Science, Technology and Society Seminar: STS Circle at Harvard


Monday, February 10, 2020, 12:15pm to 2:00pm


CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street, Room S050

"Black Carbon, Climate, and Air Quality: An Unwinnable 'Win-Win' Situation"


Jonathan Moch, PhD candidate in Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University.


Shuang Lu Frost, PhD candidate in Social Anthropology, Harvard University.


STS Program


The reduction of black carbon is often referred to as a ‘win-win’ for climate and air quality. Unfortunately, it is not possible to accomplish significant reductions in black carbon that simultaneously mitigate global climate change and global air pollution. This is because black carbon is only a tiny portion of total particulate matter, so improvement in air quality from black carbon reduction is due mostly to reductions in co-emitted pollutants, which are reflective and thus have a cooling impact on the planet. Using the paradigm of co-production, I trace the evolution of the concept of black carbon and how it has changed as the politics and understanding of human-caused environmental change have evolved. This talk demonstrates how, as the definition of black carbon itself has changed, society has reordered its priorities so as to chase the idea of easy gains for climate and air quality, even though such gains may never materialize.


Jonathan M. Moch is a Ph.D. candidate in Earth and Planetary Sciences with Harvard's Atmospheric Chemistry Modeling Group and a secondary field student in the Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. His research focuses on the interactions between climate and regional air pollution, as well as the policy and strategic implications of climate issues. Jonathan holds a S.M. in Environmental Science and Engineering from Harvard University and an A.B. with high honors from the Department of Geosciences and from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, with minors in Environmental Studies and Chinese Language and Culture. Prior to arriving at Harvard, Jonathan worked at the World Resources Institute (WRI) as the ChinaFAQs Project Specialist in WRI's Climate and Energy Program.

Co-sponsored by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.


Sheila Jasanoff, Faculty Associate. Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard Kennedy School.

Lunch is provided if you RSVP. via our online form before Wednesday afternoon, January 22:

A complete list of STS Circle at Harvard events can be found on