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impact & risk
Lab Leader: Aaron Hirsh
Earthshot Institute Open-Science Network ❍

We want to make mission-driven capital smarter.

The problem:
Predicting and measuring social-ecological impacts is hard. In every ecosystem, there are knock-on effects and feedbacks that investors do not dig deep enough to anticipate. These unforeseen dynamics may prove so powerful that they ultimately swamp intended outcomes. We must therefore be sophisticated and rigorous in forecasting and verifying impacts. Otherwise, we will set out with the best of intentions, only to do more harm than good.

Our solution: Call on a very broad network of academic scientists, who will serve as advisors in specific areas where they have deep expertise. Since senior academics do not have time to do the requisite work, we will team them up with postdoc-level scientists wielding the right technical tools: bioeconomic modeling; remote sensing; statistical analysis, and so on. For each prospective investment, we’ll pull together the right combination of academics and analysts to gather data, forecast outcomes, and design the protocol for future verification. Critically, we will work on the timescale of investment, not that of academic research.

We think we will be able to help not only to direct capital to the right projects, but also to discover opportunities for improving the impact r.o.i. of individual investments. That is, we aspire to offer not just a yea or nay, but also operational suggestions to enhance social-ecological benefits and mitigate risks of backfire. The group we are creating will constitute a bridge between academia and environmentally impactful sectors. Team members will spend some of their time on basic research in the field of ecological modeling and monitoring, and some on impact forecasting, measurement, and improvement. We are creating a new category of professional.

You can learn more here.

Coastal Wetland Forests
Elliott White Jr

The goal of our lab is to create a high-spatial resolution map of coastal forested wetlands at global scale. If we know precisely where these ecologically critical but fragile forests are located, we can manage freshwater flows to counteract saltwater introgression due to rising sea levels, and we can assist in their migration inland, preserving their critical function in protecting coastlines and sequestering carbon.

Jason Baldes
Gisel Booman

Across the continent, a number of first nations are in the process of reintroducing bison to the grasslands in which they were once the primary grazer and an ecologically vital species. Initial experiences and evolutionary considerations suggest that this may be ecologically beneficial in terms of grassland biodiversity, carbon cycle, and resilience to climate change. However, these questions have not yet been studied at scale. In this lab, we will leverage remote sensing to scale up from ground measurements, establishing the large-scale patterns of bison impact.

Riparian Ecosystems
Forrest Pound

Beaver dams are known to result in greener, more drought-resilient waterways in semi-arid environments. We are using computer vision to spot dams in satellite imagery, generating a large dataset that we can use to train models that will tell us what the ecological effects of a dam will be at any point on a waterway. The goal is to create a tool to guide efficient restoration through the introduction of small dams.

Bundled Ecological NFT
Philip Taylor

Markets in voluntary carbon credits are increasingly providing a flow of capital for regenerating ecosystems. The problem is, thriving and resilient ecosystems are not just carbon. We need to find ways to structure credits to incentivize the diverse and functional ecosystems we want, not merely high-concentrations of carbon. We will design the technological tools to support a market in bundled ecological credits.

Global Forests
Aron Boettcher

We are building an accurate and global model for predicting potential rates of reforestation and resulting carbon sequestration. Such a model could have a transformational impact on global reforestation efforts by opening new streams of financing in the form of carbon credit futures.

Impact & Risk
Aaron Hirsh
Valérie Lechêne

Leveraging The Earthshot Institute’s broad scientific and technical expertise, the Impact and Risk Lab helps investors and governments who earnestly want to forecast, measure, and address the socio-ecological risks to and/or impacts from their work. For a given system, we build simple process-based models to identify key socio-ecological risks and outcomes. We then draw on big data to improve and train our models, generating quantitative predictions and developing measurement systems for verification.

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Earthshot Institute Launch Event
Fri April 22