Solomon Hsiang in foreground with map images in background

Research Expertise and Interest

agriculture, climate change, environment, International, Coupled Natural and Human Systems, political economy, development economics, applied econometrics

Research Description

Solomon Hsiang directs the Global Policy Laboratory at Berkeley, where his team is integrating econometrics, spatial data science, and machine learning to answer questions that are central to rationally managing planetary resources--such as the economic value of the global climate, how the UN can fight wildlife poaching, the effectiveness of COVID-19 policies, and whether satellites and AI can be combined to monitor the entire planet in real time. 

Hsiang earned a BS in Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Science and a BS in Urban Studies and Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and he received a PhD in Sustainable Development from Columbia University. He was a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Applied Econometrics at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy at Princeton University.

Hsiang is currently the Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, a Co-Director at the Climate Impact Lab, Research Associate at the NBER, a National Geographic Explorer, and an Andrew Carnegie Fellow. Hsiang's research has been covered in thousands of media stories and in 2020 he was awarded the President's Medal by the Geological Society of America.

In the News

In White House Meeting, Berkeley Scholar Says Advanced Tech Can Support Nature

Nature is vitally important to the U.S. economy but we tend to take it for granted, doing little to measure the nation’s wealth of natural resources or their economic impact. But at a high-level White House meeting Thursday, Berkeley scholar Solomon Hsiang said that advanced technology is creating powerful new tools for measuring nature’s resources and their economic value.

Air conditioning in a changing climate: a growing rich-poor divide

As the earth’s climate warms, residents of affluent nations will find some relief with air conditioning, but people in lower-income countries may have to pay vastly more for electricity or do without cooling, says a new study co-authored at the University of California, Berkeley.

A machine learning breakthrough uses satellite images to improve lives

More than 700 imaging satellites are orbiting the earth, and every day they beam vast oceans of information to databases on the ground. There’s just one problem: Only those with considerable wealth and expertise can access it. Now, a UC Berkeley team has devised a machine learning system to tap the problem-solving potential of satellite imaging that could bring access and analytical power to researchers and governments worldwide.

Emergency COVID-19 measures prevented more than 500 million infections, study finds

Emergency health measures implemented in six major countries have “significantly and substantially slowed” the spread of the novel coronavirus, according to research from a UC Berkeley team published today in the journal "Nature". The findings come as leaders worldwide struggle to balance the enormous and highly visible economic costs of emergency health measures against their public health benefits, which are difficult to see.

Featured in the Media

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of UC Berkeley.
December 7, 2021
Rachel Delacour, Pia d'Iribarne
Each degree Celsius of warming will erase 1.2 percent of the United States GDP, according to Solomon Hsiang, a climate scientist and economist at the University of California, Berkeley, and the co-director of the research group Climate Impact Lab. If U.S. companies do not act now to halt climate emissions, Hsiang predicts a loss of up to 10.5 percent of annual GDP, which equates to approximately $2.2 trillion per year. Most organizations do not understand the gravity of the need to address emissions now. Businesses across industries and throughout the world are facing an existential threat that can no longer be ignored. It's time to address the impact of rapidly accelerating climate change in the corporate sector. The effect of harmful emissions on the bottom line can't be overstated.
April 20, 2021
Julia Rosen
The science of climate change is more solid and widely agreed upon than you might think. But the scope of the topic, as well as rampant disinformation, can make it hard to separate fact from fiction. A 2017 study found that the poorest one-third of counties, which are concentrated in the South, will experience damages totaling as much as 20% of gross domestic product, while others, mostly in the northern part of the country, will see modest economic gains. Solomon Hsiang, an economist at University of California, Berkeley, and the lead author of the study, has said that climate change "may result in the largest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich in the country's history." For more on this, see our press release at Berkeley News.
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June 10, 2020
Rachel Maddow
Public policy professor Solomon Hsiang, director of Berkeley's Global Policy Laboratory, joined Rachel Maddow to discuss the results of a study he led on the effectiveness of emergency policies intended to slow the spread of COVID-19.  He and his colleagues found that the measures -- including shelter-in-place, business closures, and transportation restrictions, and school closures -- prevented about 60 million COVID-19 infections in the United States and 285 million in China. Since so many people who become infected never get tested or diagnosed, the true number of cases avoided is inevitably much higher, and they estimate that figure in the six countries they studied to be more like 530 million. During the interview, Maddow reads back to Professor Hsiang one of the statements he made in the report, which particularly stunned her. He had said: "I don't think any human endeavor has ever saved so many lives in such a short period of time. There's been huge personal costs to staying home and cancelling events, but the data show each day made a profound difference." She asks him: "Do you mean that literally - that this might have been a collective human endeavor that saved more lives than anything else we've ever done?" He replies: "Absolutely. I think this is an incredible achievement. I mean, the ability to coordinate millions of people to stay home when they don't want to - to take on these hardships to save other people's lives - it's incredible."  Link to video here. For more on this research, see our press release at Berkeley News. Stories on this topic have appeared in more than 1,000 sources around the world now, including NPR and Reuters.
June 8, 2020
Joel Achenbach
Emergency measures -- including shelter-in-place, business closings, and travel bans -- prevented about 60 million COVID-19 infections in the United States and 285 million in China, according to a new study led by public policy professor Solomon Hsiang, director of Berkeley's Global Policy Laboratory. Since so many people who become infected never get tested or diagnosed, the true number of cases avoided is much higher, and they estimate that figure in the six countries they studied to be more like 530 million. "Without these policies employed, we would have lived through a very different April and May," Professor Hsiang says. The study examined how China, the United States, France, Italy, Iran and South Korea responded to the pandemic. "The disease was spreading at a really extraordinary rate that is rare even among very infectious diseases," Professor Hsiang says, crediting the global response for "saving more lives in a shorter period of time than ever before." Timing is all-important, the researchers found, with delayed implementation leading to "dramatically different health outcomes." For more on this, see our press release at Berkeley News. Stories on this topic have appeared in hundreds of sources around the world, including CNN, U.S. News & World Report, Bloomberg Law (link to audio), and KPIX TV (link to video).
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December 20, 2018
A group of sixteen leading climate scientists, including public policy professor Solomon Hsiang, has issued a report asserting that there is more evidence than ever that the Environmental Protection Agency needs to continue regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Supporting the argument, they cite the most conclusive evidence to date that climate change is harming the health and welfare of Americans. The paper comes at a time when the Trump administration and Republican members of Congress are aiming to undo the 2009 decision that included greenhouse gases in the regulatory menu of the Clean Air Act. "Since the original Supreme Court decision, we have learned a huge amount about the potential human and economic costs of climate change, both in the U.S. and around the globe," Professor Hsiang says. "A revolution in interdisciplinary research linking climate science, economics and data science is opening our eyes to what may lie ahead." This story originated at Berkeley News.
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