Dr. Kyle Meng — Dodging Day Zero: Drought, Adaptation and Inequality in Cape Town, South Africa

Kyle Meng image

Location: Interactive Learning Pavillion (ILP) 1203


Talk Description:

In the coming decades, individuals around the world must adapt to changing environmental conditions, often driven by climate change. Adaptation requires significant resources, prompting the question of whether existing economic and social inequities may be exacerbated when adaptation become accessible to some, but not others. This talk explores what happens when one of the world’s most unequal cities experiences an unprecedented, nearly catastrophic environmental disaster. In 2017, following years of prolonged drought, the city of Cape Town announced an impending ``Day Zero”, at which point pipes would run dry. Using a variety of data sources, we show how households of different wealth levels adapted to Day Zero and discuss the long term implications of Day Zero for Cape Town's water use and public finances.

Speaker Bio:

Kyle Meng is an Associate Professor at the Bren School of Environmental Management and the Department of Economics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research and the Climate and Energy Program Director at the Environmental Markets Solutions Lab. An environmental and resource economist with training in engineering and atmospheric physics, Professor Meng studies the equity and efficiency consequences of environmental policies, with a focus on climate policies. He has published in leading science and economics journals including the American Economic Review, Journal of Political Economy, Nature, Science, and PNAS. His research is frequently covered by national media, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal; and he has appeared before the U.S. Congress. Professor Meng received his PhD in Sustainable Development from Columbia University and his Bachelor’s in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Princeton University. A first-generation immigrant, he was a recipient of the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans.

GRIT Talks:

"Ground-breaking Research/Innovative Technology," or GRIT Talks, is a UC Santa Barbara lecture series featuring a lineup of esteemed faculty. These 28 minute talks, followed by a 30 minute Q&A session, provide an insider look at innovative research happening at the university.