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CONSENSUS STUDY REPOR T Environmental Engineering for the 21st Century Addressing Grand Challenges
Environmental Engineering for the 21st Century: Addressing Grand Challenges COMMITTEE ON THE GRAND CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES IN ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY Division on Earth and Life Studies Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences National Academy of Engineering Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology Board on Earth Sciences and Resources Board on Energy and Environmental Systems (DEPS) Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology Board on Life Sciences NAE Office of Programs Ocean Studies Board Water Science and Technology Board A Consensus Study Report of
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001 This activity and material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 10002678, the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, under Award No. DE-SC0016218, and the California Delta Stewardship Council under California State Award No. 1725. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project. International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-47652-2 International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-47652-6 https://doi.org/10.17226/25121 Cover photo credit: Prashanth Vishwanathan/IMWI Additional copies of this report are available for sale from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Keck 360, Washington, DC 20001; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313; http://www.nap.edu/. Copyright 2019 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Environmental Engineering for the 21st Century: Addressing Grand Challenges. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.17226/25121.
The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) was established in 1863 by an Act of Congress, signed by President Lincoln, as a private, nongovernmental institution to advise the nation on issues related to science and technology. Members are elected by their peers for outstanding contributions to research. Dr. Marcia McNutt is president. The National Academy of Engineering (NAE)was established in 1964 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences to bring the practices of engineering to advising the nation. Members are elected by their peers for extraordinary contributions to engineering. Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., is president. The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) formerly the Institute of Medicine) was established in 1970 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences to advise the nation on medical and health issues. Members are elected by their peers for distinguished contributions to medicine and health. Dr. Victor J. Dzau is president. The three Academies work together as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conduct other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions. The National Academies also encourage education and research, recognize outstanding contributions to knowledge, and increase public understanding in matters of science, engineering, and medicine. Learn more about the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine at www.nationalacademies.org. Consensus Study Reports published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine document the evidence-based consensus on the studyâs statement of task by an authoring committee of experts. Reports typically include findings, conclusions, and recommendations based on information gathered by the committee and committee deliberations. Each report has been subjected to a rigorous and independent peer review process and it represents the position of the National Academies on the statement of task. Proceedings published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine chronicle the presentations and discussions at a workshop, symposium, or other event convened by the National Academies. The statements and opinions contained in proceedings are those of the participants and not endorsed by other participants, the planning committee, or the National Academies. For information about other products and activities of the National Academies, please visit nationalacademies.org/whatwedo.
Environmental Engineering for the 21st Century: Addressing Grand Challenges COMMITTEE ON GRAND CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES IN ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY Domenico Grasso, Chair, University of Michigan, Dearborn Craig H. Benson (NAE), University of Virginia, Charlottesville Amanda Carrico, University of Colorado, Boulder Kartik Chandran, Columbia University, New York City G. Wayne Clough (NAE), Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta John C. Crittenden (NAE), Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta Daniel S. Greenbaum, Health Effects Institute, Boston, MA Steven P. Hamburg, Environmental Defense Fund, Belmont, MA Thomas C. Harmon, University of California, Merced James M. Hughes (NAM), Emory University, Atlanta, GA Kimberly L. Jones, Howard University, Washington DC Linsey C. Marr, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg Robert Perciasepe, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, Arlington, VA Stephen Polasky (NAS), University of Minnesota, St. Paul Maxine L. Savitz (NAE), Honeywell, Inc. (retired), Los Angeles, CA Norman R. Scott (NAE), Cornell University, Ithaca, NY R. Rhodes Trussell (NAE), Trussell Technologies, Inc., Pasadena, CA Julie B. Zimmerman, Yale University, New Haven, CT NATIONAL ACADEMIES OF SCIENCES, ENGINEERING, AND MEDICINE STAFF Stephanie E. Johnson, Study Director, Water Science and Technology Board Nancy Huddleston, Communications Director, Division on Earth and Life Studies Kara Laney, Senior Program Officer, Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources Anne Johnson, Consultant Science Writer Brendan R. McGovern, Research Assistant, Water Science and Technology Board âv
Environmental Engineering for the 21st Century: Addressing Grand Challenges PREFACE The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convened a committee of prominent environmental engineers, scientists, and policy experts to identify grand challenges and opportunities in environmental engineering for the next several decades. The committee was also asked to describe how the field of environmental engineering and its aligned sciences might evolve to better address these needs. The study was sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and the Delta Stewardship Council (see Appendix A for the full statement of task). Rather than focusing on specific environmental engineering challenges, the committee chose to identify the most pressing challenges of the 21st century for which the expertise of environmental engineering will be needed to help resolve or manage. The committee sought input from the scientific community, nongovernmental organizations, and the broader public and benefited from ideas produced from four prior Association of Environmental Engineering & Science Professors workshops on Grand Challenges.1 In total, over 450 ideas for grand challenges were submitted. This report identifies five broad and interconnected challenges that need to be addressed to ensure that people and ecosystems thrive. For each challenge, the committee discussed areas where knowledge and technological advances are needed and provided examples of potential roles for environmental engineers. The study is modeled on the NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering, a 2008 study from the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) that identified 14 engineering challenges that, if achieved, have the potential to radically improve life on the planet. The NAE Grand Challenges cover health, sustainability, security, and joy of living, and several overlap with the challenges discussed here, including to provide access to clean water, develop carbon sequestration methods, make solar energy affordable, manage the nitrogen cycle, and restore and improve urban infrastructure. The NAE study and subsequent outreach efforts have inspired numerous educational initiatives, including the undergraduate NAE Grand Challenges Scholars Program aimed at creating engineers specially equipped to address 21st century challenges. The committee hopes that this study will help vii
produce substantive progress toward meeting the critical challenges of the 21st century through advances in environmental engineering education, research, and practice. This Consensus Study Report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in making each published report as sound as possible and to ensure that it meets the institutional standards for quality, objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Robert F. Breiman, NAM, Emory University; Paul R. Brown, Paul Redvers Brown Inc; Virginia Burkett, U.S. Geological Survey; Greg Characklis, University of North Carolina; Paul FerrÃ£o, Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal; Peter Gleick, NAS, Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security; Patricia Holden, University of California, Santa Barbara; James H. Johnson Jr., Howard University; Michael C. Kavanaugh, NAE, Geosyntec Consultants; Daniele Lantagne, Tufts University; David Lobell, Stanford University, Al McGartland, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; James R. Mihelcic, University of South Florida; Patrick M. Reed, Cornell University; Jerry L. Schnoor, NAE, University of Iowa; Peter Schultz, ICF International; John Volckens, Colorado State University; Robyn S. Wilson, Ohio State University; and Yannis C. Yortsos, NAE, University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations of this report nor did they see the final draft before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Chris Hendrickson, Carnegie Mellon University, and Jared Cohon, Carnegie Mellon University. They were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with the standards of the National Academies and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content rests entirely with the authoring committee and the National Academies. 1 See https://aeesp.org/nsf-aeesp-grand-challenges-workshops. viii
Environmental Engineering for the 21st Century: Addressing Grand Challenges CONTENTS Introductionâ /â 1 Grand Challenge 1: Sustainably Supply Food, Water, and Energyâ /â 8 Grand Challenge 2: Curb Climate Change and Adapt to Its Impactsâ /â 26 Grand Challenge 3: Design a Future Without Pollution or Wasteâ /â 44 Grand Challenge 4: Create Efficient, Healthy, Resilient Citiesâ /â 54 Grand Challenge 5: Foster Informed Decisions and Actionsâ /â 66 The Ultimate Challenge for Environmental Engineering: â Preparing the Field to Address a New Futureâ /â 78 Endnotes and Figure Sources â /â 90 appendices Aâ Statement of Taskâ /â 101 Bâ Biographical Sketches of Committee Membersâ /â 102 ix
Environmental Engineering for the 21st Century: Addressing Grand Challenges EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Environmental engineers support the well-being of people and the planet in areas where the two intersect. Over the decades the field has improved countless lives through innovative systems for delivering water, treating waste, and preventing and remediating pollution in air, water, and soil. These achievements are a testament to the multidisciplinary, pragmatic, systems-oriented approach that characterizes environmental engineering. The future holds daunting challenges for human society and our environment. Populations are expanding, demand for resources is increasing, the climate is changing, and humanityâs impacts on the planet continue to mount. Will we be able to achieve a better quality of life for our growing population without compromising the ability of future generations to achieve the same? This study, authored by 18 of the nationâs leading environmental engineers, scientists, and policy experts under the auspices of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, outlines the crucial role for environmental engineers in this period of dramatic growth and change. The report identifies five pressing challenges of the 21st century that environmental engineers are uniquely poised to help advance: 1: Sustainably supply food, water, and energy 2: Curb climate change and adapt to its impacts 3: Design a future without pollution and waste 4: Create efficient, healthy, resilient cities 5: Foster informed decisions and actions The reportâs vision is ambitious. The challenges ahead are substantial. Yet every day, environmental engineers are making progress, both by applying existing knowledge and skills and by advancing research and innovation to generate new insights and achievements. By refocusing and redoubling its efforts to advance practical, impactful solutions for humanityâs multifaceted, vexing problems, the field of environmental engineering can build on its past successesâand chart new territoryâin the decades ahead. xi