Decisions on Complex Interdisciplinary Problems of Health and Environmental Risk (D-CIPHER) (2017-2018)

This project team aimed to improve holistic understanding of decisions about complex public health and environmental risks by generating comprehensive case study profiles on specific salient risks and related decisions. The project team brought together focused research expertise from a diverse array of disciplines to tell the story of (and reconsider) past risk-based scenarios from multiple angles.

In 2017-2018, the team focused on fluorinated chemicals. Introduced to replace toxic ammonia as a refrigerant in the 1920s, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were later found to deplete the stratospheric ozone layer. Bans resulted in ozone protection, but primary replacement chemicals are potent greenhouse gases, and some may be flammable or toxic.

The team examined each “decision node” along the story arc of the risk from a variety of vantage points, considering each key decision point, assessing what was known, assumed, decided and how that determined the path forward—and how each decision might have been improved.

The team assessed the engineering and scientific dimensions of the situation; the historical context of the risk; stakeholder perspectives, media and public coverage of the risk(s); the legal and regulatory framework, including statutes, agencies, oversight and potential new regulatory policies; and economic, behavioral, cultural, ethical and sociological considerations involved in identifying and evaluating risk mitigation options.

The team developed a suite of pedagogical tools, including templates for teaching modules on the risks of CFCs using aspects of the team’s methodology and reading guides, and an infographic poster.


Summer 2017 – Summer 2018

Team Outcomes

Khara D. Grieger, Tyler Felgenhaur, Ortwin Renn, Jonathan Wiener, Mark Borsuk. “Emerging Risk Governance for Stratospheric Aerosol Injection as a Climate Management Technology.” 2019. Environment Systems and Decisions 39:371-382.

Richard Di Giulio, Program 3 ($1,194,999 grant awarded from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, 2013)

Richard Di Giulio, Duke University Program in Environmental Health ($1,376,693 grant awarded from the National Institutes of Environmental Health Science, 2014)

Richard Di Giulio, The Impacts of Multiple Environmental Stressors on Fish Populations Native to Estuaries along the Eastern Shore of the United States ($10,000 grant awarded from North Carolina State University and the Water Resources Research Institute, 2016)

Richard Di Giulio, Emily Bernhardt, Heileen Hsu-Kim, Avner Vengosh, Jessica Brandt, Legacy Impacts of Coal Combustion Residues on Freshwater Ecosystems in North Carolina ($59,305 grant awarded from the Water Resources Research Institute and the United States Geological Survey, 2015)

DeCIPHER: The Saga of CFCs, Ozone Depletion, and Climate Change (Mark Borsuk, Kathleen M. Burns, Ryan Calder, Christian Capobianco, Tyler Felgenhauer, Christine Gerbode, Christine Ogilvie Hendren, Elizabeth Hunsaker, Francesca Martella Kehl, Sandy Kendall, Jason Y. Lee, Tasfia Nayem, Holly Ren, Drew Shindell, Amalia Turner, Micaela Unda, Priscilla Wald, Ai Wang, Jonathan B. Wiener), presented at Bass Connections Showcase, April 18, 2018


Tasfia Nayem

Kathleen Burns

Analyzing Risks and Incentives for Global Climate Policy Challenges (Tasfia Nayem)

Lizzie Hunsaker

This Team in the News

“This Is Not a Course, It’s a Joint Research Project:” Advice from a Bass Connections Team Leader

Faculty Perspectives: Jonathan Wiener

Faculty Perspectives: Mark Borsuk

Jonathan Wiener on Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Narrating Climate Change and Weathering Environmental Risk

New Year’s Eve in the City of Oaks

Project on Health and Environmental Risk Invites Students to Join Team in Spring

Designing for Extremes: CEE Program Challenges Students to Plan for the Unexpected

See related team DECIPHER: Case Studies in Drinking Water Quality (2018-2019).

no CFCs 1989

Team Leaders

  • Mark Borsuk, Pratt School of Engineering-Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • Richard Di Giulio, Nicholas School of the Environment
  • Christine Ogilvie Hendren, Pratt School of Engineering-Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • Drew Shindell, Nicholas School of the Environment-Earth and Ocean Sciences
  • Jonathan Wiener, Duke Law

/graduate Team Members

  • Kathleen Burns, English-PHD
  • Christian Capobianco, Bioethics and Sci Policy - AM
  • Christine Gerbode, Master of Environmental Management, Environmental Economics/Policy, Non Degree
  • Elizabeth Hunsaker, Chemistry-PHD
  • Yongwoo Lee, Master of Environmental Management, Environmental Economics/Policy
  • Tasfia Nayem, Master of Environmental Management, Environmental Economics/Policy
  • Amalia Turner, Civil & Environmental Engg-PHD
  • Ai Wang, Master of Environmental Management, Environmental Economics/Policy

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Alexandra Fisher, Public Policy Studies (AB), Religion (AB2)
  • Sandra Kendall, Political Science (AB)
  • Francesca Martella Kehl, Environmental Sciences (BS), GCS in Literature Progrm (AB2)
  • Holly Ren, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Micaela Unda, Environmental Sci/Policy (AB)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Lori Bennear, Nicholas School of the Environment-Environmental Sciences and Policy
  • Prasad Kasibhatla, Nicholas School of the Environment-Environmental Sciences and Policy
  • Peter Ubel, Fuqua School of Business
  • Priscilla Wald, Arts & Sciences-English
  • Robert Wolpert, Arts & Sciences-Statistical Science