Environment Special Projects

Coastal Blue Carbon

Coastal habitats are under increasing threat of destruction. These habitats store large amounts of carbon in their vegetation and soil; when disturbed, this stored carbon—increasingly known as coastal blue carbon—can be released in the form of greenhouse gases. Research at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions examines the economic and scientific challenges that need to be addressed in order to determine whether payments for blue carbon may one day help conserve mangroves, seagrass meadows, and salt marshes.

Improving Endangered Species Management

Nationwide, several hundred species are being evaluated for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Research at the Nicholas Institute is exploring whether effective pre-compliance could be the key to recovery for a number of species while demonstrating the promise of multi-species management.

Economic Modeling of Energy Policy, Technology

To address a wide range of energy problems the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and its colleagues has developed several models that operate at different geographic, sectoral, and temporal scales. We have developed, or have access to via strategic alliances with other research institutions, a complementary suite of integrated models that include: a model of the U.S. national energy system, a dispatch model of the U.S. electric power system, a plant-level decision model for resource planning of electric power plants, a southern U.S. forest resource model for bioenergy resource analysis, spatial models for siting pipelines for carbon capture and storage, and a national model of the U.S. forest and agricultural sectors. 

Incentives to Protect Biodiverse, Carbon-Rich Ecosystems

The world is losing ecosystems such as tropical forest and coastal wetlands at an alarming rate. Along with being valuable sources of biodiversity, these systems are also tremendous stores of carbon. As these systems are disturbed, the carbon can be released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and contribute to climate change. The Nicholas Institute informs the development of policies aimed at reducing carbon emissions that can provide economic incentives to protect these ecosystems. Work in this area has focused in the Amazonforested areas in other developing countries, and marine habitats.  

Sustainable Forestry, Agriculture and Land Use

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions informs farmers and other landowners of policies and practices that address greenhouse gas emissions reduction, water quality management, and endangered species protection more cost effectively. The Nicholas Institute’s work includes the design of incentive payment programs to induce environmental improvements to economic modeling of responses at the landscape to global level.  

Climate Policy Design

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions provides economically sound guidance and policy assessment to decision makers grappling with how best to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Work in this area has involved the design of economic instruments such as emissions trading, offset programs, carbon taxes, and complementary policies to induce innovation of low carbon-technologies.   

Economic and Environmental Consequences of Bioenergy

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions is a respected voice—advising industry, government and NGOs on the likely implications of expanded by energy markets—in the often-contentious area of biomass energy production (particularly in the Southeast). Work by the Nicholas Institute has greatly increased awareness of the greenhouse gas implications of bioenergy use and has been cited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and members of the Scientific Advisory Board on Biogenic Accounting as a key example of the type of research necessary to develop workable approaches to track bioenergy carbon emissions.