Cities Research Seminar Series: Opening up Air Quality Data in China: The @BeijingAir Twitter Story
A seminar led by Erica Thomas, a U.S diplomat, who tells a story on the evolution of U.S. State Department and EPA's joint air monitoring program at U.S. diplomatic posts abroad.
Ten years ago, U.S. Embassy Beijing installed an air quality monitor on its roof. The resulting data created one of the most successful science diplomacy stories in recent history and launched a global air quality monitoring program that now has 26 participating U.S. embassies and consulates and 50 virtual Air Quality Fellows. Erica led the Beijing embassy team that ran the monitor from 2010-2014 and oversaw the expansion to the U.S. consulates in Guangzhou, Shanghai, Chengdu, and Shenyang. With better data, the world has become increasingly aware of the toll of air pollution on human health, the economy, agriculture, and the environment. Studies show that air pollution is a factor in one in every ten deaths in the world – and is responsible for an estimated $225 billion in lost labor income and more than $5 trillion in welfare losses.
Speaker: Erica Thomas
Erica is the Office Director for the Middle East and Asia in the Bureau of Energy Resources (ENR) at the United States Department of State. She previously served as ENR’s Chief of Staff. Prior to working in ENR, Erica served as the Counselor for Energy, Environment, Science and Technology at the U.S. Mission to the European Union. Erica has served multiple tours at the U.S. Embassy Beijing. From 2010-2014, while Erica was serving as the Environment, Science, Technology and Health Counselor (ESTH), her team ran an air monitoring program that was pivotal in drawing worldwide attention to China’s air pollution problem, which China is now working diligently to address. From 2006-2008, Erica served as the Economic Trade Unit Chief at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. In 2009, Erica was the Senior Coordinator for the first annual meeting of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, which included approximately twenty U.S. and Chinese cabinet level officials. In earlier tours, Erica covered ESTH issues at the American Institute in Taiwan in Taipei and marine conservation issues in the State Department's Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs in Washington, D.C. Erica began her career at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and worked both at the EPA and at the White House Counsel on Environmental Quality on U.S. preparations for the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. Erica has a Master's in Public Policy from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School, and a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania.
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