Bio


Marshall Burke is assistant professor in the Department of Earth System Science, and Center Fellow at the Center on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University. His research focuses on social and economic impacts of environmental change, and on the economics of rural development in Africa. His work has appeared in both economics and scientific journals, including recent publications in Nature, Science, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and the Review of Economics and Statistics. He holds a PhD in Agricultural and Resource Economics from UC Berkeley, and a BA in International Relations from Stanford.

Prospective students should see my personal webpage, linked at right.

Academic Appointments


2017-18 Courses


Stanford Advisees


All Publications


  • Anticipated burden and mitigation of carbon-dioxide-induced nutritional deficiencies and related diseases: A simulation modeling study. PLoS medicine Weyant, C., Brandeau, M. L., Burke, M., Lobell, D. B., Bendavid, E., Basu, S. 2018; 15 (7): e1002586

    Abstract

    BACKGROUND: Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are anticipated to decrease the zinc and iron concentrations of crops. The associated disease burden and optimal mitigation strategies remain unknown. We sought to understand where and to what extent increasing carbon dioxide concentrations may increase the global burden of nutritional deficiencies through changes in crop nutrient concentrations, and the effects of potential mitigation strategies.METHODS AND FINDINGS: For each of 137 countries, we incorporated estimates of climate change, crop nutrient concentrations, dietary patterns, and disease risk into a microsimulation model of zinc and iron deficiency. These estimates were obtained from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, US Department of Agriculture, Statistics Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and Global Burden of Disease Project, respectively. In the absence of increasing carbon dioxide concentrations, we estimated that zinc and iron deficiencies would induce 1,072.9 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) globally over the period 2015 to 2050 (95% credible interval [CrI]: 971.1-1,167.7). In the presence of increasing carbon dioxide concentrations, we estimated that decreasing zinc and iron concentrations of crops would induce an additional 125.8 million DALYs globally over the same period (95% CrI: 113.6-138.9). This carbon-dioxide-induced disease burden is projected to disproportionately affect nations in the World Health Organization's South-East Asia and African Regions (44.0 and 28.5 million DALYs, respectively), which already have high existing disease burdens from zinc and iron deficiencies (364.3 and 299.5 million DALYs, respectively), increasing global nutritional inequalities. A climate mitigation strategy such as the Paris Agreement (an international agreement to keep global temperatures within 2°C of pre-industrial levels) would be expected to avert 48.2% of this burden (95% CrI: 47.8%-48.5%), while traditional public health interventions including nutrient supplementation and disease control programs would be expected to avert 26.6% of the burden (95% CrI: 23.8%-29.6%). Of the traditional public health interventions, zinc supplementation would be expected to avert 5.5%, iron supplementation 15.7%, malaria mitigation 3.2%, pneumonia mitigation 1.6%, and diarrhea mitigation 0.5%. The primary limitations of the analysis include uncertainty regarding how food consumption patterns may change with climate, how disease mortality rates will change over time, and how crop zinc and iron concentrations will decline from those at present to those in 2050.CONCLUSIONS: Effects of increased carbon dioxide on crop nutrient concentrations are anticipated to exacerbate inequalities in zinc and iron deficiencies by 2050. Proposed Paris Agreement strategies are expected to be more effective than traditional public health measures to avert the increased inequality.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002586

    View details for PubMedID 29969442

  • Robust relationship between air quality and infant mortality in Africa. Nature Heft-Neal, S., Burney, J., Bendavid, E., Burke, M. 2018

    Abstract

    Poor air quality is thought to be an important mortality risk factor globally1-3, but there is little direct evidence from the developing world on how mortality risk varies with changing exposure to ambient particulate matter. Current global estimates apply exposure-response relationships that have been derived mostly from wealthy, mid-latitude countries to spatial population data 4 , and these estimates remain unvalidated across large portions of the globe. Here we combine household survey-based information on the location and timing of nearly 1million births across sub-Saharan Africa with satellite-based estimates 5 of exposure to ambient respirable particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5mum (PM2.5) to estimate the impact of air quality on mortality rates among infants in Africa. We find that a 10mugm-3 increase in PM2.5 concentration is associated with a 9% (95% confidence interval, 4-14%) rise in infant mortality across the dataset. This effect has not declined over the last 15 years and does not diminish with higher levels of household wealth. Our estimates suggest that PM2.5 concentrations above minimum exposure levels were responsible for 22% (95% confidence interval, 9-35%) of infant deaths in our 30 study countries and led to 449,000 (95% confidence interval, 194,000-709,000) additional deaths of infants in 2015, an estimate that is more than three times higher than existing estimates that attribute death of infants to poor air quality for these countries2,6. Upward revision of disease-burden estimates in the studied countries in Africa alone would result in a doubling of current estimates of global deaths of infants that are associated with air pollution, and modest reductions in African PM2.5 exposures are predicted to have health benefits to infants that are larger than most known health interventions.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41586-018-0263-3

    View details for PubMedID 29950722

  • Large potential reduction in economic damages under UN mitigation targets NATURE Burke, M., Davis, W., Diffenbaugh, N. S. 2018; 557 (7706): 549-+

    Abstract

    International climate change agreements typically specify global warming thresholds as policy targets 1 , but the relative economic benefits of achieving these temperature targets remain poorly understood2,3. Uncertainties include the spatial pattern of temperature change, how global and regional economic output will respond to these changes in temperature, and the willingness of societies to trade present for future consumption. Here we combine historical evidence 4 with national-level climate 5 and socioeconomic 6 projections to quantify the economic damages associated with the United Nations (UN) targets of 1.5 °C and 2 °C global warming, and those associated with current UN national-level mitigation commitments (which together approach 3 °C warming 7 ). We find that by the end of this century, there is a more than 75% chance that limiting warming to 1.5 °C would reduce economic damages relative to 2 °C, and a more than 60% chance that the accumulated global benefits will exceed US$20 trillion under a 3% discount rate (2010 US dollars). We also estimate that 71% of countries-representing 90% of the global population-have a more than 75% chance of experiencing reduced economic damages at 1.5 °C, with poorer countries benefiting most. Our results could understate the benefits of limiting warming to 1.5 °C if unprecedented extreme outcomes, such as large-scale sea level rise 8 , occur for warming of 2 °C but not for warming of 1.5 °C. Inclusion of other unquantified sources of uncertainty, such as uncertainty in secular growth rates beyond that contained in existing socioeconomic scenarios, could also result in less precise impact estimates. We find considerably greater reductions in global economic output beyond 2 °C. Relative to a world that did not warm beyond 2000-2010 levels, we project 15%-25% reductions in per capita output by 2100 for the 2.5-3 °C of global warming implied by current national commitments 7 , and reductions of more than 30% for 4 °C warming. Our results therefore suggest that achieving the 1.5 °C target is likely to reduce aggregate damages and lessen global inequality, and that failing to meet the 2 °C target is likely to increase economic damages substantially.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41586-018-0071-9

    View details for Web of Science ID 000432794900045

    View details for PubMedID 29795251

  • Climate and conflict: no stigma NATURE Hsiang, S., Burke, M. 2018; 555 (7698): 587
  • Satellite-based assessment of yield variation and its determinants in smallholder African systems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Burke, M., Lobell, D. B. 2017; 114 (9): 2189-2194

    Abstract

    The emergence of satellite sensors that can routinely observe millions of individual smallholder farms raises possibilities for monitoring and understanding agricultural productivity in many regions of the world. Here we demonstrate the potential to track smallholder maize yield variation in western Kenya, using a combination of 1-m Terra Bella imagery and intensive field sampling on thousands of fields over 2 y. We find that agreement between satellite-based and traditional field survey-based yield estimates depends significantly on the quality of the field-based measures, with agreement highest ([Formula: see text] up to 0.4) when using precise field measures of plot area and when using larger fields for which rounding errors are smaller. We further show that satellite-based measures are able to detect positive yield responses to fertilizer and hybrid seed inputs and that the inferred responses are statistically indistinguishable from estimates based on survey-based yields. These results suggest that high-resolution satellite imagery can be used to make predictions of smallholder agricultural productivity that are roughly as accurate as the survey-based measures traditionally used in research and policy applications, and they indicate a substantial near-term potential to quickly generate useful datasets on productivity in smallholder systems, even with minimal or no field training data. Such datasets could rapidly accelerate learning about which interventions in smallholder systems have the most positive impact, thus enabling more rapid transformation of rural livelihoods.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1616919114

    View details for PubMedID 28202728

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5338538

  • Using remotely sensed temperature to estimate climate response functions ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH LETTERS Heft-Neal, S., Lobell, D. B., Burke, M. 2017; 12 (1)
  • Sources of variation in under-5 mortality across sub-Saharan Africa: a spatial analysis. The Lancet. Global health Burke, M., Heft-Neal, S., Bendavid, E. 2016

    Abstract

    Detailed spatial understanding of levels and trends in under-5 mortality is needed to improve the targeting of interventions to the areas of highest need, and to understand the sources of variation in mortality. To improve this understanding, we analysed local-level information on child mortality across sub-Saharan Africa between 1980-2010.We used data from 82 Demographic and Health Surveys in 28 sub-Saharan African countries, including the location and timing of 3·24 million childbirths and 393 685 deaths, to develop high-resolution spatial maps of under-5 mortality in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. These estimates were at a resolution of 0·1 degree latitude by 0·1 degree longitude (roughly 10 km × 10 km). We then analysed this spatial information to distinguish within-country versus between-country sources of variation in mortality, to examine the extent to which declines in mortality have been accompanied by convergence in the distribution of mortality, and to study localised drivers of mortality differences, including temperature, malaria burden, and conflict.In our sample of sub-Saharan African countries from the 1980s to the 2000s, within-country differences in under-5 mortality accounted for 74-78% of overall variation in under-5 mortality across space and over time. Mortality differed significantly across only 8-15% of country borders, supporting the role of local, rather than national, factors in driving mortality patterns. We found that by the end of the study period, 23% of the eligible children in the study countries continue to live in mortality hotspots-areas where, if current trends continue, the Sustainable Developent Goals mortality targets will not be met. In multivariate analysis, within-country mortality levels at each pixel were significantly related to local temperature, malaria burden, and recent history of conflict.Our findings suggest that sub-national determinants explain a greater portion of under-5 mortality than do country-level characteristics. Sub-national measures of child mortality could provide a more accurate, and potentially more actionable, portrayal of where and why children are still dying than can national statistics.The Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/S2214-109X(16)30212-1

    View details for PubMedID 27793587

  • Combining satellite imagery and machine learning to predict poverty. Science Jean, N., Burke, M., Xie, M., Davis, W. M., Lobell, D. B., Ermon, S. 2016; 353 (6301): 790-794

    Abstract

    Reliable data on economic livelihoods remain scarce in the developing world, hampering efforts to study these outcomes and to design policies that improve them. Here we demonstrate an accurate, inexpensive, and scalable method for estimating consumption expenditure and asset wealth from high-resolution satellite imagery. Using survey and satellite data from five African countries--Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, and Rwanda--we show how a convolutional neural network can be trained to identify image features that can explain up to 75% of the variation in local-level economic outcomes. Our method, which requires only publicly available data, could transform efforts to track and target poverty in developing countries. It also demonstrates how powerful machine learning techniques can be applied in a setting with limited training data, suggesting broad potential application across many scientific domains.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.aaf7894

    View details for PubMedID 27540167

  • Adaptation to Climate Change: Evidence from US Agriculture AMERICAN ECONOMIC JOURNAL-ECONOMIC POLICY Burke, M., Emerick, K. 2016; 8 (3): 106-140
  • Global non-linear effect of temperature on economic production NATURE Burke, M., Hsiang, S. M., Miguel, E. 2015; 527 (7577): 235-?

    Abstract

    Growing evidence demonstrates that climatic conditions can have a profound impact on the functioning of modern human societies, but effects on economic activity appear inconsistent. Fundamental productive elements of modern economies, such as workers and crops, exhibit highly non-linear responses to local temperature even in wealthy countries. In contrast, aggregate macroeconomic productivity of entire wealthy countries is reported not to respond to temperature, while poor countries respond only linearly. Resolving this conflict between micro and macro observations is critical to understanding the role of wealth in coupled human-natural systems and to anticipating the global impact of climate change. Here we unify these seemingly contradictory results by accounting for non-linearity at the macro scale. We show that overall economic productivity is non-linear in temperature for all countries, with productivity peaking at an annual average temperature of 13 °C and declining strongly at higher temperatures. The relationship is globally generalizable, unchanged since 1960, and apparent for agricultural and non-agricultural activity in both rich and poor countries. These results provide the first evidence that economic activity in all regions is coupled to the global climate and establish a new empirical foundation for modelling economic loss in response to climate change, with important implications. If future adaptation mimics past adaptation, unmitigated warming is expected to reshape the global economy by reducing average global incomes roughly 23% by 2100 and widening global income inequality, relative to scenarios without climate change. In contrast to prior estimates, expected global losses are approximately linear in global mean temperature, with median losses many times larger than leading models indicate.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/nature15725

    View details for Web of Science ID 000364396700045

    View details for PubMedID 26503051

  • INCORPORATING CLIMATE UNCERTAINTY INTO ESTIMATES OF CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS REVIEW OF ECONOMICS AND STATISTICS Burke, M., Dykema, J., Lobell, D. B., Miguel, E., Satyanath, S. 2015; 97 (2): 461-471
  • Climate and Conflict ANNUAL REVIEW OF ECONOMICS, VOL 7 Burke, M., Hsiang, S. M., Miguel, E. 2015; 7: 577-?
  • Reconciling climate-conflict meta-analyses: reply to Buhaug et al. CLIMATIC CHANGE Hsiang, S. M., Burke, M., Miguel, E. 2014; 127 (3-4): 399-405
  • Climate, conflict, and social stability: what does the evidence say? CLIMATIC CHANGE Hsiang, S. M., Burke, M. 2014; 123 (1): 39-55
  • Quantifying the influence of climate on human conflict. Science Hsiang, S. M., Burke, M., Miguel, E. 2013; 341 (6151): 1235367-?

    Abstract

    A rapidly growing body of research examines whether human conflict can be affected by climatic changes. Drawing from archaeology, criminology, economics, geography, history, political science, and psychology, we assemble and analyze the 60 most rigorous quantitative studies and document, for the first time, a striking convergence of results. We find strong causal evidence linking climatic events to human conflict across a range of spatial and temporal scales and across all major regions of the world. The magnitude of climate's influence is substantial: for each one standard deviation (1σ) change in climate toward warmer temperatures or more extreme rainfall, median estimates indicate that the frequency of interpersonal violence rises 4% and the frequency of intergroup conflict rises 14%. Because locations throughout the inhabited world are expected to warm 2σ to 4σ by 2050, amplified rates of human conflict could represent a large and critical impact of anthropogenic climate change.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.1235367

    View details for PubMedID 24031020

  • On the use of statistical models to predict crop yield responses to climate change AGRICULTURAL AND FOREST METEOROLOGY Lobell, D. B., Burke, M. B. 2010; 150 (11): 1443-1452
  • The poverty implications of climate-induced crop yield changes by 2030 GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE-HUMAN AND POLICY DIMENSIONS Hertel, T. W., Burke, M. B., Lobell, D. B. 2010; 20 (4): 577-585
  • Solar-powered drip irrigation enhances food security in the Sudano-Sahel PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Burney, J., Woltering, L., Burke, M., Naylor, R., Pasternak, D. 2010; 107 (5): 1848-1853

    Abstract

    Meeting the food needs of Africa's growing population over the next half-century will require technologies that significantly improve rural livelihoods at minimal environmental cost. These technologies will likely be distinct from those of the Green Revolution, which had relatively little impact in sub-Saharan Africa; consequently, few such interventions have been rigorously evaluated. This paper analyzes solar-powered drip irrigation as a strategy for enhancing food security in the rural Sudano-Sahel region of West Africa. Using a matched-pair comparison of villages in northern Benin (two treatment villages, two comparison villages), and household survey and field-level data through the first year of harvest in those villages, we find that solar-powered drip irrigation significantly augments both household income and nutritional intake, particularly during the dry season, and is cost effective compared to alternative technologies.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.0909678107

    View details for Web of Science ID 000274296300011

    View details for PubMedID 20080616

  • Impacts of El Nino-Southern Oscillation events on China's rice production JOURNAL OF GEOGRAPHICAL SCIENCES Deng Xiangzheng, X. Z., Huang Jikun, J. K., Qiao Fangbin, F. B., Naylor, R. L., Falcon, W. P., Burke, M., Rozelle, S., Battisti, D. 2010; 20 (1): 3-16
  • Warming increases the risk of civil war in Africa PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Burke, M. B., Miguel, E., Satyanath, S., Dykema, J. A., Lobell, D. B. 2009; 106 (49): 20670-20674

    Abstract

    Armed conflict within nations has had disastrous humanitarian consequences throughout much of the world. Here we undertake the first comprehensive examination of the potential impact of global climate change on armed conflict in sub-Saharan Africa. We find strong historical linkages between civil war and temperature in Africa, with warmer years leading to significant increases in the likelihood of war. When combined with climate model projections of future temperature trends, this historical response to temperature suggests a roughly 54% increase in armed conflict incidence by 2030, or an additional 393,000 battle deaths if future wars are as deadly as recent wars. Our results suggest an urgent need to reform African governments' and foreign aid donors' policies to deal with rising temperatures.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.0907998106

    View details for Web of Science ID 000272553000024

    View details for PubMedID 19934048

  • Shifts in African crop climates by 2050, and the implications for crop improvement and genetic resources conservation GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE-HUMAN AND POLICY DIMENSIONS Burke, M. B., Lobell, D. B., Guarino, L. 2009; 19 (3): 317-325
  • A Global Model Tracking Water, Nitrogen, and Land Inputs and Virtual Transfers from Industrialized Meat Production and Trade ENVIRONMENTAL MODELING & ASSESSMENT Burke, M., Oleson, K., McCullough, E., Gaskell, J. 2009; 14 (2): 179-193
  • Why are agricultural impacts of climate change so uncertain? The importance of temperature relative to precipitation ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH LETTERS Lobell, D. B., Burke, M. B. 2008; 3 (3)
  • Prioritizing climate change adaptation needs for food security in 2030 SCIENCE Lobell, D. B., Burke, M. B., Tebaldi, C., Mastrandrea, M. D., Falcon, W. P., Naylor, R. L. 2008; 319 (5863): 607-610

    Abstract

    Investments aimed at improving agricultural adaptation to climate change inevitably favor some crops and regions over others. An analysis of climate risks for crops in 12 food-insecure regions was conducted to identify adaptation priorities, based on statistical crop models and climate projections for 2030 from 20 general circulation models. Results indicate South Asia and Southern Africa as two regions that, without sufficient adaptation measures, will likely suffer negative impacts on several crops that are important to large food-insecure human populations. We also find that uncertainties vary widely by crop, and therefore priorities will depend on the risk attitudes of investment institutions.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.1152339

    View details for Web of Science ID 000252772000037

    View details for PubMedID 18239122

  • International trade in meat: The tip of the pork chop AMBIO Galloway, J. N., Burke, M., Bradford, G. E., Naylor, R., Falcon, W., Chapagain, A. K., Gaskell, J. C., McCullough, E., Mooney, H. A., Oleson, K. L., Steinfeld, H., Wassenaar, T., Smil, V. 2007; 36 (8): 622-629

    Abstract

    This paper provides an original account of global land, water, and nitrogen use in support of industrialized livestock production and trade, with emphasis on two of the fastest-growing sectors, pork and poultry. Our analysis focuses on trade in feed and animal products, using a new model that calculates the amount of "virtual" nitrogen, water, and land used in production but not embedded in the product. We show how key meat-importing countries, such as Japan, benefit from "virtual" trade in land, water, and nitrogen, and how key meat-exporting countries, such as Brazil, provide these resources without accounting for their true environmental cost. Results show that Japan's pig and chicken meat imports embody the virtual equivalent of 50% of Japan's total arable land, and half of Japan's virtual nitrogen total is lost in the US. Trade links with China are responsible for 15% of the virtual nitrogen left behind in Brazil due to feed and meat exports, and 20% of Brazil's area is used to grow soybean exports. The complexity of trade in meat, feed, water, and nitrogen is illustrated by the dual roles of the US and The Netherlands as both importers and exporters of meat. Mitigation of environmental damage from industrialized livestock production and trade depends on a combination of direct-pricing strategies, regulatory approaches, and use of best management practices. Our analysis indicates that increased water- and nitrogen-use efficiency and land conservation resulting from these measures could significantly reduce resource costs.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000251979900002

    View details for PubMedID 18240675

  • The ripple effect: Biofuels, food security, and the environment ENVIRONMENT Naylor, R. L., Liska, A. J., Burke, M. B., Falcon, W. P., Gaskell, J. C., Rozelle, S. D., Cassman, K. G. 2007; 49 (9): 30-43
  • Assessing risks of climate variability and climate change for Indonesian rice agriculture PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Naylor, R. L., Battisti, D. S., Vimont, D. J., Falcon, W. P., Burke, M. B. 2007; 104 (19): 7752-7757

    Abstract

    El Niño events typically lead to delayed rainfall and decreased rice planting in Indonesia's main rice-growing regions, thus prolonging the hungry season and increasing the risk of annual rice deficits. Here we use a risk assessment framework to examine the potential impact of El Niño events and natural variability on rice agriculture in 2050 under conditions of climate change, with a focus on two main rice-producing areas: Java and Bali. We select a 30-day delay in monsoon onset as a threshold beyond which significant impact on the country's rice economy is likely to occur. To project the future probability of monsoon delay and changes in the annual cycle of rainfall, we use output from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change AR4 suite of climate models, forced by increasing greenhouse gases, and scale it to the regional level by using empirical downscaling models. Our results reveal a marked increase in the probability of a 30-day delay in monsoon onset in 2050, as a result of changes in the mean climate, from 9-18% today (depending on the region) to 30-40% at the upper tail of the distribution. Predictions of the annual cycle of precipitation suggest an increase in precipitation later in the crop year (April-June) of approximately 10% but a substantial decrease (up to 75% at the tail) in precipitation later in the dry season (July-September). These results indicate a need for adaptation strategies in Indonesian rice agriculture, including increased investments in water storage, drought-tolerant crops, crop diversification, and early warning systems.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.0701825104

    View details for Web of Science ID 000246461500007

    View details for PubMedID 17483453