Research

Interviews in the field with environmental activists in Japan

Highlights

  • 23 peer-reviewed publications; 5 chapters, 3 pre-prints, & 1 report

  • Social Network Analysis, GIS, Modles, Surveys, Fieldwork

  • Over 12 coauthors and 19 student coauthors in the US & Japan

  • Consulted for UNDP Accelerator Labs and other groups.

Projects

Social Capital, Networks, and Disaster Resilience (7 works)

Seawalls or social recovery? The role of policy networks and design in disaster recovery (in Global Environmental Change, 2021)

  • This mixed-methods study examines the case of 30 advisory committees across 25 municipalities in Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures in northeast Japan after the 3/11 triple disasters. Drawing on synthetic control experiments, social network analysis, and case studies, we test whether the design of these committees’ policies or the traits of these committee networks improved the recovery trajectories of municipalities. We find that communities highly connected to this network of advisory committees saw better economic recovery than expected, especially when researchers, hyper-connected individuals, or plans for community centers were involved, controlling for disaster damage, infrastructure quality, social vulnerability, governance capacity, emergency services, and social capital. Our results bring with them a number of concrete policy recommendations for disaster managers, local residents, and decision makers.

    • with Daniel Aldrich & Andrew Small

In the hands of a few: Disaster recovery committee networks (in Journal of Environmental Management, 2021)

  • When disaster strikes, urban planners often rely on feedback and guidance from committees of officials, residents, and interest groups when crafting reconstruction policy. Focusing on recovery planning committees after Japan's 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters, we compile and analyze a dataset on committee membership patterns across 39 committees with 657 members. Using descriptive statistics and social network analysis, we examine 1) how community representation through membership varied among committees, and 2) in what ways did committees share members, interlinking members from certain interests groups. This study finds that community representation varies considerably among committees, negatively related to the prevalence of experts, bureaucrats, and business interests. Committee membership overlap occurred heavily along geographic boundaries, bridged by engineers and government officials. Engineers and government bureaucrats also tend to be connected to more members of the committee network than community representatives, giving them prized positions to disseminate ideas about best practices in recovery. This study underscores the importance of diversity and community representation in disaster recovery planning to facilitate equal participation, information access, and policy implementation across communities.

    • with Daniel Aldrich, Andrew Small, & Andrew Littlejohn

Rumor has it: The role of social ties and misinformation in evacuation to nearby shelters after disaster (in Climate Risk Management, 2021)

  • When crisis strikes, why do some communities utilize evacuation shelters more than others? This mixed methods study draws on a new dataset of almost-daily tallies of evacuees at 660 local shelters following Japan’s 2018 Eastern Iburi Earthquake in Hokkaido to create a large-N time-series cross sectional (TSCS) dataset of local, short-distance evacuation. We pair time-series cross-sectional data models with qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) of nine affected municipalities to examine why some shelters see higher evacuation rates than others. While past studies have used Facebook user data, post-hoc surveys, or ad-hoc roadside interviews to measure evacuation, this study uses meticulously recorded shelter attendance data to draw inferences about evacuation behavior. Controlling for types of shelters, damage levels, infrastructure quality, social vulnerability, governance capacity, and community resources, we find that in affected communities, stronger bridging social ties, especially when aided by linking ties, motivate greater evacuation to shelters. In unaffected communities, stronger bonding and bridging ties encourage potentially unnecessary evacuation, helping spread rumors during blackouts. These results highlight the necessity of clear, transparent communication with the public, and fostering trust in government during crises.

    • with Larissa Morikawa & Daniel Aldrich

Social Network Analysis for Disaster Management Research (Chapter, 2021)

  • Disaster survivors and scholars alike argue that the presence, dearth, and type of social ties in a community can enable or limit disaster adaptation, response, evacuation, and recovery. After Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, the Vietnamese American community returned and rebuilt more quickly than other damaged areas in the city, relying on the strength of their local co-ethnic and religious neighborhood ties, rather than limited finances or education ( Aldrich, 2012 ). Likewise, after Japan’s 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster, prefectures with greater bridging ties aid and governmental organizations recovered faster ( Bisri, 2016 a, 2016b; Aldrich, 2019 ). Increasingly, scholars and policymakers see social networks as playing a key role in disaster evacuation, recovery, and resilience. But what kinds of networks can we examine in disaster studies? What kinds of data do we need, what kinds of questions can we answer about these networks, and what tools might students and scholars of disaster studies use to answer these questions? This chapter seeks to make social network analysis methods accessible to students and scholars of disaster policy. Using a network of disaster reconstruction committee members from our own research, we demonstrate different techniques for network visualization, analysis, and statistics. First, we introduce readers to the logic and types of networks they may encounter, drawing from recent examples. Second, we lay out a process for analyzing networks, describing centrality measures, visualization, and statistical models. These techniques predominantly use R. These accessible techniques allow us to identify what kinds of social ties affect recovery and how we can leverage these to improve disaster outcomes.

    • with Courtney Page-Tan & Daniel Aldrich

How do disasters affect individuals’ social ties? The impacts of disaster experiences and the perceived risks of disasters on participation in voluntary associations (in International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 2019)

  • This study focused on the way individuals’ past experiences with disasters and their perceived risks of disasters affect their involvement in voluntary associations, which are important indicators of social capital. Moreover, as recent social capital studies have examined the different types of associations that contribute to the formation of social capital in various ways, for this present study, associations were categorized as civic, reward-based, and social/recreational. The results indicate that both respondents’ experiences with disasters and their perceived risks of disasters tend to increase both the number of associations in which they participate and their degree of involvement. However, experiences related to disasters had a higher impact on the number of associations in which residents participate than on their degree of involvement. Individuals’ experiences with disasters also increased their tendency to join civic associations, whereas their perceived risks of disasters increased partici- pation in both civic and reward-based associations. Social/recreational associations were not significantly af- fected by either disaster experiences or the perceived risks of a disaster.

    • with Juheon Lee

A Janus-Faced Resource: Social Capital and Resilience Trade-Offs (Chapter, 2018)

  • Much research has underscored the critical role played by social capital in building resilience in communities and organizations. In a time of crisis, we know that individuals with more connections embedded in communities that are more cohesive and better connected horizontally and vertically have higher survival rates and better recoveries compared to similar individuals and locations that are less connected. Yet, a more nuanced analysis reveals resilience trade-offs between types of these social connections. This piece investigates how different types of social ties, including bonding, bridging, and linking ties, create different resilience trajectories for neighborhoods and institutions, and how they impart dynamic effects on pre-disaster neighborhood vulnerability.

    • with Daniel Aldrich & Courtney Page-Tan

COVID-19 To Go? The Role of Disasters and Evacuation in the COVID-19 Pandemic (preprint)

  • Since the start of the pandemic, some U.S. communities have faced record storms, fires, and floods. Communities have confronted the increased challenge of curbing the spread of COVID-19 amid evacuation orders and short-term displacement that result from hazards. This raises the question of whether disasters, evacuations, and displacements have resulted in aboveaverage infection rates during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study investigates the relationship between disaster damage, sheltering-in-place, evacuation-related mobility, and contagion following Hurricane Zeta in Southeastern Louisiana and The Wildfires in Napa and Sonoma Counties, California, known as the Glass Fire. We draw on data from the county subdivision level and mapped and aggregated tallies of Facebook user movement from the Facebook Data for Good Program. We test the effects of disasters, evacuation, and shelter-in-place behaviors on COVID19 spread using panel data models, matched panel models, and synthetic control experiments. Our findings suggest associations between disaster damage and higher rates of COVID-19 cases. We also find that while sheltering-in-place led to decreases in the spread of COVID-19, evacuation related mobility did not result in our hypothesized surge of cases immediately after the disasters. The findings from this study aim to inform policymakers and scholars about how to better respond to disasters during multi-crisis events.

    • with Courtney Page-Tan

Mapping Social Capital and Community Resilience (4 works)

Japanese social capital and social vulnerability indices: Measuring drivers of community resilience 2000–2017 (in International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 2021)

  • Download indices here!

  • Recently, scholars have turned to publicly available data to measure the resources and vulnerability of communities in the face of disasters [1,2]. However, when measuring community resilience to climate change, custom surveys of social capital are often costly or unfeasible to conduct for every community in a country. Despite suffering numerous disasters in the last thirty years, Japanese disaster scholarship lacks municipality- level measures of social capital and social vulnerability. This study uses publicly available data to develop new bonding, bridging, and linking social capital indices, paired with a new social vulnerability index, available for each of Japan’s 1741 municipalities, using principal component analysis and validation techniques. Scholars and policymakers can directly apply these indices to evaluate the social capital or vulnerability of specific communities, compare across multiple communities, model their effect of outcomes, and better prepare for future disasters.

Mapping Resilience: GIS Techniques for Disaster Studies (Chapter, 2021)

  • Geographic information system (GIS) programs, such as Esri’s ArcGIS and qGIS, are arguably among the most powerful tools available to scholars of natural hazards . GIS and its tools equip users to extract, select, and manipulate complex datasets rooted in geography. Users can overlay datasets, such as FEMA flood maps, with income and poverty data from the U.S. Census to gain additional insights into how many households living in poverty are also vulnerable to flooding events during a disruptive storm surge. This chapter provides an overview of the GIS methods and techniques commonly employed by researchers of natural hazards. In doing so, each section will provide a brief overview and summary of the tools discussed, common questions that can be addressed by the tools, and examples from researchers who have applied those tools in actual cases of hazards and disasters. This chapter is by no means an exhaustive overview of all the tools at our disposal. Instead, this chapter provides an initial overview of the commonly used spatial tools to familiarize students and researchers on how GIS tools and techniques can be applied to studying natural hazards. This chapter proceeds in the following order: a brief introduction to raster and vector data and overviews of some of the more popular tools used in conducting an overlay analysis, proximity analysis, surface creation and analysis, spatial statistics, and analyzing patterns in ArcMap , the flagship GIS program of Esri’s ArcGIS. There are other programs available to users, such as qGIS and sf, leaf let, raster, mapview, and tmap packages in R, open-source alternatives to ArcMap.

    • with Courtney Page-Tan & Daniel Aldrich

Won't You Be My Neighbor? Uncovering ties between Social Capital and COVID-19 Outcomes at Local Levels (pre-print)

  • Over the past thirty years, disaster scholars have highlighted that communities with stronger social infrastructure - including social ties that enable trust, mutual aid, and collective action - tend to respond to and recover better from crisis. However, comprehensive measurements of social capital across communities have been rare. This study adapts Kyne and Aldrich’s (2019) county-level social capital index to the census-tract level, generating social capital indices from 2011 to 2018 at the census-tract, zipcode, and county subdivision levels. To demonstrate their usefulness to disaster planners, public health experts, and local officials, we paired these with the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index to predict the incidence of COVID-19 in case studies in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and Illinois. We found that social capital and social vulnerability predicted as much as 95% of the variation in COVID outbreaks, highlighting their power as diagnostic and predictive tools for combating the spread of COVID.

Grassroots vs. Greenhouse: The role of Environmental Organizations in reducing Carbon Emissions (pre-print)

  • Why do some communities see fewer greenhouse gas emissions than others? This study examines the intervening role of environmental NGOs in Japanese urban emissions between 2005 and 2017. We draw from a population of all 1741 Japanese municipalities, testing the effect of grassroots NGOs on emissions, and demonstrating different pathways to reducing emissions through the cases of three environmental organizations. While past studies have examined the role of social ties in environmental governance outcomes like emissions reduction efforts, the direct roles of grassroots organizations have not yet been explored in a mixed methods design. We find that cities with more local grassroots organizations and multi-level organizations tend to see fewer emissions over time, a compelling endorsement of civil society efforts to avert climate change. This study aims to build a theory on what kinds of environmental NGOs promote climate change adaptation.

Social Capital and Pandemic Resilience (4 works)

Bowling alone or distancing together? The role of social capital in excess death rates from COVID-19 (in Social Science & Medicine)

  • Much attention on the spread and impact of the ongoing pandemic has focused on institutional factors such as government capacity along with population-level characteristics such as race, income, and age. This paper draws on a growing body of evidence that bonding, bridging, and linking social capital - the horizontal and vertical ties that bind societies together - impact public health to explain why some U.S. counties have seen higher (or lower) excess deaths during the COVID19 pandemic than others. Drawing on county-level reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) since February 2020, we calculated the number of excess deaths per county compared to 2018. Starting with a panel dataset of county observations over time, we used coarsened exact matching to create smaller but more similar sets of communities that differ primarily in social capital. Controlling for several factors, including politics and governance, health care quality, and demographic characteristics, we find that bonding and linking social capital reduce the toll of COVID-19 on communities. Public health officials and community organizations should prioritize building and maintaining strong social ties and trust in government to help combat the pandemic

    • with Daniel Aldrich & Courtney Page-Tan

The dual effect of social capital on COVID-19 spread in Japan (in Nature Scientific Reports)

  • We investigate why some communities experience worse COVID-19 outcomes than others. Past studies have linked the resilience of communities against crisis to social vulnerability and the capacity of local governments to provide public goods and services like health care. Disaster studies, which frequently examine the efect of social ties and mobility, may better help illuminate the current spread of COVID-19. We analyze Japan’s 47 prefectures from February 12 to August 31 using 62,722 individual confrmed cases of COVID-19, paired with daily tallies of aggregate Facebook user movement among neighborhoods. Controlling for mobility levels, health care systems, government fnance, gender balance, age, income, and education levels of communities, our analysis indicates that areas with strong linking social ties see no or far lower levels of COVID-19 case rates initially. However, case fatality rates rise in such communities once the disease enters as they lack horizontal (bonding) ties which can mitigate its health impacts. We anticipate this study to be a starting point for broader studies of how social ties and mobility infuence COVID-19 outcomes worldwide along with shining a light on how diferent types of social relationships play diferent roles as a crisis or disaster progresses.

    • with Daniel Aldrich

Social Ties, Quarantine Policy, and the Spread of COVID-19 (report for Natural Hazards Center)

  • COVID-19 remains a major challenge for nations around the world. Our research uses quantitative methods to try to understand the role of mobility and social networks in COVID-19 related outcomes, especially behaviors such as social distancing, voluntarism, and altruism. Through a survey of more than 800 New York City and Boston residents we seek to correlate social infrastructure (trust, bonding, bridging, and linking ties) and decisions to stay at home (or continue with normal, pre-COVID-19 times) with changes in behavior while controlling for demographic, political, and other factors. While our data analysis is still preliminary, and we have only a few qualitative interviews with which to illuminate our quantitative findings, it is clear that networks, trust, and cohesion continue to have an impact during the ongoing pandemic.

    • with Daniel Aldrich, Juheon Lee, Courtney Page-Tan, & Toshiaki Yoshida

Where the Grass is Greener: Social Infrastructure and Resilience to COVID-19 (pre-print)

  • COVID-19 remains a major challenge for nations around the world. Our research uses quantitative methods to try to understand the role of mobility and social networks in COVID-19 related outcomes, especially behaviors such as social distancing, voluntarism, and altruism. Through a survey of more than 800 New York City and Boston residents we seek to correlate social infrastructure (trust, bonding, bridging, and linking ties) and decisions to stay at home (or continue with normal, pre-COVID-19 times) with changes in behavior while controlling for demographic, political, and other factors. While our data analysis is still preliminary, and we have only a few qualitative interviews with which to illuminate our quantitative findings, it is clear that networks, trust, and cohesion continue to have an impact during the ongoing pandemic.

Political Polarization and Health (2 works)

Bridging the Divide: Bridging the Divide: Does Social Capital Moderate the Impact of Polarization on Health? (in Political Research Quarterly)

  • Rising partisan polarization in the American public over the last decade has been linked to stress and anxiety, raising questions about how communities and public health experts should respond. As the strength of an individual’s social network correlates with better health outcomes, could building a diverse set of connections moderate the effect of political polarization on an individual’s health? This study examines the role of social capital as a key intervening variable in the relationship between polarization and health. Drawing on a nationally representative survey of 2,752 U.S. residents conducted in December 2019 compared with county-level data, we use negative binomial, logit, and gamma models to examine the interaction between indicators of political polarization and bonding, bridging, and linking social capital on physical and mental health outcomes. We find consistent evidence that bonding social ties intervene to improve the physical and mental health of individuals in polarized communities, while bridging ties are related to worse health for politically isolated residents. By highlighting the relationship between polarization, social networks, and health, our findings shed light on how public health experts, and policymakers can improve health outcomes in polarized communities.

    • With Costas Panagopoulos, Daniel Aldrich, David Hummel, & Daniel Kim

Is divisive politics making Americans sick? Associations of perceived partisan polarization with physical and mental health outcomes among adults in the United States (in Social Science & Medicine)

  • To investigate whether changes in perceived partisan polarization since the 2016 US presidential election and current perceptions of polarization are associated with the onset of physical and mental health conditions in adults. We surveyed a nationally-representative sample (n = 2752) of US adults between December 2019 and January 2020. We used multivariable logistic regression to estimate associations between perceived polarization and the incidence of hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, and anxiety, depressive, and sleep disorders in or after 2016 and current self-rated health. Our secondary exposure variables measured perceptions of mass and elite polarization at the state and national level. Perceived mass polarization measured perceptions of the partisan gap between Democrat and Republican voters; perceived elite polarization measured perceptions of the partisan gap between Democrat and Republican elected officials. Participants reporting an increase in polarization had 52–57% higher odds of developing depressive disorders (OR = 1.52, 95% CI: 1.01, 2.29, P = 0.047) and anxiety disorders (OR = 1.57, 95% CI: 1.07, 2.29, P = 0.02) compared to participants who perceived no change in polarization. Those reporting high (vs. low) levels of perceived state-level mass polarization had a 49% higher odds of incident depressive disorders (P = 0.03). Participants who perceived high levels of state-level elite polarization reported a 71% higher odds of incident depressive disorders (P = 0.004) and a 49% higher odds of incident sleep disorders (P = 0.03). Perceptions of partisan polarization may represent important factors that are linked to the onset of mental health and sleep disorders.

    • With Sameera Nayak, Costas Panagopoulos, Daniel Aldrich, & Daniel Kim

Social Capital’s Role in Renewable Energy Transition (5 works)

Does social capital boost or block renewable energy siting? South African solar politics in comparison (in Energy Research & Social Science, 2021)

  • When disaster strikes, urban planners often rely on feedback and guidance from committees of officials, residents, and interest groups when crafting reconstruction policy. Focusing on recovery planning committees after Japan's 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters, we compile and analyze a dataset on committee membership patterns across 39 committees with 657 members. Using descriptive statistics and social network analysis, we examine 1) how community representation through membership varied among committees, and 2) in what ways did committees share members, interlinking members from certain interests groups. This study finds that community representation varies considerably among committees, negatively related to the prevalence of experts, bureaucrats, and business interests. Committee membership overlap occurred heavily along geographic boundaries, bridged by engineers and government officials. Engineers and government bureaucrats also tend to be connected to more members of the committee network than community representatives, giving them prized positions to disseminate ideas about best practices in recovery. This study underscores the importance of diversity and community representation in disaster recovery planning to facilitate equal participation, information access, and policy implementation across communities.

Build Back Better? Effects of Crisis on Climate Change Adaptation Through Solar Power in Japan and the United States (in Global Environmental Politics, 2021)

  • When disaster strikes, urban planners often rely on feedback and guidance from committees of officials, residents, and interest groups when crafting reconstruction policy. Focusing on recovery planning committees after Japan's 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters, we compile and analyze a dataset on committee membership patterns across 39 committees with 657 members. Using descriptive statistics and social network analysis, we examine 1) how community representation through membership varied among committees, and 2) in what ways did committees share members, interlinking members from certain interests groups. This study finds that community representation varies considerably among committees, negatively related to the prevalence of experts, bureaucrats, and business interests. Committee membership overlap occurred heavily along geographic boundaries, bridged by engineers and government officials. Engineers and government bureaucrats also tend to be connected to more members of the committee network than community representatives, giving them prized positions to disseminate ideas about best practices in recovery. This study underscores the importance of diversity and community representation in disaster recovery planning to facilitate equal participation, information access, and policy implementation across communities.

    • With Lily Cunningham & Amos Nasongo

Climate Crisis at City Hall: How Japanese communities mobilize to eliminate emissions (in Environmental Innovations and Societal Transitions, 2020)

  • Why do some communities develop better environmental governance outcomes than others? Past research tends to focus on national governments, explaining how states with better environmental governance outcomes tend to have more resources, such as stronger government capacity, or fewer obstacles, like fewer ties to major polluting industries. This study tests whether the social capital and community-building policies of local governments improve their environmental governance outcomes. This mixed-methods study looks at the case of all 1741 Japanese munic- ipalities from 2005 to 2017, modeling greenhouse gas emissions across 4 different sectors of the economy, paired with three case studies of high performing municipalities. This study finds that cities with stronger bonding and bridging social capital bolster the institutional capacity of cities, improving the effectiveness of their emissions reduction programs. By leveraging citizens’ social ties, cities can accelerate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions while improving civic engagement locally.

    • With Lily Cunningham, Mary Bancroft, Amy Hunt, Eri Lee, & Amos Nasongo

How Governance and Disasters shape Renewable Energy Transitions: The case of Japanese mega-solar (in Social Science Quarterly, 2019)

  • This mixed-methods study examines whether governance and disasters affect towns that host more renewable power plants, focusing on solar facilities in Japan after the 3/11 disaster. I tested the effects of various factors on multiple sizes of feed-in tariff certified solar power plants with negative binomial models. I confirmed those effects through process tracing using 14 interviews with local stakeholders from two prefectural case studies. Most prefectures boost solar power plant siting, especially for small plants 10–499 kilowatts (kW) in size. However, towns more damaged by disaster host less 10–499 kW plants because disasters create land-use problems for solar. When prefectures share information about renewable resources with local residents, they can compete more evenly with extra-prefectural companies. However, disaster areas face extra governance challenges when introducing solar. Good subnational governance is vital to creating a more equitable, locally engaged renewable energy transition.

Japan’s resilient, renewable cities: how socioeconomics and local policy drive Japan’s renewable energy transition (in Environmental Politics, 2019)

  • This mixed-methods study examines whether governance and disasters affect towns that host more renewable power plants, focusing on solar facilities in Japan after the 3/11 disaster. I tested the effects of various factors on multiple sizes of feed-in tariff certified solar power plants with negative binomial models. I confirmed those effects through process tracing using 14 interviews with local stakeholders from two prefectural case studies. Most prefectures boost solar power plant siting, especially for small plants 10–499 kilowatts (kW) in size. However, towns more damaged by disaster host less 10–499 kW plants because disasters create land-use problems for solar. When prefectures share information about renewable resources with local residents, they can compete more evenly with extra-prefectural companies. However, disaster areas face extra governance challenges when introducing solar. Good subnational governance is vital to creating a more equitable, locally engaged renewable energy transition.

Japanese Energy Policy & Sustainability (9 works)

Social Sustainability in Cities: Urban Energy (Chapter, 2021)

  • The sustainability of urban energy generates a very big challenge for the countries, since it is necessary to ensure that the energy remains available for the activities of each city and at the same time it is necessary to invest in obtaining sustainable energy resources and the construction of the infrastructure corresponding for the use of this sustainable energy. We describe this through a case study of the construction of the Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega-Solar Farm in Southwestern Japan.

    • with Andrew Chapman

Drivers of social equity in renewable energy at the municipal level: the case of local Japanese energy policy and preferences (in Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, 2020)

  • Recent research has allowed us to quantify the costs and benefits of adopting renewable energy in specific municipalities, but how do these outcomes vary among communities at the national scale? This study uses survey responses from 47 Japanese municipalities to model these impacts and identifies key technological, social, and demographic factors that shape which communities benefit more from the renewable energy transition. On average, introducing renewable energy improves social equity, any financial burden on electricity prices is born most by wealthier residents, not the poor, and towns are predisposed to benefit from renewables no matter the amount introduced. To improve these impacts, towns can increase the amount of solar they host, or they can adjust the amount of CO2 emissions, PM emissions, tax revenue, jobs gained, or unpopular renewable power plants in their town. However, preferences and demographics matter as well. Age, education, and local preferences in favor of employment and community development all significantly relate to equity potential outcomes. Policymakers should consider adjusting their local energy priorities using these levers if they hope to engineer a renewable energy transition that is both positive and popular for their constituents.

    • with Andrew Chapman

The Fukushima effect at home: The changing role of domestic actors in Japanese energy policy (in Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews Climate Change, 2020)

  • This paper reviews the changing role of domestic political institutions, including local governments and courts, in Japan's energy policy over the 8 years since the Fukushima disaster, focusing on the nuclear and renewable power industries. We explain how a variety of hidden subsidies created financial dependency in communities hosting nuclear power plants and led to local officials hoping to restart nuclear power plants after the meltdowns despite wide‐scale opposition. Later, the introduction of a feed‐in tariff (FiT) brought a wider range of towns into the field of renewable energy, but vulnerable towns with weaker social networks continue to bear a large share of Japan's energy infrastructure. Courts, prefectures, and local firms have become intervening agents in the renewable energy market, but utilities have pushed back, encouraging the state to overturn the FiT and create auctions for renewable power contracts instead. With subnational governments and courts more powerful in energy policy since the meltdowns, and a variety of new actors involved in renewable energy, post‐Fukushima energy policy has become more democratized.

    • with Daniel Aldrich

Role of energy finance in geothermal power development in Japan (in International Review of Economics & Finance, 2020)

  • The Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011 drastically changed the energy consumption pattern of Japan. Not being able to rely on nuclear energy, the country turned to fossil fuels and attempted to increase the share of renewable energy in its electricity generation mix. This paper will explore why geothermal energy is stagnating in Japan, despite the availability of resources and technologies. The paper first analyzes the various barriers to geothermal energy deployment in Japan from social, legal, economic, financial and technical viewpoints. The major contribution of this study is the quantification of the magnitude each barrier and supportive policy has on the development of geothermal power, with a special focus given to energy finance measures. The analysis is performed using a Vector Error Correction Model (VECM) using data from 1974 to 2017 and identifies the existence of a long-term relationship between variables, public research and development expenditures and the Feed-in-Tariff scheme. The latter appears to be the most efficient stimuli to foster geothermal power generation. Subsidies in their current form, on the other hand, have mixed results both in the long and short term. Environmental concerns and social opposition, on the other hand, appear to be among the major barriers in both the short and long term.

    • with Farhad Taghizadeh-Hesary, Aline Mortha, Hadi Farabi-Asl, Tapan Sarker, Andrew Chapman, & Yosuke Shigetomi

Japan’s mega solar boom: quantifying social equity expectations and realities at the local scale (in Sustainability Science, 2019)

  • This research aims to quantitatively identify the variation in equity and burden distribution associated with mega-solar siting at the local level in Japan, and to identify mega-solar siting outcomes in each region and prefecture, in terms of social equity and burden distribution outcomes relative to stated preferences. Methodologies employed include survey and interviews to identify critical energy policy factors associated with mega-solar siting, and their perceived importance according to local officials associated with deployment. Building on the critical factor and important findings from 29 of Japan’s largest 200 mega-solar sites, a quantitative analysis of social equity outcomes in terms of health, environmental improvement, electricity prices, employment and community development is undertaken. Additionally, an analysis of the burden distribution resultant from mega-solar deployment in each region is undertaken. In all cases explored, mega-solar deployment leads to an improvement in social equity levels, with desirable burden distribution which closes the gap between rich and poor. Regional and local factors impact upon the comparative equity and burden distribution outcomes between sites, notably pre-existing particulate matter concentrations and employment changes between fossil fuel and renewable industries, and the reduction of electricity tariffs. These findings identify challenges and opportunities for policy makers and the proactive, equitable deployment of mega solar based on national, regional and local attributes.

    • With Andrew Chapman

East Asia's Nuclear Policies Fukushima Effect or a Nuclear Renaissance? (in Georgetown Journal of Asian Affairs, 2019)

  • Nuclear power’s massive sunk-cost structure and embeddedness in national energy plans have made massive changes in the field unlikely in East Asian nations. Since the Fukushima disaster, civil society held large-scale protests, referenda, and petitions against nuclear power, but their results have been mixed. Contentious politics have successfully put new nuclear safety laws on the books in Japan, South Korea, and China, but have failed to overpower the nuclear lobby and shift the trajectory of nuclear power in their countries. Only Taiwan has managed to secure an exit from nuclear power. Civil society has helped push governments to change regulatory institutions, but civil society organizations have had limited impact on nuclear restart decisions. We outline why we should not expect major change in East Asian nuclear policy to come from civil society, and we discuss alternative avenues for civil society to achieve lasting change in energy policy in East Asia.

    • with Daniel Aldrich

Social Equity Impacts in Japan’s Mega Solar Siting Process (in Energy for Sustainable Development, 2018)

  • Japan's energy market has seen the siting and construction of over 2800 new mega-solar power plants since the introduction of the Feed-in Tariff policy in 2012 (Kitamoto, 2017). While scholars have highlighted the potential for community-engaged renewable power development with social benefits for local residents, many major mega-solar projects have instead resulted from industry-led initiatives in locations, largely avoiding community engagement. In this study, we draw from distributive energy justice perspectives to analyze social equity impacts of the mega-solar siting process. We employ qualitative content analysis on 29 survey responses from local officials around Japan's 200 largest mega-solar plants constructed since 2012 and contextualize results through 18 interviews with relevant actors in six case studies. We find that given the existence of the Feed-in Tariff and sufficient solar irradiation, the availability of underutilized land decreases community bargaining power compared to historical power plant siting agreements. This results in primarily land leasing benefits and municipal tax revenue with minimal additional social impacts, such as employment. We outline a model of causation for megasolar social equity impacts, Japanese policy implications, and directions for future quantitative research.

    • With Andrew Chapman

All Politics is Local: Judicial and Electoral Institutions’ Role in Japan’s Nuclear Restarts (in Pacific Affairs, 2017)

  • Since the 3/11 compounded disasters, Japanese energy policy, especially its nuclear policy, has been paralyzed. After the Fukushima disasters, public opinion turned against nuclear energy while the central government continued to push for restarts of the many offline reactors. Based on nearly thirty interviews with relevant actors and primary and secondary materials, we use qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) and five case studies to illuminate the impact of conditions influencing reactor restarts in Japan after 3/11. We investigate which local actors hold the greatest power to veto nuclear power policy, and why and when they choose to use it. Key decisions in nuclear power policy involve approval from multiple institutions with varying legal jurisdiction, making vetoes the result of multiple actors and conditions. Certain legal and political factors, such as court, regulator, and gubernatorial opposition (or support), matter more than technical factors (such as the age of the reactor or its size) and other political factors (such as town council or prefectural assembly opposition or support). Local politics can stymie a national government’s nuclear policy goals through combinations of specific physical conditions and vetoes from relevant actors, rather than through the actions of local opposition or single “heroic” governors. Our findings challenge the assumption that utilities unilaterally accept a governor’s vetoes, but reinforce the notion that specific judicial and electoral veto players are blocking an otherwise expected return to a pro-nuclear status quo.

Hydrogen Import Pathway Comparison Framework incorporating Cost and Social Preference: Case studies from Australia to Japan (in International Journal of Energy Research, 2017)

  • Recent proposals to produce and import hydrogen from Australia to Japan for elec- tricity generation raise questions about how to compare the costs and feasibilities of different hydrogen import pathways. This paper establishes a framework for the comparison of technological, economic, and social costs and feasibility. The frame- work is then applied to 3 potential production and import case studies. First, a benchmark case study is considered which uses Australian brown coal from the Latrobe Valley combined with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology. The second and third comparative case studies use renewable energy and electroly- sis near port facilities in Karratha, Western Australia, using solar power exclusively as the renewable energy source, and Gladstone, Queensland, using a combination of onshore wind and solar‐based generation. The study finds that comparative pilot project generation costs for the brown coal pathway are between approximately 5.9 and 15.4 yen/kWh cheaper than for solar and/or wind‐based pathways. However, limitations of scaling up CCS, a limited brown coal supply, long‐term reducing costs of renewables, and the prospect to develop complementary renewable infrastructure make a strong counterargument for investment in solar and wind pathways as an alternative to brown coal and CCS.

    • With Andrew Chapman and Kenshi Itaoka

Scholarly Networks (2 works)

Connecting Social Capital and Vulnerability: Citation Network Analysis of Disaster Studies (in Natural Hazard Review, 2021)

  • A growing body of disaster scholarship uses qualitative and quantitative methods to illuminate the role of social capital and social networks in recovery and resilience outcomes. However, this approach seems disconnected from older approaches based on broader themes such as vulnerability. Which school of thought is more prominent in disaster social science, and to what degree are these fields interconnected? To address this question, this study used network analysis to visualize citation patterns, schools of thought, and influential authors from 912 articles on disasters. This analysis finds that while all clusters of disaster research deal with some kind of vulnerability—such as age, poverty, race, and gender—only one of six main research clusters engages scholarship on social capital. Despite this gap, the most influential works in the field point to strong synergies between social capital and vulnerability research. This work highlights the role of social capital in helping to understand how vulnerable populations can organize to mitigate disaster outcomes, and using the insights of vulnerability scholars on race and gender to improve social capital scholars’ understanding of bridging and bonding social ties in disaster recovery.

    • With Daniel Aldrich & Andrew Small

Investigating Ties between Energy Policy and Social Equity Research: A Citation Network Analysis (in Social Sciences, 2019)

  • Japan's energy market has seen the siting and construction of over 2800 new mega-solar power plants since the introduction of the Feed-in Tariff policy in 2012 (Kitamoto, 2017). While scholars have highlighted the potential for community-engaged renewable power development with social benefits for local residents, many major mega-solar projects have instead resulted from industry-led initiatives in locations, largely avoiding community engagement. In this study, we draw from distributive energy justice perspectives to analyze social equity impacts of the mega-solar siting process. We employ qualitative content analysis on 29 survey responses from local officials around Japan's 200 largest mega-solar plants constructed since 2012 and contextualize results through 18 interviews with relevant actors in six case studies. We find that given the existence of the Feed-in Tariff and sufficient solar irradiation, the availability of underutilized land decreases community bargaining power compared to historical power plant siting agreements. This results in primarily land leasing benefits and municipal tax revenue with minimal additional social impacts, such as employment. We outline a model of causation for megasolar social equity impacts, Japanese policy implications, and directions for future quantitative research.

    • With Andrew Chapman and Melanie Dennis/Fraser

Dissertation

Communities in Crisis: How Cities Adapt to Climate Change in the US and Japan

Why do some cities adapt to climate change hazards better than others? Climate resilience initiatives are modern redistributive policies that struggle to achieve electoral support because their benefits are diffuse, except to the most vulnerable in society who need them. Yet increasingly, some cities recover from crisis more effectively than others, evacuate their citizens from storms better than others, or adopt more resilient, renewable energy systems than others. Conventional wisdom holds that cities adapt better due to better technocratic policy like infrastructure quality, or struggle to adapt because they have host vulnerable populations, but these traits of cities are difficult to intervene in. Instead, this dissertation hypothesizes that greater community resources like social capital and "soft" policies; community-focused policy toolkits help cities to mobilize and accelerate adaptation to climate change.


To test this, I examine three parallel questions: 1) Why do some municipalities recovery from disaster better than others? 2) Why do cities see greater evacuation than others? 3) Why do some towns adopt renewable energy technologies more than others?


I measure recovery, evacuation, and renewable energy adoption as indicators of adaptation to hazards. I draw from case studies in Japan and the US. For recovery, I examine the 2011 triple disaster in Japan, generalizing a method of measuring social capital to Japan and using it to predict recovery. For evacuation, I explain evacuation of Facebook users during Hurricane Dorian in Florida in 2019. For adaptation, I explain solar power adoption from 2012-2019 in Japan.


This dissertation tests its hypotheses using multiple methods, including statistical modeling, social network analysis, geographic information systems, matching experiments, surveys, fieldwork, and interviews. By analyzing how grassroots community resources and policy toolkits affect adaptation, evacuation, and recovery, this dissertation aims to clarify how multiple actors, including cities, companies, and elected officials, can intervene in socially and physically vulnerable cities to improve climate change adaptation in cities.

Recovery

Paper #1: Japanese Social Capital and Social Vulnerability Indices: Measuring Drivers of Community Resilience 2000-2017

Evacuation

Paper #2: In Friends We Trust? Soft Policy and the Dual Effect of Social Capital in Evacuation

Renewable Energy

Paper #3: How Urban Regimes and Social Capital build Solar Cities

Collaborating Researchers

Daniel Aldrich

Northeastern University

Courtney Page-Tan

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Andrew Chapman

Kyushu University

Pinar Temocin

Hiroshima University

Costas Panagopoulos

Northeastern University

Sameera Nayak

Northeastern University

Juheon Lee

Midwestern State University

Melanie Fraser

Southern New Hampshire University

Daniel Kim

Northeastern University

Frequent Student Coauthors

Larissa Morikawa

Andrew Small

Lily Cunningham

Mary Bancroft

Eri Lee

Amos Nasongo

Together, these students and I applied data science techniques and published 6 peer-reviewed studies in top journals in environmental policy, including:

  • Global Environmental Change

  • Environmental Innovations & Societal Transitions

  • Climate Risk Management

  • Journal of Environmental Management

  • Global Environmental Politics

  • and more!

Nikki Naquin

Dustin Hinkley

Amy Hunt

Public Scholarship & Press