ENV 960a (Hybrid) / 2020-2021

Climate Solutions Capstone: Nature Based Solutions Clinic

Credits: 3
Teaching Mode: Hybrid
Fall 2020: Tu,Th, 3:00-4:20, Burke

Course Overview
As the climate crisis worsens, there is greater recognition that – in addition to energy-focused solutions – nature-based solutions also need to be part of climate mitigation and adaptation efforts.  This capstone course offers students a hands-on opportunity to work with local organizations to help them design and implement a variety of nature-based solutions.
The course will pair teams of students with state and local governments and non-profit organizations to help advance the nature-based solutions/investments they are pursuing. The focus of the course is on how policy and financing efforts might help advance nature-based solutions from either a mitigation perspective (e.g. storing carbon) or in adaptation and resilience efforts (e.g. managing flooding, reducing temperatures, improving health). Our hope is to attract students from different specializations and backgrounds to form multi-disciplinary teams.
Projects being offered through the course include the following:
  • The City of New Haven – heat management ordinances: New Haven has an ordinance that requires developers of large, new impervious surfaces either to provide shade or use reflective materials. As the City thinks about how to reduce the “urban heat island” effect, students will be asked to review what other cities are doing and offer suggestions for updating the ordinance.
  • The Trust for Public Land (TPL) – linking urban heat island and park equity mapping: TPL’s work to provide “parks for people” involves mapping both access to parks, as well as vulnerability to the urban heat island effect. Students will help TPL’s CT office apply these tools to cities in CT as part of their efforts to help cities manage urban heat in an equitable manner.
  • SustainableCT – crowd-funding of community-led nature-based solutions: SustainableCT has helped over 50 community groups across CT implement projects from tree-planting, to community gardens, through a crowd-funding program. Students will prepare case studies of some of the more successful projects, distilling lessons learned for future efforts in CT and other states.
  • AudubonCT – funding and legal issues for salt marsh expansion: AudubonCT and its partners are working to understand and help manage the expansion of a salt marsh in Guilford, CT as sea levels rise and efforts to use “green infrastructure’ as part of resilience plans increase. Students will help the team explore possible funding sources for and legal issues facing the implementation of such salt marsh restoration/expansion efforts.
  • TimberCity/Gray Organschi – monetizing the carbon stored in mid-rise “mass timber” buildings: Alan Organschi is an architect and professor at the Yale School of Architecture who is designing a mid-rise, affordable housing project in New Haven that uses “mass timber” rather than steel or concrete for its structural elements as part of efforts to store more carbon in cities. Students will work with him to explore ways to monetize these carbon storage benefits – from zoning codes, to green procurement, tax incentives, carbon offsets and other means.
  • Probable: US Climate Alliance – supporting the natural and working lands group: Most of the 25 states that have pledged to address climate change as part of the US Climate Alliance are developing action plans around “Natural and Working Lands.” Students are expected to be asked to help with one of the Alliance’s priority work areas, such as supply chain/tree nursery capacity for increased reforestation efforts or reconciling the energy related portions of state plans with the nature-based portions.
The course sessions will start with an overview of climate and nature based solutions, followed by practice-based sessions on developing teamwork and consulting skills. The focus on nature-based solutions will cover many aspects of the implementation needs of such approaches, such as policy analysis, financing structures, targeted research and beyond. Once teams are formed and project scopes refined, most class sessions will be more focused on allowing students to work on their projects, as well as providing opportunities for feedback and guidance. At the end of the semester, the students will present their findings and recommendations to their project sponsors and each other.
This course is being coordinated with the spring climate solutions capstone on sub-national actors (taught by Rob Klee, with more of an energy focus) so that active and on-going relationships can be maintained with clients over time.