This is a past event
  • Open to the Public

Title: Decoding climate vulnerability: Harnessing the power of data science and causal inference

Air pollution and climate change are two sides of the same coin. Pollutants emitted in the air can lead to changes in climatic conditions. These emissions consist of greenhouse gases. Specific components of particulate matter can either warm or cool the temperature. Short-lived climate pollutants are also dangerous air pollutants that harm people, ecosystems, and agricultural productivity. On January 6, 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a proposal to lower the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for annual PM2.5 pollution from 12 μg/m3 to between 9 and 10 μg/m3, though it continues to consider other options. Data science must inform this decision. In this talk, I will provide an overview of data science methods, including methods for causal inference and machine learning, with the lens of policy change. This is based on a large effort of analyzing a data platform of unprecedented size and representativeness. The platform includes more than 600 million observations on the health experience of over 95% of the US population over 65 years old linked to air pollution exposure and several confounders. I will also provide an overview of studies on air pollution exposure, environmental racism, wildfires, and how they can exacerbate vulnerability to COVID-19. Swift action on reducing short-lived climate forcers such as methane, tropospheric ozone, hydrofluorocarbons, and black carbon can significantly decrease the chances of triggering severe climate tipping points.

Francesca Dominici, PhD is the co-Director of the Harvard Data Science Initiative, at Harvard University and the Clarence James Gamble Professor of Biostatistics, Population and Data Science at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and of the International Society of Mathematical Statistics. She leads an interdisciplinary group of scientists to address important questions in environmental health science, climate change, and health policy. She has published over 280 peer-reviewed published articles, and has provided her knowledge on the topics on joint panels with New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, and European Commission). Dr. Dominici has provided the scientific community and policy makers with comprehensive and compelling evidence on the adverse health effects of air pollution, noise pollution, and climate change. Her studies have directly and routinely impacted air quality policy. Dr. Dominici was recognized in Thomson Reuter’s 2019 list of the most highly cited researchers–ranking in the top 1% of cited scientists in her field. Her work has been covered by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, BBC, the Guardian, CNN, and NPR. In April 2020 she has been awarded the Karl E. Peace Award for Outstanding Statistical Contributions for the Betterment of Society by the American Statistical Association. She is an advocate for the career advancement of women faculty, and her work on the Johns Hopkins University Committee on the Status of Women earned her the campus Diversity Recognition Award in 2009. At the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, she has led the Committee for the Advancement of Women Faculty.

  • 11:45am refreshments in Seeley Mudd 206
  • noon talk Seeley Mudd 206 (Amherst College, 31 Quadrangle Drive)
  • masks welcomed but not required

Contact Info

Nicholas Horton
(413) 542-5655
Please call the college operator at 413-542-2000 or e-mail if you require contact info