Policy Impact

The Belfer Center's research and analysis and its faculty and fellows’ expertise in critical issues have had an impact on national and international policy in a number of ways. A few examples:

Preventing Nuclear War and Terrorism

Through research and analysis at the Center and implementation of policies by Center alumni in government, Belfer Center nuclear experts have played a major role in lowering the possibility of nuclear terrorism globally and reducing the number of countries with nuclear weapons from 52 in 1991 to 25 today.

Senators Nunn and Lugar credit the Belfer Center as the incubator of Nunn-Lugar legislation that secured nuclear weapons and materials in the former Soviet Union following its dissolution in 1991. The Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (Nunn-Lugar Act) is one of the most significant Congressional initiatives in national security since World War II.

The "Day After" exercise in 2007, organized by the Center’s former Preventive Defense Project, co-directed by Ashton B. Carter, stirred imagination at the highest levels in government and spurred the United States to undertake detailed planning measures in the event of a nuclear attack.

Faculty and staff of the Project on Managing the Atom, along with other current and former Center experts, played major roles in planning and implementing the four nuclear security summits launched by President Barack Obama in 2010 and concluding in 2016, an effort that reduced the quantity and secured accessibility to weapons-usable nuclear materials around the world and decreased the threat of nuclear terrorism worldwide.

In 2015, 13 nuclear experts at the Belfer Center authored TheIran Nuclear Deal – A Definitive Guide, a report that described and clarified details of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The report was highly praised by Congressional members and staff for informing their decision on the plan.

Reducing the Threat of Severe Climate Disruption

Faculty from the Science, Technology, and Public Policy and Environment and Natural Resources Program have long been among the nation's foremost leaders on the subject of climate change policy. Their research and analysis on policy issues related to science, technology (including cyber), and climate/environment – are sought and highly valued by a range of stakeholders from the United Nations and key members and committees of Congress to Fortune 500 leaders.

The Energy Technology Innovation Policy research group is deeply involved in promoting the adoption of effective strategies for developing and deploying cleaner and more efficient energy technologies in the U.S., as well as China, India, and other countries. In addition to providing invaluable background materials and recommendations to members of the U.S. Congress on transforming energy policy, ETIP’s contributions include great improvements in auto emissions standards in China and development of relationships with Chinese policymakers and shapers that have resulted in strengthened climate policies and agreements. 

The Harvard Project on International Climate Agreements is highly influential in negotiations relating to global climate change. Since its inception in 2007, the Project has drawn upon leading thinkers in countries around the world, conducting research on policy architecture, key design elements, and institutional dimensions of international and domestic climate policy. The project contributed significantly to successes at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference.

The Belfer Center’s impact is also clearly seen through the service of its alumni who hold influential positions in government, academia, non-governmental organizations, and private establishments around the world.