Helping decision makers create timely, effective and economically practical solutions to the world's critical environmental challenges.
Who We Are
The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University improves environmental policymaking worldwide through objective, fact-based research to confront the climate crisis, clarify the economics of limiting carbon pollution, harness emerging environmental markets, put the value of nature's benefits on the balance sheet, develop adaptive water management approaches, and identify other strategies to attain community resilience.
The Nicholas Institute is part of Duke University and its wider community of world-class scholars. This unique resource allows the Nicholas Institute's team of economists, scientists, lawyers and policy experts to not only deliver timely, credible analyses to a wide variety of decision makers, but also to convene these decision makers to reach a shared understanding regarding this century's most pressing environmental problems.
The Nicholas Institute was established in 2005. In our first decade, we have led a variety of influential projects. We advised California on several aspects of the design of the country’s first economy-wide cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases. We brought attention to one of the world’s most critical environmental problems by providing the first estimates of global carbon dioxide emissions from the destruction of coastal and marine ecosystems. Through the seminal report, A Silent Tsunami, we provided a material contribution to legislation aimed at dramatically improving access to clean water and sanitation around the world. And we helped natural resource managers connect their decisions to things people care about with the first guidebook to present a scientifically defensible approach to ecosystem services assessment.
The Nicholas Institute is comprised of five multidisciplinary programs focused on helping decision makers weigh the risks and rewards of policy choices.
- Climate and Energy Program
- Ecosystem Services Program
- Ocean and Coastal Policy Program
- State Policy Program
- Water Policy Program
Other Research Efforts
Beyond our programs, the following efforts deepen our engagement with the policy world and Duke University’s commitment to “knowledge in the service of society.”
Illuminating Hidden Harvests
Millions of metric tons of fish from the small-scale fisheries sector are hidden (unreported). This was shown in the study Hidden Harvest: The Global Contribution of Capture Fisheries synthetized in 2012 by the FAO, the World Bank and WorldFish. Currently, the FAO and WorldFish, through the FISH research program, are again collecting unreported small-scale fisheries information and data, this time in partnership with Duke University under a new project called Illuminating Hidden Harvests. Data and knowledge generated by the research will contribute to effective decision-making on small-scale fisheries by policymakers and enable fishing communities and advocates to make a strong case for support in the sector. In this way, the research supports implementation of the SSF Guidelines and progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Internet of Water
The Internet of Water (IoW) is a project currently housed at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, managed by a small startup team and supported by grants from several philanthropic organizations. By 2021, the IoW project will be a self-sustaining network managed by a non-profit organization, university, or public benefit corporation. The IoW envisions a world engaged in sustainable water resource management and stewardship enabled by open, shared, and integrated water data and information. The components of the IoW already exist (producers, hubs, and users), but the work of sharing and integrating data between them is not a primary mission for any of them. But the mission of the IoW is to build a dynamic and voluntary network of communities and institutions to facilitate the opening, sharing, and integration of water data and information.
National Ecosystem Services Partnership
The National Ecosystem Services Partnership engages both public and private individuals and organizations to enhance collaboration within the ecosystem services community and to strengthen coordination of policy and market implementation and research at the national level.
The Bridge Collaborative
The Bridge Collaborative envisions the global health, development and environment communities jointly solving today’s complex, interconnected challenges. Duke University is a partner in the Bridge Collaborative, which is inspiring a community of leaders and practitioners from across disciplines, sectors and perspectives to develop a shared evidence base for solutions that bridge development and environmental sustainability.
Duke University Energy Access Project
The Energy Access Project at Duke University is a new research and policy effort that aims to address the challenges around increasing access to modern energy solutions to underserved populations around the world. It takes an interdisciplinary approach to developing sustainable, modern energy for all. Key Duke collaborators in this effort include the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, the Duke University Energy Initiative, the Sanford School of Public Policy, Bass Connections, and the Nicholas School of the Environment.
The Nicholas Institute is housed on Campus Drive on Duke University's West Campus, but also has staff in Duke's Washington, DC, office.