major software company (Infosys) near Bangalore. We visited an agricultural farm in a semi-rural region where climate adaptation strategies are being implemented, visited Asia's largest slums on the one hand and among the best and most high-end heritage hotels, sea and mountain resorts, tea and cardamon plantations on the other. We stayed in houseboats and played street cricket and beach volleyball, and even had time for elephant rides, specialized shopping, cave temple visits, and Dosa cooking lessons along the way. The trip ended with visits to forts and the Taj Mahal. Notwithstanding all this, the two courses were rather intense. We even had time for two climate change war games: In the first, students were grouped into five sectors (water, agriculture, energy, healthcare, and industry) focused on the science and engineering; and in the second, they were grouped by country or world bodies (India, the rest of SAARC, China, the USA, and the UN) focused on the policy and international treaties. The war games in the course were modeled after the 2008 CNAS climate change war games.


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Guest Lectures and Site Visits

Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, Mumbai

We visited IIT Bombay campus several times and interacted with faculties and students from multiple departments. Prof. Swaroop Ganguly was our first host, and he took us on "Joe Biden tour" of the nanofabrication facilities (CEN - Center for Excellence in Nanoelectronics). Prof. Chandra Venkataraman, Head of IDP Climate Studies, gave a talk on anthropogenic aerosols and their effect on climate change. Prof. Monika Jain of the Center for Urban Science and Engineering (C-USE) spoke about the center initiatives to build a more sustainable Mumbai, beginning with the IIT Bombay campus. She also talked about the Solar Decathlon Project, an initiative from the US Department of Energy (US DoE), to design, build, and operate cost-effective and energy efficient houses powered by solar energy Her team Shunya will participate in this year competition in Versailles, France. Prof. Subimal Ghosh from the department of Civil Engineering gave a talk on the state of the art knowledge on the Indian Summer Monsoon Rainfall and its importance on Indian economy. Sahana A.S., a PhD student working on the Indian monsoons under the supervision of Prof. Ghosh, joined us for the Kerala portion of the trip. She hails from Kerala, works on the onset of the Indian monsoon, and is an expert in the Indian classical dance form Mohiniyattam. We also interacted with Profs. M.C.Deo, T.I. Eldho, and Jana Reddy from Civil Engineering and learnt about coastal hydrology, groundwater and hydro-climatology. Prof. Ghosh graduate students (Sahana, Kaustubh, Amey, Shashikanth, and Hiteshri) spoke on their current research on Indian Monsoons. Prof. Milind Sohoni of the Center for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas (C-TARA) described how his program strives to educate a new generation of engineers to solve the problems faced by 70% rural populations. Asha Panwar and other students from CTARA group walked through the workshop facilities; we saw several of technological innovations. Prof. Subhakar Karmakar from Center for Environmental Science and Engineering talked about hazard, vulnerability, and risk analysis for urban flooding. At last, Prof. Santanu Bandyopadhayay from Department of Energy Science and Engineering, gave a talk on energy. We recorded some of the sessions and uploaded the videos on YouTube. Link to the videos and slides are given below. In addition, students have shared their experiences and learning on indian moonsoon, indian culture, etc. on the official and students' blog. We thank all professors, students, and staffs for your invaluable time and interacting with us.

Below are the links to the professors website, departments, and centers that we visited along with the videos and slides of their talk

1. InterDisclipinary Program (IDP): Prof. Chandra Venkataraman, Head of Climate IDP.

2. Center for Urban Science and Engineering (C-USE): Prof. Monika Jain gave a talk on Sustainable Urban Development and the Solar Decathlon Project.

3. Center for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas (CTARA): Prof. Milind Sohoni gave a talk on Technology for Rural Areas.

Other short videos on interaction with students from CTARA: Small Scale Agricultural Innovations and Appropriate Technology at C-TARA

4. Department of Civil Engineering and Climate Change IDP: Prof. Subimal Ghosh gave a talk on Indian Monsoon and its Impact on Indian Economy. We interacted with Prof. Ghosh graduate students: Sahana, Kaustubh, Amey, Shashikanth, and Hiteshri. They presented their research on the onset of Indian Monsoon, statistical downscaling for fine resolution rainfall and temperature projections, precipitation recycling in Indian subcontinent during Indian Monsoon, the evaluation of climate models for Indian Monsoon using the Bayesian approach, and the impact of urbanization on rainfall pattern. Sahana A.S. joined us for the Kerala portion of the trip. She hails from Kerala, works on the onset of the Indian monsoon, and is an expert in the Indian classical dance form Mohiniyattam.

Youtube link to the devastating 2013 Uttarakhand Floods.

5. Department of Civil Engineering: We interacted with Profs. M.C.Deo, T.I. Eldho, and Manne Janga Reddy and their gradute students and learnt about coastal hydrology, groundwater hydyolgoy, and droughts.

6. Center for Environmental Science and Engineering: Prof. Subhankar Karmakar gave a talk on Hazard, Vulnerability, and Risk Analysis for Urban Flooding. Prof. Karmakar shared a documentary on Mithi River: Making the Sewer a River Again - Why Mumbai must reclaim its Mithi.

7. Department of Energy Science and Engineering: Prof. Santanu Bandyopadhayay spoke on broad perspective on energy.

8. Center for Excellence in Nanoelectronics (CEN): Prof. Swaroop Ganguly took us on the "Joe Biden tour" of the nanofabrication facilities.

Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore

Prof. Pradeep Mujumdar from the Department of Civil Engineering (IISc Bangalore), hosted us and gave a broad perspective on water resources in India, International water sharing agreement (Indus water treaty with Pakistan and Brahmaputra with Bangladesh), and impact of indian monsoon. We also interacted with Prof. M Shekhar and graduate students.

Prof. Mujumdar talk can on Water Resources and Climate Change in India can be found here.

Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Bangalore

Sourav Mukherji, Professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resources Management at IIM Bangalore, discussed social inequalities, demographic dividend/disaster, and bottom of the pyramid markets for poor and their consequences on the environment in India. He presented three case studies on social entrepreneurship: Selco, Narayan Hrudayala, and Aravind Eyecare.

Slides from his talk on "Inclusive Businesses: Do They Hold the Key to India's Sustainability?" are available here.

Visiting Faculty

Prof. Rajarshi Majumder, from the department of Economics at Burdwan University in India, joined the Climate Dialogue of Civilizations (DoC) program for the second course on climate adaptation and policy. He accompanied us for parts of our trip in Bangalore and Kerala. He took three sessions that covered cultural aspects of climate change, economics of policy, and climate policy in India, US, and beyond. In addition, he helped students in preparing for both war games especially on topics related to India. YouTube link to videos on his talk are below:

1. Economic of Climate Change Policy

2. Climate Policy: India, US, and Beyond

Private Sector

We visited the office of a leading reinsurance company, Swiss Re Shared Services in Bangalore. Vineet Jain, Head of Cat Perils Asia Hub, hosted us and gave a talk on the role of reinsurance industry in managing risks due to natural catastrophes. He used Hurricane Sandy and tropical cyclone Phailin as case studies. Jyoti Majumdar, Director of Property & Casualty, from Swiss Re Mumbai office, gave a talk on Natural Catastrophe ("Nat Cat") Risk Modeling.

YouTube video of Jyoti Majumdar's talk can be found here. Slides of his presentation on Reinsurance and Natural Catastrophe Modeling

Visit to an Agricultural Farm

We visited an agriculture farm (Natural Remedies Pvt. Ltd.) near Bangalore, where we saw practices of adapting to climate change. Dr. Seshagiri Rao accompanied us on and gave us a guided tour of the farm. Raghu Murtugudde, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Maryland, accompanied us on our trip to the agricultural farm. He happened to meet our group during our visit to the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore

Video of his talk can be found here. Dr. Seshagiri Rao discussion on Golden Rice.

Discussion with an Indian Entrepreneur

Subhomay Chatterjee, a local entrepreneur spoke about various aspects of business environments in India such as how difficult is to set up a business in India.

Video on his talk can be found here.

Debate on Balancing Development with Climate Change

Billy Wilson (Northeastern: Cultural Anthropology) and Krishna (IIT Bombay: School of Management and Climate Change IDP) participated in a lively debate on balancing development in emerging economies with global climate change and environmental priorities, as well as US-India Climate Change policies. The debate was moderated by Dr. Jonna Iacono, and all students actively participated into it.

YouTube link of the video on the debate can be found here

Climate War Games

At the end of each course, we had a climate war game. Students were grouped in five teams with one student being moderator, depending on their interests, for each war game. The first war game (Climate Change Science) was focused on climate science, engineering, coastal cities, and the second (Climate Policy) was on climate policy, adaptation, and mitigation. The team for first war game represented five sectors: water, agriculture, energy, healthcare, and industry. The five groups for second war game were divided based on country or world bodies: India, rest of SAARC, China, USA, and UN.

The climate war games were modeled after the 2008 CNAS climate change war game, which was reported by Nature news, summarized by the CNAS and adapted for a documentary by ABC in a rather depressing video, 'Earth 2100': the Final Century of civilization? Science support for this war game was primarily provided by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) of the US DOE.

Youtube links of two videos for each war game, a short preview (10 minutes) and the whole war game (3-4 hours) are given below.

Climate Science War Game: Preview     Full

Climate Policy War Game: Preview     Full

Sample Students' Reflections

Students were assigned four write-ups along with other assignments on climate data analysis and risk analysis for the design of infrastructures. The four write-ups included reflection on each of the two war games, one aspects of Indian culture (topics included any one of the site visits, guest lectures, personal experience, etc.), and Indian Monsoons. We have selected one write-up from each student and shared it here (see the link below). Two students were assigned to make the videos for the climate war games, and they did not had to submit any write-ups. Two students, one from engineering and one from social sciences, were assigned to work together and come up with a interdisciplinary write-up. Here are the links to student assignments.

1. Mariana Mora Sanchez (Industrial Engineering): Climate Science War Game - The Moderator's Perspective

2. Shahed Najjar (Civil and Enviornmental Engineering): Climate Science War Game - War Games as Learning Models

3. Mary Morrison (Mechanical Engineering): Climate Science War Game - Agriculture Sector Perspectives

4. Tavish Fenbert (Mechanical Engineering): Climate Science War Game - Healthcare Sector Perspectives

5. Casey Mullane (Civil and Enviornmental Engineering): Climate Science War Game - Energy Sector Perspectives

6. Kenneth Rodriguez (Civil and Enviornmental Engineering): Climate Policy War Game - Role of Team China

7. Lautaro Grinspan (Business): Climate Policy War Game - Role of the United Nations

8. Anastasia Sinyakina (International Business and Portuguese): Climate Policy War Game - From Sectors to Countries

9. Kara Morgan (Political Science/International Affairs): Climate Policy War Game - A Civilizational Pespective

10. Billy Wilson (Cultural Anthropology): Reflections on Indian Culture - Country or Subcontinent

11. Margaret DiGiorno (Environmental Science): Reflections on Indian Culture - The Curse of Inequality

12. Eric Holland (Business/Accounting): Reflections on Indian Culture - Street Cricket in Mumbai and an Inequality Index

13. Annique Fleurat (Civil and Enviornmental Engineering): Reflections on Indian Culture - American Stereotypes

14. Laura Blumenfeld (Civil and Enviornmental Engineering): Reflections on Indian Culture - A Complete Flip Flop

15. Rachael Heiss (Industrial Engineering): Reflections on Indian Culture - The Importance of Tea

16. Marina Gilpatrick (Civil and Enviornmental Engineering): Reflections on Indian Culture - Mutual Learning

17. Tricia Rudy (Civil and Enviornmental Engineering): Reflections on Indian Culture - Monochrome to Color

18. Annie Hunter (Behavioral Neuroscience): Perceptions of Climate Change and Climate Action in the US and India

19. Matthew Grote (Civil and Enviornmental Engineering): The Indian Monsoon - The Hydroclimate Science

20. Liana Rodier (Biochemistry): The Indian Monsoon - Impacts on Society

21. Clarissa Santori (Chemistry): The Indian Monsoon in Context - Comparing with Southwest US Monsoons

22. Allison Traylor (Political Science): Understanding the Indian Monsoon - At the Intersection of Disciplines

23. Lindsey Bressler (International Affairs & Economics): Climate Change: The Social Science Perspective

24. Corinne Bowers (Civil and Enviornmental Engineering): Climate Change: The Engineering Perspective

25. James Card (Industrial Engineering): Climate Change Science War Game: Preview     Full

26. Hayden Henderson (Mechanical Engineering): Climate Change Policy War Game: Preview     Full


Website Contact and Teaching Assistant: Devashish Kumar, PhD Candidate, SDS Lab

Curriculum Developer: Rachindra Mawalagedara, Postdoc Associate, SDS Lab

India Travel Provider: Manoj Kumar Rana and Prabodh Badoni, Chariot India

Northeastern University Scholars Program: Dr. Jonna Iacono, Director

Instructor: Auroop R. Ganguly, PI. SDS Lab and Civil & Environmental Engineering

We are grateful to the Northeastern University Scholars Program, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering, Dialogue of Civilizations Program, and the NSF Expeditions in Computing Program for the grant entitled "Understanding Climate Change: A Data Driven Approach".