Rice University logoShell Center for Sustainability
Top blue bar image
  • Shell Center for Sustainability
  • Shell Center for Sustainability
  • Shell Center for Sustainability
Facebook btnRSS


The Shell Center for Sustainability's mission is to foster an interdisciplinary program of research, outreach, and education to address actions that can be taken to ensure the sustainable development of communities' living standards, interpreted broadly, to encompass all factors affecting the overall quality of life.


Sustainability Challenges Facing Similar Cities


Michael Emerson, Ph.D., Department of Sociology, Rice University
Amy Myers-Jaffe, Baker Institute Fellow, Rice University
Steven Lewis, Ph.D., Baker Institute Fellow, Department of Asian Studies, Rice University
Stephen Klineberg, Ph.D., Department of Sociology, Rice University

 Michael Emerson
 Dr. Michael Emerson
 Amy Jaffe 
Amy Myers Jaffe
 Stephen Klineberg 
Dr. Stephen Klineberg

Project Background

The project seeks to assess the dimensions of the challenges facing major, low-lying metropoles, particularly those whose economies are supportd by a large petrochemical industrial base. Specifically, Houston, Shanghai, Tianjin, and Guangzhou. The project brings together the Center on Race, Religion, and Urban Life in partnership with the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, and the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS) and Horizon Survey Research of Beijing.

The team will propose a comparative project studying subjective measures of sustainability in coastal cities.

Project Update

With more than one-third of the world's population living within 60 miles of a coastline and thirteen of the world's twenty largest cities located on a coast, the research identifies many similar areas of concern. Given the reality of global warming, these coastal populations will face severe challenges to their sustainability in the decades to come.

As industrial and commercial centers, many coastal cities are contributors to high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore face the prospects of greater regulation and economic dislocation. In addition, these cities are particularly vulnerable to long-term effects of global warming such as sea-level rise, flooding, air pollution, and severe storms.

The Shell Center for Sustainability Coastal Cities Project seeks to assess the dimensions of the challenges facing major, low-lying estuary metropoles. In its first phase, the study focuses on major coastal cities with a large petrochemical industrial base, including Houston, Los Angeles, New York/Newark, Shanghai, Tianjin and Guangzhou. Research activities include the development of a comprehensive and fully comparable survey of public attitudes and beliefs, conducted jointly in both the United States and China.

After fine-tuning the survey instrument, the data were collected during the first part of 2007. The data was prepared and presented in a way that allowed comparison of U. S. and China results. The results were discussed in a conference held at the Shangai Academy of Social Sciences, in September of 2007. This conference lead to a visti to Fudan University, where Dr. Libo Wu and her students discussed their research in port cities of China, Japan and Indonesia, furthering potential partnerships.

Future effort of this work is to include more regions and nations, especially Latin America providing a more complete picture of urban sustainability and energy use around the globe expanding discussion partners and potential policy reach. 

For more information, visit:

 The Edge 
The Edge, Autumn 2007

The Edge, Autumn 2007 issue, page 7.




Outreach Activities

China & Sustainable Development
September 2004 Seminar

Return to  Research