17 June 2019

Q&A: Improving transportation systems to combat climate change

Paul Kishimoto joined IIASA as a postdoc in August 2018. His research interests include data, methods, and models that can help chart the future of transport energy use and policy.

© Paul Kishimoto

© Paul Kishimoto

Q: Your research focuses largely on transportation. What led you to pursue research in this area?

A: As a young aerospace engineering student, I began to worry about my impact on climate change, which I felt was the biggest challenge facing our society. This worry, along with my experience of living in poorly planned, automobile-dependent cities in North America, helped me see that new technology was not a silver bullet for social problems.

Transportation is a particularly tough area for sustainability, because increased mobility is usually desirable: it allows people to access work, leisure, education, health care, and more. The ways we currently travel are simply not sustainable, especially if people across the Global South mirror the travel habits of people from wealthy countries. A radical transformation is required, and there are critical choices to be made about how best to achieve it. I see our research as helping identify what those choices are and helping decision makers to approach them sensibly.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish with your work at IIASA?

A: The Energy Program's scientific energy systems models are an immensely valuable resource. I hope to keep these tools at the forefront of new methodology, so that I and other researchers can study important policy questions. I also hope to develop my own connections to the many people and institutions in IIASA's orbit and use these to benefit and evolve the community of transport/energy modelers.

Q: Who inspired you to pursue a career in research?

A: Authors like Jane Jacobs, John Kenneth Galbraith, and Herman Daly, as well as some of my professors at the University of Toronto, helped me see that I didn't have to educate myself towards a particular job in one engineering discipline. Instead, I could think more broadly about the state of the world, and changes I envisioned, then develop and apply a unique set of skills towards helping to bring about that change.

My advisors at MIT, especially Professor Valerie Karplus, taught me to see research as a continuous journey in the company of other scholars, and to take a long-term, strategic approach in planning and working towards the knowledge I want to share with others. I also owe thanks to my parents for fostering and rewarding my curiosity from an early age.

Q: What is next for you in your career?

A: After my postdoc, my goal is to join the faculty at a Canadian university. I aim to continue my current research, maintaining a strong relationship with my IIASA colleagues, while getting back into teaching engineering and science students. I want to help undergraduate and graduate students learn to understand and guide the economic, policy, and social dimensions of transport, energy, and climate issues.

Interview by Jeremy Summers

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Last edited: 13 June 2019


Paul Kishimoto

Research Scholar Sustainable Service Systems Research Group - Energy, Climate, and Environment Program

Research Scholar Integrated Assessment and Climate Change Research Group - Energy, Climate, and Environment Program

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