Steinbrenner Institute Overview
The Environment @ Carnegie Mellon

From Neil's Desk

On April 7, the Steinbrenner Institute hosted our second annual environmental colloquium and poster competition with in a timely discussion entitled "Keeping Environmental Science (and funding!) in the Federal Dialogue.”  Look for an extended discussion of the colloquium in our next newsletter. 
These are interesting times, and on April 22nd I spoke at the Pittsburgh March for Science to relate my own experiences as a climate scientist in an environment where science in general and climate science in particular is being routinely distorted and questioned.  Unfortunately, the problems of environmental and climate pollution are not going to fade like a political whim.  It is time to redouble our attention to these critical issues but also time to examine how we communicate with the broader public in a way that helps people feel invested in the science.  As one example, I have begun to answer the question “what does climate change mean for Pittsburgh” with “it means that we are going to save about 200 lives per year in Allegheny County because climate change and local air pollution are linked, and when we solve climate change by eliminating carbon emissions we are going to cut air pollution levels by a factor of four”.  We will solve the problems, but it is hard work, and we need your help.  Neil Donahue, Faculty Director
What does climate literacy mean to Carnegie Mellon students?

Spotlight: Doctoral Fellow

Chelsea Kolb, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Climate change is expected to affect water availability and quality. These impacts may impair drinking water sources and challenge conventional drinking water treatment. Coastal groundwater sources are at risk of saltwater as a result of sea level rise caused by warming ocean temperatures and melting glaciers, for example. Similarly, surface water sources may be at risk of increased runoff and warming water temperatures due to changes in precipitation patterns and warming air temperatures. These changes have the potential to negatively impact drinking water sources and reduce treatability.
During the drinking water treatment process, constituents present in source waters react with chlorine added for disinfection to produce toxic disinfection byproducts (DBPs). My work focuses on how changing source water conditions as a result of climate change will affect the formation of DBPs and the resulting health implications of these changes. Through modeling and simulation, we have shown that saltwater intrusion could increase the formation of toxic DBPs above acceptable health thresholds. Increases in source water bromide, a constituent present in seawater, increases the formation of more toxic DBPs, which could result in DBP concentrations that meet regulatory requirements but exceed target risk thresholds. My current work is focused on modeling changes in surface water sources and the associated effect on DBP formation.
After graduation, I hope to continue working on climate change research to help inform environmental policy. Climate change poses a serious threat to environmental and human health, and thus must be addressed through policy changes and technological innovations. I hope to contribute to this important field through engagement with policy makers. (Chelsea is advised by CEE Professor Jeanne VanBriesen.)
Spotlight: Center
Climate and Energy Decision Making

The Climate and Energy Decision Making (CEDM) Center is a distributed collaborative Center anchored at Carnegie Mellon University with investigators at several other institutions. CEDM was created in 2010 and then renewed in 2015, with the core funding being provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences directorate program on Decision Making Under Uncertainty (DMUU), with a total funding from the NSF of $11 million.  Since 2010, CEDM has had 93 affiliated PhD students with 64 of those affiliated PhDs completed to date. CEDM has current 35 affiliated or funded CEDM students. So far, 220 peer-reviewed publications resulted from CEDM’s work, as well as 9 Theory & Methods workshops, 90+ invited CEDM seminars, a variety of tools for decision support, briefings to many stakeholders, and numerous educational and outreach activities for policymakers, the public, and middle-school teachers and students.
Currently, CEDM is working to:
  • Study public and decision makers’ understanding of: a) the central role of CO2 in climate change and the fundamental difference between CO2 and conventional air pollutants; b) the fact that transforming the energy system will require a portfolio of technologies, and the associated implications of existing long-lived energy 
infrastructure; and, c) communications to convey the knowledge needed for informed decision
making and understand its implications.
  • Understand key behavioral, economic, technical and regulatory design issues that lie along critical paths to decarbonizing the energy system.  The team is working to: 1) find ways to use energy more efficiently; 2) develop more sources of energy that are safe, clean, affordable, secure, and sustainable; 3) deliver the energy the US uses with greater security and efficiency; and, 4) facilitate innovation in technology, regulation, and public policy.
  • Preparation of a book describing the contributions of a decade of CEDM research.
You can find more information on CEDM at:
Steinbrenner Institute Director of Strategic Initiatives, Deborah Lange, was honored by the Engineers' Society of Western Pennsylvania as the 53rd recipient of the William Metcalf Award at the February 15, 2017 Annual Awards banquet.
Steinbrenner Institute Faculty Director Neil Donahue Recognized
Neil M. Donahue has been named the winner of the 2017 Gustavus John Esselen Award for Chemistry in the Public Interest. Given by the Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the Esselen Award recognizes a chemist whose scientific and technical work has contributed to the public well-being and its value to society has become apparent within the last five years. 

Neil will also receive the Carnegie Science Environmental Award for his “outstanding achievements in the fields of environmental protection and restoration that benefit the economy, health and quality of life in the Pittsburgh region.”

We are pleased to have the opportunity to share the efforts of the Steinbrenner Institute with you and we look forward to any feedback that you might provide .. especially with regard to our new educational goal to make every CMU graduate climate fluent!
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Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research
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Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research · Carnegie Mellon University · 5120 Scott Hall · Pittsburgh, Pa 15213 · USA

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