Projecting food, water, energy, climate and other global changes

“Mapping out a low-carbon future”

“Water scarcity, air pollution, and climate change”

“Projecting the impacts of land-use change”

These recent headlines reflect the breadth of the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change. They draw attention not only to climate change, a topic with which the Joint Program has been associated for more than 25 years, but also to changes in energy consumption, water availability, air quality, and land use. While the Joint Program’s overarching purpose — combining scientific research with policy analysis to provide decision-makers with independent, integrative assessments of the impacts of global change and how best to respond — has remained steadfast since its inception in 1991, its research portfolio has expanded considerably in recent years. As a result, the program has redefined its work in terms of seven research focus areas and four research tools.

The seven research focus areas include food, water and forestry; infrastructure and air pollution; natural ecosystems; energy; Earth system science; climate policy; and regional analysis for the Americas, Asia, Europe and Africa. The four research tools consist of analytical methods to quantify risk at global and regional scales and three Joint Program models covering the Earth system (the MIT Earth System Model or MESM), human system (the MIT Economic Projection and Policy Analysis, or EPPA model) and a global framework (the Integrated Global System Modeling, or IGSM, framework) that simulates the interplay between Earth and human systems.

“Most of our work will fall in more than one of these broad categories, and likely several of them,” says Joint Program Co-Director John Reilly. “As we accept the reality of global environmental change and the Earth as a system that’s continuously impacted by human activity, our research must become more granular. This granularity is intended to enable decision-makers to more easily develop effective strategies to limit our impact on the environment and adapt to unavoidable changes.”

Toward that end, the Joint Program has developed a new website that places these categories front and center. The new globalchange.mit.edu enables visitors to learn about advances the program is making in its seven core research focus areas and in the development of four main research tools used to project changes in those seven areas.

While the homepage highlights the breadth of the program’s research portfolio, the landing pages for the seven research focus areas and four research tools showcase the depth of the program’s work. Each landing page includes an introduction to the topic; the latest publications, news, and media coverage; active research projects; and researchers associated with the research focus area or tool.

Visitors may also access reverse-chronological-order displays of all Joint Program and peer-reviewed research publications; signature publications — the program’s triennial Global Changes newsletter and annual Food, Water, Energy and Climate Outlook; and other news, media, and event coverage.

“We believe this new website will allow both the public and our research sponsors to find what they are looking for more quickly, and to better recognize the variety of studies undertaken by our researchers,” says Reilly.

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