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Sustainability News

Sustainability scientist Martin Pasqualetti to be recognized by alma mater as distinguished alumnus

ASU Wrigley Institute News

August 9, 2018

Headshot of Martin PasqualettiAs the new school year approaches, it kicks off with great news for Martin Pasqualetti, who has been named as this year’s distinguished alumnus by the University of California, Riverside’s Alumni Association. Pasqualetti will be bestowed the honor at the Chancellor’s Dinner on the university’s campus later this year. A professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and senior sustainability scientist with the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, Pasqualetti is known worldwide for his contributions to the field of geography, specifically in relation to energy policy.

With a 40-year career dedicated to studying the geographical dimensions of energy, Pasqualetti’ s work has resulted in advancements in many areas, including landscape change; issues of energy security and geopolitics; perceptions of energy provision and use; energy education; environmental costs of energy demand; public acceptance of renewable energy landscapes; and the spatial nexus of our need for food, energy and water.

Read more about Pasqualetti and this honor.

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What’s next for Arctic sea ice?

ASU Wrigley Institute News

August 6, 2018

An expanse of sea ice in AntarcticaThe American Meteorological Society released its annual State of the Climate report on August 1. The report, compiled by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Center for Weather and Climate, shares detailed updates on annual changes to global climate indicators and weather events. This year’s report details 2017 climate records, which include Earth experiencing record-high sea level rises and significant losses of Arctic sea ice.

According to the report, Arctic air temperatures increased at twice the rate of the rest of the world. The report called the magnitude and sustained rate of declining sea ice unprecedented.

Stephanie Pfirman, a professor at Arizona State University's School of Sustainability, studies climate change, with emphasis on changes in Earth’s polar regions — along with diversity in interdisciplinary research. Pfirman spoke to ASU Now about what’s next for Earth’s Arctic sea ice.

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Sustainability experts talk strategies for keeping hot cities habitable on new ASU podcast

ASU Wrigley Institute News

August 3, 2018

Woman sits on desert hillside overlooking a sunset in the cityChallenges to our planet can overwhelmingly command the headlines: climate change, massive population increases, dwindling resources.

But with every crisis comes an opportunity for creativity — innovative responses that have the potential to improve our lives and change how we interact with the ecosystem and with one another. And in Phoenix and other “extreme” cities, there is growing urgency to find those solutions.

Arizona State University’s Thought Huddle podcast explores such ideas in its latest episode, “Hot and Habitable: Creating Sustainable Cities.”

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Monsoon rains found to be beneficial to underground aquifers

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

August 2, 2018

A storm cloud drops torrential rain over a desert mountainUsing a combination of field instrumentation, unmanned aerial vehicles and a hydrologic model, a team of researchers from Arizona State University and the Jornada Long-Term Ecological Research Program of the National Science Foundation has been studying the fate of monsoon rainfall and its impact on groundwater recharge in the Chihuahuan Desert of New Mexico.

Their findings, recently published in the journal Water Resources Research, explain how a surprising amount of rainfall, nearly 25 percent, from monsoon storms is absorbed into small stream beds and percolates into the groundwater system. The researchers identified factors affecting the percolation process through the use of a numerical model that reproduced the long-term observations obtained at a highly instrumented research site.

“The results of this study show that monsoon storms serve an important role in recharging groundwater aquifers near the point of runoff generation,” said ASU hydrologist Enrique Vivoni of the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment. “This is an essential process that banks renewable surface water for future use as a groundwater resource in the arid Southwest and throughout the world.”

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ASU research demonstrates silicon-based tandem photovoltaic modules can compete in solar market

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

August 2, 2018

ASU Assistant Research Professor Zhengshan Yu holds up solar cellNew solar energy research from Arizona State University demonstrates that silicon-based tandem photovoltaic modules, which convert sunlight to electricity with higher efficiency than present modules, will become increasingly attractive in the U.S.

A paper that explores the costs vs. enhanced efficiency of this new solar technology appears in Nature Energy this week. The paper is authored by ASU Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering Assistant Research Professor Zhengshan J. Yu, graduate student Joe V. Carpenter and Assistant Professor Zachary Holman.

The Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative was launched in 2011 with a goal of making solar cost-competitive with conventional energy sources by 2020. The program attained its goal of $0.06 per kilowatt-hour three years early, and a new target of $0.03 per kilowatt-hour by 2030 has been set. Increasing the efficiency of photovoltaic modules is one route to reducing the cost of the solar electricity to this new target. If reached, the goal is expected to triple the amount of solar installed in the U.S. in 2030 compared to the business-as-usual scenario.

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Science Outside the Lab summer program convenes in nation's capital

ASU Wrigley Institute News UREx News

August 1, 2018

Several students stand under a globeWho does the United States public trust to help in its efforts to become more resilient to extreme weather events and climate change? A 2016 Pew Research Center survey revealed that 76 percent of citizens trust scientists “a great deal” or “a fair amount” to act in the public’s best interests, but only 27 percent report the same degrees of trust for their politicians and elected officials. Given these percentages, how does the public feel about the hybrid workers in government: the scientist civil servants staffing the federal agencies run by political appointees?

Since the civilian workforce of the federal government makes up over 99.7 percent of the total staff, leaving very few positions to be filled by political appointment, it turns out that the actual “doing” part of resilience policy and science is largely left to scientist civil servants. Who are these scientist civil servants, then? How do they straddle the line between resilience policy and science? And how does the public feel about what they do?

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ASU meets with leaders in Hawaii to discuss SDGs project

ASU Wrigley Institute News

July 30, 2018

Amanda Ellis with Hawaii Senate leaders and others next to "The World Needs Navigators" ASU signThe Secretary General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Martin Chungong, recently visited Hawaii to meet with the Hawaii State Senate and Amanda Ellis, the Director of Strategic Partnerships throughout Hawaii and Asia Pacific for Arizona State University’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. The official visit was in preparation for an upcoming collaborative project to help legislators from 178 parliaments better meet their commitments to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Hawaii is a leader in sustainable development, making the state an ideal place to convene. In 2015, Hawaii became the first state with a law requiring that 100% of its energy be generated by renewable sources. The law was passed after a successful Blue Planet Foundation campaign in which legislators were sent drawings and letters from more than 500 students, teachers and community members in support of renewable energy. Hawaii will achieve this goal by 2045.

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Five women entrepreneurs win first WE Empower UN SDG Challenge

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News

July 27, 2018

Woman weaves at traditional loomThe Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University, along with Vital Voices, the United Nations Foundation and many other partners, announce the winners of the inaugural WE Empower U.N. SDG Challenge. Five women entrepreneurs, representing each of the five U.N. regions, were selected to attend the United Nations Global Goals Week in September and to receive training and support for their efforts to empower women and improve sustainability in their fields.

The winning submissions are diverse and innovative:

    Habiba Ali, Africa - Ali founded Nigerian company Sosai, which brings renewable energy technologies to the most rural of users, improving access to clean, affordable energy and providing clean water and better health outcomes.

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ASU sustainability scientist co-authors report about decarbonizing energy system

ASU Wrigley Institute News LightWorks News

July 26, 2018

bright light bulbsScience magazine recently published an article co-authored by Klaus Lackner, Director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions at Arizona State University. The article, “Net-zero emissions energy systems,” examines the possibilities and challenges facing the decarbonization of energy use — as in, developing an energy system that does not add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

Decarbonizing energy use would ease the dangerous effects of climate change. Eliminating emissions from some services, such as local travel, heating and cooling, would be relatively simple, but emissions from some essential services would be difficult to curtail.

In the report, Lackner and the authors discuss the complexities facing the decarbonization of certain energy sectors, such as air travel, cement production and the provision of a reliable electricity grid. They outline research and development areas that are crucial to achieve this goal of net-zero emissions in energy systems.

Read the full article in Science magazine.

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The Sustainability Consortium releases 2018 Impact Report

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News

July 25, 2018

plane flies over shipping containers at a portA transparent supply chain is good for business, as more consumers and investors are demanding to know where products come from and how they are made. “Organizations that create that transparency have more consumer and investor trust, which leads to loyalty and business value creation,” wrote Euan Murray, Chief Executive of The Sustainability Consortium, in a GreenBiz article.

With this in mind, TSC released its third annual Impact Report, “Transparent Supply Chains for Better Business,” which focuses on how well companies such as Walmart and Sam’s Club are using the organization’s tools to examine and improve their supply chains.

Using numbers from the Sustainability Index, which allows retailers and suppliers to measure sustainability performance for 115 different consumer goods categories, TSC reported in 2018 that it made significant progress on all three aspects of increasing transparency: aspiration, process and outcome. Read the full TSC Impact Report.

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John Browne writes op-ed about future of oil and gas

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News

July 25, 2018

John Browne, Lord Browne of MadingleyOn the heels of a meeting about climate change with Pope Francis last month, John Browne, Executive Chairman of L1 Energy and board member of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University, penned an op-ed for Bloomberg Opinion. Browne’s editorial focuses on the great energy shift that needs to happen, and how oil and gas companies can be part of the transition rather than victims of it.

As a former chief executive of BP, Browne made waves in the late ‘90s when he voiced his concern about climate change and stated that oil and gas companies have a responsibility to take action. Today, Lord Browne of Madingley remains a vocal proponent of shifting energy sources and consumption without harming the world’s poorest people. He believes society already has the tools to do just that.

Read the entire op-ed on Bloomberg Opinion.

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ASU presents on renewable energy in Fiji

ASU Wrigley Institute News

July 24, 2018

Bulent Bicer with event organizer Suka SalusaluBulent Bicer, Project Manager of Research at Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, recently represented ASU at the annual Top Executive Conference (TOPEX) in Fiji. TOPEX is hosted by the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation, the country’s chief employer organization. This year’s theme was “Change and Transition: Readiness and Resistance,” and about 200 executives were in attendance.

Bicer presented on behalf of Amanda Ellis, who develops relationships throughout Hawaii and Asia Pacific as the Director of Strategic Partnerships for ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. Bicer and Ellis worked together on the presentation titled “Renewable Energy and Sustainable Development Goals,” which provided an overview of renewable energy as part of human development, and, more specifically, the importance of renewable energy in Fiji and other island nations.

During the presentation, Bicer spoke about ASU’s past and ongoing activities in Fiji and the Pacific Islands, such as SolarSPELL and Vocational Training and Education for Clean Energy (VOCTEC).

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ASU researchers helping Tempe deal with extreme-heat events

ASU Wrigley Institute News

July 20, 2018

Golden sunset with birds flying in the foregroundIt’s predicted to be 116 degrees in Tempe on Tuesday. Scorching.

That kind of extreme heat is a dangerous annual stress on city resources. Last year, the Tempe Fire Department responded to 141 calls for heat-related emergencies. There have been 84 heat-emergency calls so far this year.

So, Arizona State University researchers are working with the city of Tempe on ways to mitigate the effects on the people who live here. A team from the Urban Climate Research Center has several projects happening now, which the city discussed in a press conference on Wednesday.

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Psyche mission aims to help scientists understand Earth’s core

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

July 17, 2018

Artist's rendition of Psyche asteroid with spacecraft in backgroundThree times farther from the sun than Earth, a massive asteroid made of metal floats in space between Mars and Jupiter. Its name is Psyche, and it could be the core of an early planet that survived violent collisions when the solar system was forming. Psyche was the sixteenth asteroid ever discovered, in 1852, but only recently has a spacecraft mission been initiated by Arizona State University and NASA to study this asteroid in more depth.

Unlike most other known asteroids, which are primarily rocky, Psyche appears to be made almost entirely of nickel-iron metal — much like Earth’s own core. According to ASU’s Psyche website, “The asteroid Psyche may be able to tell us how Earth’s core and the cores of the other terrestrial (rocky) planets came to be.” Scientists can’t investigate Earth’s core directly, so studying an asteroid with a similar makeup may be the next best thing.

ASU leads the Psyche mission, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is responsible for its management, operations and spacecraft navigation. The spacecraft is slated to launch in 2022, and then it will spend nearly four years cruising through space, using the gravitational field of Mars to increase in speed, until it reaches Psyche in 2026. Upon arrival, the spacecraft will orbit Psyche for 21 months, mapping and studying the asteroid’s properties.

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Government policy, public perception and real-world economic consequence

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Environmental Humanities

July 12, 2018

Power plant on the Navajo NationEarth is experiencing a Great Transition as its peoples slowly shift from fossil fuels to wind, plants, natural processes and our sun.

It’s not the first time people have changed where they get their energy sources, but as energy historian Chris Jones

said, what makes the Great Transition different is that this time we need to get rid of something, instead of just adding something. Climate change is the binding constraint.

Arizona State University is part of a new coalition of 13 leading research universities committed to tackling climate change. The group — called the University Climate Change Coalition — includes universities from the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Read the full story on ASU Now to learn how ASU energy scholars are confronting the difficult challenges of transforming the climate narrative and enacting change through policy.

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ASU Carbon Project launched to reach neutrality by 2025

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News

July 11, 2018

ASU students and utility volunteers plant trees as part of a carbon offset projectArizona State University means business when it comes to achieving carbon neutrality by 2025. The University Sustainability Practices (USP) team is leading the charge and recently launched the ASU Carbon Project, a program that “purchases and generates offsets for difficult to mitigate ASU carbon emissions at the rate of about 44,000 metric tons each year,” according to the project’s website.

Though the university is taking action to reduce carbon emissions by using energy-efficient lighting, upgrading HVAC systems, installing solar panels on campus and more, not all emissions can be eliminated entirely. The good news is these emissions can be canceled out by purchasing carbon offset credits and supporting local projects that mitigate carbon.

Corey Hawkey, the Assistant Director of USP, said that they are developing local projects that directly support ASU research efforts related to urban forestry, walkability, shade and urban heat islands. “We are going to be working with the Urban Climate Research Center to plant trees where they want to ‘test’ them,” he added, referring to efforts in the Valley to fight urban heat islands led by David Hondula, a Senior Sustainability Scientist at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.

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Solar technology seeking a balance

ASU Wrigley Institute News LightWorks News Environmental Humanities

July 11, 2018

Solar panels line the top of a building on ASU campus in TempeArizona. Where you don’t have to shovel sunshine, as the old tourism ads chortled. At Arizona State University, students and alumni are Sun Devils. The sun is in the university logo. Solar panels cover almost every structure.

It’s natural then that solar panels take the biggest slice of ASU’s energy research pie. Financial estimates for the next decade point to more than $1 trillion invested in renewable energy globally.

Read the full story on ASU Now to learn more about the evolution of solar energy technology happening at ASU, where researchers are look to find affordable, reliable solutions.

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Meet Senior Sustainability Scientist Christine Buzinde

ASU Wrigley Institute News

July 10, 2018

Christine-Buzinde-Navajo-Nation-Visit1This spring, Arizona State University surpassed 500 sustainability scientists and scholars at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. The 500th member was Christine Buzinde, a professor at the School of Community Resources and Development, an academic director for youth leaders and a sustainable tourism researcher and advocate.

Buzinde answered several questions for us below about the significance of sustainability in tourism and the value of youth-centered social change.

Question: How would you describe your work?

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ASU’s CAP LTER urban ecology program funded for another four years

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News CAP LTER News

July 9, 2018

Two researchers stand in mud and hold cameras at Tres Rios, ArizonaFor 20 years, Arizona State University’s Central Arizona–Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research Program has been studying the Phoenix urban ecosystem from a holistic, interdisciplinary and social-ecological perspective. The National Science Foundation has funded CAP through grants since 1997 as part of its national network of 28 LTER sites. Recently, news broke that the fourth phase of CAP research will be fully funded through 2022.

“I was at a remote field camp in South Africa teaching my study abroad program when word came from the NSF that a decision had been made,” said Dan Childers, CAP’s director and School of Sustainability professor. “We didn’t even have cell service where we were, so I called our NSF program officer on a satellite phone. It was wonderful to get this very good news while in such a beautiful place!”

Much of the current CAP research is focused on urban ecological infrastructure, which is effectively everything except the built environment. The overarching goal of the program is to foster social-ecological research aimed at understanding complex urban ecosystems, using a holistic perspective while enhancing urban sustainability and resilience. The CAP research enterprise is organized around eight interdisciplinary research questions and includes nearly 60 ASU faculty from all four campuses, scientists from several other universities, and dozens of students and postdoctoral scholars.

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ASU on the forefront of a Great Transition

ASU Wrigley Institute News LightWorks News Environmental Humanities

July 9, 2018

Aerial view of a city skyline with a river at sunsetThere is a Great Transition underway, a colossal shift from fossil fuels to wind, plants, natural processes and our sun. It’s born from technological innovation and necessity. If humanity continues to dispel the dark entirely with carbon fuels, we will eventually wipe ourselves out.

Renewable energy sources are no longer the sole province of Northern California hippies and hard-core Alaskan survivalists.

Are we skipping blithely toward a clean-air future, with solar panels on every roof and an electric car in every garage? Not at all. Experts agree your energy future will involve a mix of sources. It will also involve solving a massive problem that is composed of thousands of problems itself.

Read the full story on ASU Now to learn what Arizona State University researchers are doing to develop scalable, renewable energy solutions for the "wicked problem" of fossil fuel consumption.

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