Publications from the Environmental Solutions Initiative

Protecting and Enhancing Natural Carbon Sinks: Natural Climate and Community Solutions

A healthy biosphere is critical to a stable climate system. In collaboration with a large interdisciplinary team at MIT, ESI developed a proposal for protecting tropical forests, a key component of the carbon sink capacity of the biosphere, through an integration of targeted technology breakthroughs, deep community engagement, and innovative bioeconomic opportunities. This ESI white paper lays out the detailed project plan developed by this group. Download the white paper.

Quidbó, una Ciudad en Armonía con la Selva

In conversation with the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development of Colombia and its BiodiverCities framework, ESI and a team of MIT students developed recommendations for the city of Quibdó, Colombia, to incorporate biodiversity restoration and enhancement, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and socioeconomic development into its planning processes as the city continues to urbanize in the heart of the Pacific tropical forest. Download the Spanish-language executive report.

Environmental Equity and Racial Justice

Afro-descendant peoples of the Americas are disproportionately affected by overlapping crises such as climate change, the loss of biodiversity, ecological degradation, the Covid-19 pandemic, the public health crisis, extreme socioeconomic inequality, structural racism and the increase in violence against social leaders. This article, among other topics, debates the importance of Afro-descendant communities in the implementation of a range of natural climate solutions, in the region and at a global level. Murillo, Luis Gilberto, and Marcela Angel. Sur: International Journal on Human Rights 31,  2021.

Hydrosocial Displacements: Climate Change and Community Relations in Chile’s Mining Regions

Chile has experienced new water constraints due to an unprecedented “mega drought” beginning in 2010, at the same time that water use for copper extraction has been increasing. This has contributed to the emergence of conflicts over water between local communities and mining companies, which hold implications for water relations in mining regions across the globe. This ESI white paper examines the nature of these conflicts and the outcomes of responses to them. Download the white paper in English or Spanish.

Advancing the Land Rights of Afro-Colombian Communities: A Qualitative Evaluation of Efforts to Implement Colombia’s Law 70 of 1993

Colombia’s Law 70 created a legal pathway for Afro-Colombian communities to receive collective title to historically occupied territories in rural areas. This ESI white paper presents the results of interviews with individuals engaged in Law 70’s formulation, operationalization, or implementation. It was sponsored by the MIT MLK Visiting Professors and Scholars Program and ESI’s Natural Climate Solutions Program. Download the white paper.

Introducing Environmental and Sustainability Content into University Level Introductory Physics Classes

This ESI white paper presents results from integrating environmental and sustainability topics into MIT’s foundational physics classes for first-year students. This endeavor is part of our ongoing project to introduce environmental themes to foundational STEM classes at MIT. Download the white paper.

Changes in the Contribution of Coal to Tax revenues in Greene County, PA, 2010-2019

This ESI white paper was published as a culmination of research conducted under the Here & Real Project, exploring how the decline of coal mining impacts funding for critical public sector services in one affected Pennsylvania county. Download the white paper.

Ecological City-States in an Era of Environmental Disaster: Security, Climate Change and Biodiversity

As urban populations and economies continue to expand relative to the rest of the world, and as city governments stake out greater ambitions on environmental challenges, there is unprecedented room for cities to assume a leading and semi-autonomous role in addressing the climate and biodiversity crises. Fernández, John, and Marcela Angel. Sustainability 12, 2020. doi:10.3390/su12145532

2018 Agenda

The MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative’s 2018 Agenda established ESI’s domains of focus for research funding. Download the agenda.


Publications from our grant recipients and research affiliates

Well-to-tank carbon emissions from crude oil maritime transportation. Greene, Suzanne et al. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment Vol. 88, 2020. doi:10.1016/j.trd.2020.102587

Responsible or reckless? A critical review of the environmental and climate assessments of mineral supply chains. Lee, Jordy et al. Environmental Research Letters Vol. 15, No. 10, 2020. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/ab9f8c

Widespread subsidence and carbon emissions across Southeast Asian peatlands. Hoyt, Alison et al. Nature Geoscience 13, 2020. doi:10.1038/s41561-020-0575-4

Timelines for mitigating the methane impacts of using natural gas for carbon dioxide abatement. Klemun, Magdalena M. and Jessika E. Trancik. Environmental Research Letters Vol. 14, No. 12, 2019. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/ab2577

Present and Future Mercury Concentrations in Chinese Rice: Insights From Modeling. Kwon, S.Y. et al. Global Biogeochemical Cycles Vol. 32 Issue 3, 2018. doi:10.1002/2017GB005824

Patterns in municipal food scrap programming in mid-sized U.S. cities. Pollans, Lily Baum et al. Resources, Conservation and Recycling 125, 2017. doi:10.1016/j.resconrec.2017.07.001

How temporal patterns in rainfall determine the geomorphology and carbon fluxes of tropical peatlands. Cobb, Alexander R. et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences June 2017 114. doi:

Vehicle emissions of short-lived and long-lived climate forcers: trends and tradeoffs. Edwards, Morgan R. et al. Faraday Discussions 200, 2017. doi:10.1039/C7FD00063D

Testing emissions equivalency metrics against climate policy goals. Edwards, Morgan R. et al. Environmental Science and Policy Vol. 166, 2016. doi:10.1016/j.envsci.2016.08.013