Climate Change Science and Policy in India (Summer 2015)

Our 2015 "Climate-India Dialogue" (news) included as student mentors Lindsey Bressler and Kara Morgan who in turn were among the Northeastern students who attended our first 2014 Dialogue. The twenty-six students this year were additionally mentored by SDS Lab PhD student Devashish Kumar as the Teaching Assistant. We were lucky to have Dr. Jonna Iacono, Director of University Scholars program, with us for the second half of the trip. The trip which lasted from May 23rd to June 26th was coordinated by Prof. Auroop Ganguly with the help of NU GEO office. The guest faculty, drawn from the physical sciences, engineering, economics, social sciences, and business, matched the interdiscplinary background of the students. A photo compilation summarizing the trip can be found here.


Student Presentations

Cultural Presentations: History of India

Students gave five minute presentations on selected personalities and events of importance to Indian culture. They were presented in chronological order, starting at the Indus Valley Civilization (3300-1300 BCE) and ending with Amartya Sen (1933-present). The students were asked to introduce the person or event, put them in the context of contemporary world events and provide a critical assessment of their own, all within the five minutes.

A compilation of these presentations can be found here.

Scientific Presentations: Climate Science Overview

Students split into groups of 3-4 and each group gave a 10 minute presentation on one of the 8 chapters of Prof. Kerry Emanuel's book What We Know About Climate Change. Emanuel's book walks through critical points of climate change science: the students were asked to summarize the contents of their respective chapter and present a critique.

A compilation of these presentations can be found here.

Guest Lectures and Site Visits

Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay

During our stay in Mumbai we visited the IIT-Bombay campus and interacted with their students and faculty. We started the day with a lecture by Professor Om Damani and graduate student Pooja Prasad introducing IIT-Bombay's Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas (C-TARA). Video here.

Graduate students showed us some examples of the innovative tools they had built through the program and also showed us one of their food and nutrition laboratories. We also heard from Professor Swaroop Ganguly. In the afternoon we toured the IIT-Bombay Nanotechnology Laboratory and listened to Professor Ronita Bardhan speak about her work on waste segregation education. Video here).

We also learned about monsoons from Professor Subimal Ghosh and graduate student Sahana A.S. (both from IIT-Bombay) in embedded talks at our hotel in Mumbai. The video of Prof. Ghosh's instructional talk on the Indian Monsoon is here.

Inequality Perspectives

We were joined in Mumbai by a diverse set of guest speakers: Pubali Chaudhuri (a prominent scriptwriter for Indian movies), Professor Swaroop Ganguly, Ramakrishna Menon (a jewelery entrepreneur), and Subhamoy Chatterjee (an entrepreneurs' entrepreneur). The panel discussion on inequality was moderated by the student mentors Lindsey Bressler and Kara Morgan.

Visit to an Agricultural Farm

During our stay in Bangalore we trekked out to Dr. Sheshagiri Rao's farm (Natural Remedies Pvt. Ltd.) in Tamil Nadu, where we learned about his adaptive farming practices and endeavor to support a network of rural farmers with a mobile app. Video here.

Jadavpur University

While in Kolkata we visited Jadavpur University where we interacted with students and faculty, including Professor Joyashree Roy, who directs their Global Change Program. She was part of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winning (IPCC) team and recently co-authored the Eco-modernist Manifesto with economists from across the world which captured significant attention in scientific venues (e.g., Nature news) and in the media (e.g., New York Times).

Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur

During our stay in Kolkata we traveled to IIT-Kharagpur for 2 days and stayed overnight in their guest house. We heard from Professors Sudeshna Sarkar, Dhrubajyoti Sen, Pabitra Mitra, Soumya K. Ghosh and many graduate students on their research. Video here.

Visiting Faculty and Collaborators

Professor Rajarshi Majumder is a professor of Economics at Burdwan University in India. He accompanied us for the second half of our trip, beginning in Kolkata, where he led two academic session modules. In Varanasi he gave a great talk introducing us to energy economics. Video here.

Prof. Sourav Mukherji of IIM-Bangalore taught us about social entrepreneurship while we were staying in Kerala. His talk was a student favorite and discussed successful examples like Selco, a social entreprise promoting solar energy. Video here.

Our colleague from the Indian Institute of Science, Prof. Pradeep Mujumdar, whom we visited last year, encouraged several of his students to interact with our team. We were privileged to have with us R Bharath, Ila Chawla, Nruthya K, R Eswar, Chandan Banerjee, Shailza Sharma, and Arpita Mondal.

In Kolkata, Prof. Nandini Mukherjee gave a talk on the relationship between women and climate change. Video here.


In addition to the panelists on inequality in Mumbai, we heard from Dr. Deep Chakrabarti, who is a medical doctor from Nil Ratan Sircar (NRS) Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata. Deep shared with us his insights and answered questions about healthcare in India. Video here.

Power Plant Visit

We also visited a hydroelectric power plant on the way to Dehradun. We were given a tour of the facilities, including a view of the dam itself and the mechanical energy storage structures. Thanks to Sudhakar Badoni for arranged the visit and S. N. Verma who approved it.

Additional Video Presentations

In Kerala we watched the following videos as part of our class module:

Climate War Games

At the end of each of the two courses, 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 and were tasked with researching and representing the interests of their assigned group.

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

Climate Science War Game

The first war game focused on climate science and engineering. The given premise was for teams to negotiate policies and distribution of Indian governmental funds between different sectors. Each team represented one of five different sectors: water, agriculture, energy, healthcare, and industry.

Link here.

Student Reflections:

Water Agriculture Industry Energy Healthcare Moderators
Alina Rossi-Conaway Alyssa Caganda Rachel Dowley Rachna Igwe Marianela Cardelle Catherine Moskos
Thurston Brevett Sydney Hubbell Jacob Messner Joanna Sullivan Joyce Schmulson Lindsey Bressler
Pedro Falcon Amy Zhao William Cisneros Marita Dolidze Matthew Lau Kara Morgan
Nicholas Ireland Zamir Johl Nicholas Salazar Sabrina McCarthy Adrian Forrest
Chynna Lewis Kiera Haining Congtin Nguyen Nikin Tharan Rose Leopold
Climate Policy War Game

The second war game focused on climate policy, adaptation, and mitigation. The five groups for second war game were represented different world bodies: India, SAARC, China, USA, and the UN. Students discussed and negotiated climate policy within South Asia, representing the interests of their bodies' stakeholders to the best of their ability.

Links here.

Student Reflections:

USA India United Nations China SAARC Moderators
Marita Dolidze William Cisneros Joanna Sullivan Chynna Lewis Nicholas Salazar Nikin Tharan
Jacob Messner Kiera Haining Thurston Brevett Nicholas Ireland Rachna Igwe Lindsey Bressler
Marianela Cardelle Joyce Schmulson Adrian Forrest Pedro Falcon Zamir Johl Kara Morgan
Alyssa Caganda Congtin Nguyen Matthew Lau Catherine Moskos Rachel Dowley
Amy Zhao Sabrina McCarthy Rose Leopold Alina Rossi-Conaway Sydney Hubbell

Student Reflections on Inequality

1. Thurston Brevett (Electrical & Computer Engineering): Reflection on Dharavi and Inequality

2. Alyssa Caganda (Industrial Engineering): Comparison of Inequality among US, India, and the Philippines

3. Marianela Cardelle (Industrial Engineering): American Tourists in India

4. William Cisneros (Bioengineering): Where are the White People?

5. Marita Dolidze (International Affairs):

6. Rachel Dowley (Marine Biology): Gender Inequality between US and India

7. Pedro Falcon (Bioengineering): Inequality Reflection: Mexico, India, and the US

8. Adrian Forrest (Communication Studies and Media/Screen Studies): Socioeconomic Inequality in the U.S. and India

9. Kiera Haining (International Affairs): Poverty

10. Sydney Hubbell (Computer Science): Sanitation and Waste Reflection

11. Rachna Igwe (Chemical Engineering): Socio-economic Inequality Reflection

12. Nicholas Ireland (Behavioral Neuroscience): The Neglected Minority

13. Zamir Johl (Computer Engineering): Comparative Cultural Reflection

14. Matthew Lau (Chemical Engineering): Economic Differences

15. Rose Leopold (Political Science): Inequality of Clean Drinking Water: Reflection on the US, Mexico, Ecuador, and India

16. Chynna Lewis (International Business): Inequality: United States v. India

17. Sabrina McCarthy (Economics): Income Inequality in the United States and India

18. Jacob Messner (Electrical and Computer Engineering): Wealth Inequality in India and the United States

19. Catherine Moskos (Civil Engineering): Gender Inequality - A Comparative Study

20. Congtin Nguyen (Electrical Engineering): Comparing Racial Diversity and Racism

21. Alina Rossi-Conaway (Chemical Engineering): Inequality, as Seen in the Streets of Mumbai

22. Nicholas Salazar (International Business): Income Inequality: A Comparative Look at Economic Mobility

23. Joyce Schmulson (Industrial Engineering): Is Knowing Understanding?

24. Joanna Sullivan (Civil Engineering): Gender Inequality in the US and India

25. Nikin Tharan (Electrical Engineering): Indian Education System: A Teardrop on the Cheek of Development

26. Amy Zhao (Chemical Engineering): On Overtness, Perception, and Communication

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Website Developer and Lead Writer: Amy Zhao, Class of 2018

Website Contact and Teaching Assistant: Devashish Kumar

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", as well as the NSF CyberSEES and Big Data programs.