Welcome Back to the Pack!

Dr. Justin Baker recently joined the faculty at NC State as an Associate Professor of Forest Resource Economics in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources at NC State and the Director of Southern Forest Resource Assessment Consortium (SOFAC). He has been in the Triangle for several years and has built a strong network of collaborators within several organizations, making his research well-known in both the local and larger natural resource economics communities of .

Prior to his current positions, Justin held an adjunct appointment at NC State and worked with the Center for Environmental and Resource Economic Policy (CEnREP) where he shared research and collaborated with other CENrEP affiliates while maintaining a primary appointment at RTI International in the Research Triangle Park in N.C.

RTI International is a non-profit research institution where Justin leads a program in natural resource and environmental economics. While working at RTI, he also taught in the NC State Graduate Economics Program (ECG 515) and worked with graduate students who were interns in his program. Justin has been associated with the Triangle’s resource and environmental economics community for more than 10 years. His contributions have led to recognized research and progress on environmental policy dialog.

While earning his PhD in agricultural economics at Texas A&M University, Justin was offered a research opportunity at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. He worked on climate and energy policy and water resource management topics. During his time at Duke he was also completing his dissertation work in absentia. This research opened doors and allowed him to be further involved in federal policy dialog. , which was a unique early-career opportunity. This experience bolstered his commitment to provide policy-makers and practitioners with the research they need to make informed decisions regarding resource management and policy design.

After finishing his PhD program, Justin spent nine years at RTI where he worked on research and projects supported by the federal government, development banks, foundations, and other NGOs. This work included renewable energy policy analysis, forestry and agricultural sector modeling, empirical assessments of resource management change, and hydro-economic modeling for food-energy-water nexus applications.

Justin’s work primarily focused on climate topics, including development of forest carbon projections at different spatial and temporal scales and estimating the economic costs of forest-based climate mitigation strategies. He states: “The economic modeling work I have been involved in recognizes spatial connections and temporal dependencies between economic and resource systems, and these frameworks are often used by policy-makers to ask “what if” questions that require forward looking simulations of socioeconomic, environmental, and policy change.”

Justin has also worked with policy makers on a global level. His recent contribution has been reporting on climate change impacts, analysis of de-carbonization pathways in the U.S., and a recent special issue on projecting forest carbon stocks.

His modeling and climate policy research often collaborates with other researchers from an extensive list of academic and research institutions. Recently, he worked with the U.S. government and researchers through the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA.) By working with other researchers, Justin has made progress on analysis of climate change, international trade policy, and global hunger, resulting in a recent publication in Nature Climate Change. This publication evaluated how trade could serve as an adaptation mechanism to future climate change.

“We used a widely published model of global agriculture and land use to simulate different climate and trade policy futures to explore changes in markets, production patterns, and regional populations at risk of hunger. We found that reducing trade barriers could alleviate global hunger impacts of climate change by up to 60% under high-impact scenarios, though this would require policy coordination and investment in new infrastructure.”

Justin says that he looks forward to continuing to work with public and private sector stakeholders in his new role at NC State. His long-standing experience and credible work has allowed him to make a difference in today’s society. He adds, “I am excited to bring new perspectives to the classroom and complementary research expertise in forestry and land use modeling to FER and CEnREP.” His experience in the field and work with global systems modelers will allow him to bring a different approach and point of view when teaching in the classroom. He strongly believes innovation, effective policy design, and market incentives can help overcome challenges in the environment and resource management.

Justin’s work assists our society to take much-needed steps towards a more efficient resource management policy. His perspective and skills will help lead the next generation into a flourishing job market where they make an impactful difference in the policy domain. Justin explains that although every new step may create a challenge, he is ready to contribute to the academic community at NC State and make connections between the College of Natural Resources and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences through CEnREP.

“I am most excited about the opportunity to engage with students and ask new research questions that are relevant to stakeholders in North Carolina and the Southeast region and to transfer knowledge to new generations of scientists and practitioners” Justin explained.

The faculty affiliates of CENREP are excited to welcome Dr. Justin Baker to NC State and to witness the impact he will have on the program and its students.