In-depth research on climate change | Mirage News

Climate change has far-reaching consequences. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) brings a range of expertise to understanding how a changing climate can alter political stability, human security, or national security infrastructure.

PNNL experts carry out fundamental multi-scale climate science to understand impacts on energy, water, food and infrastructure systems. This type of modeling offers specialized and comprehensive insights into human-Earth interaction and impacts. The Lab also provides expertise in environmental justice and energy equity to identify and engage historically disadvantaged populations in environmental assessment and remediation.

A solution-focused mindset underpins PNNL’s evidence-based approach. Brian O’Neill, an Earth System Scientist with PNNL and a leading contributor to the International Climate Assessment, emphasized the importance of hope in a recent interview on PNNL’s SciVIBE podcast.

“The impacts are not total disaster, catastrophe and the end of civilization,” O’Neill said, adding that the Lab’s approach is supported by climate model data and predictions.

PNNL researchers study the activities and interconnected elements of the Earth from complex global systems down to the molecular level. The discoveries that arise from PNNL’s four global research missions improve our understanding of climate change and its human impacts on Earth while often providing data that can be used to inform policy and improve understanding of these challenges.

Study global change

PNNL’s atmospheric and earth scientists, energy network analysts, and systems modelers aim to further develop our understanding of human influences and the impact of the Earth on our way of life. The Joint Global Change Research Institute, a partnership between PNNL and the University of Maryland in College Park, MD, brings together world-class expertise in science, technology, economics, and policy to study global climate change and potential solutions.

O’Neill, a member of the PNNL lab, is chief scientist at the Institute. He and PNNL’s Jae Edmonds, also the institute’s chief scientist, were among the co-authors of a report released in February by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC represents a group of hundreds of scientists from around the world brought together by the United Nations to assess the science of climate change and possible actions to minimize its impact.

“The impact of climate change is inextricably linked to what else is happening around the world,” O’Neill said of the report. “It is not simply the amount of warming that will determine our future. Equally important is how society evolves over time, due to or despite climate impacts.

Thanks to IPCC reports and recent contributions to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26 summit), the Institute, established in 2001, is a recognized leader in the fundamental understanding of human and earth systems and in the provision of relevant information for the management of emerging global risks. and opportunities.

A threat to national security

The intensity and frequency of changes in extreme events as climate change affects both the resilience of society and infrastructure. Consequently, in 2014, the Department of Defense released a report decisively asserting that climate change poses an immediate threat to national security, with increased risks of terrorism, infectious diseases, global poverty and food shortages. . Subsequent reports from the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Council have underscored this concern.

In response, PNNL anticipates global climate change by modeling the energy future and translating climate science into decisions that integrate security, sustainability and resilience. PNNL brings together observations with computational analysis, evolutionary models and technical expertise to protect national security by improving the resilience of ecosystems, economies, societies and critical infrastructure affected by climate instability.

Through global relationships combining deep climate and national security expertise, PNNL leads international institutions that translate the impacts of climate change into implementation plans that strengthen climate security.

“Changes in the global climate such as rapidly increasing temperatures in the Arctic can increase the vulnerability of human systems,” said Jill Brandenberger, head of climate security research at PNNL. His team assesses how changing weather conditions could affect national security missions. “These global changes have impacts all over our world and pose a threat to our energy and national security.”

PNNL includes societal stability as a premise when working with its research partners to assess the impacts of climate change across time and spatial scales, assess vulnerabilities and resilience, and define interrelated risks. In addition, the Laboratory develops an analysis of the costs, benefits and risks of energy transitions and the implications for national and global security.

“The links between energy, food, water, socioeconomics, climate and security are difficult to measure, but it’s a national laboratory challenge,” Brandenberger said. “Understanding the connections between these areas is essential to increasing our societal and environmental resilience.”

An inclusive approach

PNNL helps achieve environmental justice and energy equity by partnering with government agencies and industry to identify and include disadvantaged and underserved groups in regulatory decision-making. (Illustration by Juergen Faelchle |

A major component of societal stability involves a thorough understanding of past, present and future environmental impacts on all peoples and communities. In turn, environmental laws, regulations and policies require the engagement and meaningful participation of all people, regardless of race, color, national origin or income.

PNNL helps achieve environmental justice and energy equity by partnering with government agencies and industry to identify and include disadvantaged and underserved groups in regulatory decision-making. Additionally, complex policies and major projects are assessed to understand their implications for historically underserved communities.

“Certain actions associated with the country’s energy system can negatively affect human health or lead to environmental risks, with disproportionately high and negative impacts on affected populations,” said Ann Miracle, group leader for risk assessment and environment at PNNL. “For example, a power plant expansion may be proposed without consideration of how it might affect the life and culture of a Native American tribe.”

Since the 1980s, PNNL environmental justice experts have applied decision science, social science methodologies, and stakeholder engagement to conduct interdisciplinary assessments. A holistic environmental, cultural and socio-economic approach examines human health impacts and the potential for extreme weather events or infrastructure failure. Assessments include assessment of disproportionate impacts, potential trade-offs and effective mitigation measures. This growing team of experts has been conducting environmental justice assessments for 28 years in support of the first environmental justice decree that was signed in 1994.

“Together, we work to achieve environmental justice by ensuring that the potential impacts of environmental and health risks are properly disclosed and that all stakeholders have equal access to decision-making that promotes a healthy environment,” Miracle said. .

Transforming the energy economy

One of the greatest challenges associated with climate change is the transformation of our energy economy. And much of that transformation involves the development of new methods to produce fuels, chemicals, and energy storage materials.

Some of these innovations include storing energy in the chemical bonds of molecules such as hydrogen and exploring how to make clean drinking water accessible to millions of people. PNNL’s chemists and materials scientists address the country’s urgent needs for energy sustainability and decarbonization. These complex solutions involve inventing new ways to produce and store energy, including hydrogen and renewable biofuels, all essential for future climate security.

As the world’s most pressing climate science challenges grow in size and complexity, PNNL researchers are also poised to meet these challenges with algorithms, software, and artificial intelligence.

For example, the Department of Energy’s Atmospheric Radiation User Facility collects massive amounts of atmospheric data from around the world. PNNL researchers have developed methods to analyze this data on the effects of dust, pollution or smoke from forest fires, among others, which can seriously affect air quality. Today, PNNL researchers are at the forefront of designing next-generation codes and algorithms to better understand how aerosols contribute to climate change.

Many processes, one goal

More than 100 nations, including the United States, adopted the Paris Agreement in 2015. The agreement set a goal of limiting global warming to well below 2, preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.

Even its most ardent supporters acknowledged that this was an ambitious goal. A study published in Science last year, however, found a statistical basis to believe the goal was achievable.

PNNL researchers contributed to the study. And PNNL researchers, engineers and others, drawn from a wide range of expertise, will continue to play an important role in understanding climate change and finding solutions for a healthier and more equitable planet Earth.

Teresa H. Sadler