Ezra's Round Table / Systems Seminar: Noelle Eckley Selin (MIT)


Frank H. T. Rhodes Hall 253


Watch it on Zoom

 Modeling Dynamic Systems for Sustainable Development: Examples from Climate and Air Pollution

Abstract: I will present examples of recent progress in dynamic modeling of nature-society systems to inform efforts towards sustainable development. Modeling tools have historically struggled to capture the full complexity of how relevant policies affect human well-being in ways that inform decision-making, but there has been recent progress in developing new methods. An example of such work involves modeling the interrelated challenges of addressing health-damaging air pollution and mitigating climate change, which require controlling similar sources of pollution. Building on a recent survey, I will highlight computational approaches to coupling models that can simulate cross-sector connections and differing contexts and evaluate decision scenarios under uncertainty. I will illustrate this with an example that assesses the degree to which national-scale climate policies in the U.S. can impact air pollution exposure to different racial/ethnic groups. I will also give examples from applications of a new qualitative-quantitative research framework that can assess challenges for sustainability in systems with human, technical, and environmental components.

Bio: Noelle Eckley Selin is Professor in the Institute for Data, Systems and Society (IDSS) and the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She also serves as Interim Director of IDSS (2023-2024), and as the co-chair of MIT’s Climate Nucleus (2021-2024). She was Director of MIT’s Technology and Policy Program from 2018 to 2023. Prof. Selin’s research uses modeling and data analysis to inform decision-making on sustainability challenges, including air pollution, climate change, and hazardous substances such as mercury and persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Her work develops new methods and systems-based approaches to address sustainability challenges, and examines interactions between science, technology, and policy. Her specific areas of expertise include systems modeling; sustainability science and engineering; climate change; air quality; toxic substances; environmental health; and science-technology-policy interactions. Prof. Selin received her PhD and MA in Earth and Planetary Sciences, and her BA in Environmental Science and Public Policy, all from Harvard University.