Earth Day 2023: Virginia Tech experts available to discuss environmental issues, research (2023)

Virginia Tech's office of Media Relations has the following experts available for interviews on the environment, energy and sustainability. To schedule an interview,

Rising sea levels threaten US coasts and cities.

a recently releasedreporton climate change found that sea level rise is "inevitable over centuries to millennia due to continued warming of the deep ocean and melting of the ice sheet, and sea levels will remain elevated for thousands of years."

Virginia Tech Environmental Safety SpecialistManoochehr Shirzaeisays that starting in the 21st century, the average rate of sea level rise and land subsidence has nearly doubled per year, due to rising temperatures. “Sea level rise and land subsidence increase the hazards associated with hurricanes, storm surge, coastal erosion, and flooding of low-lying coastal areas, where high population and asset densities increase exposure of the region to dangers”. He explains that land subsidence can also affect the integrity of coastal structures and increase the probability of failure.

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Shirzaei says the solution varies from place to place depending on the individual situation. It may involve upgrading protective facilities (i.e. dams), raising land, maintaining and restoring nature-based protection (i.e. wetlands), subsidence control, upgrading resilience to floods, the selective relocation of key infrastructure or the installation of flood warning systems.

Environmental impact of AI and its sustainability

The rapid growth of artificial intelligence has led to advances such as autonomous vehicles, virtual reality, and ChatGPT. But AI technologies and AI training models consume a lot of power, raising concerns about the environmental impact of AI and its sustainability.

To put AI's power usage into perspective: It took nine days to train one of the first OpenAI chatbot models, known as MegatronLM.According to TechTarget, during those nine days 27,648 kilowatt-hours of energy were used. That's about the same amount of energy used by three American homes over the course of a full year.

In an effort to make AI more sustainable,walid saad,a master inBradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineeringat Virginia Tech and the Virginia Tech Next-G Faculty LeaderInnovation Campus, is exploring the concept of green federated learning, or green FLin partnership with amazon. Federated learning is a distributed machine learning technique that enables the implementation of collaborative AI algorithms.

Saad and his team want to make federated learning systems and distributed AI systems more sustainable and energy efficient during the training phase and the inference phase, when algorithms are used to perform AI tasks of the real world.

Greenwashing leaves false impressions of sustainable economic practices

Do you choose companies, for example banks, based on their green initiatives: commitments to reduce carbon or plant trees? It may be necessary to rethink and investigate the company to see if it is being true to its word. Pledges to go green are more likely to result in companies raising more green money, that is, than taking care of Mother Nature.

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Jadrian Wooten, economist at Virginia TechScience Faculty, points to the practice of “greenwashing” – in which companies leave false impressions – be they photos or videos – and/or misleading information about how their products are ecologically correct.

“The main issue with greenwashing is whether consumers are actually getting the product they think they are paying for. If your goal is really to have a more sustainable impact, it probably means that it will become increasingly important for independent research to prevail,” Wooten explains.

Climate-Smart Agricultural Practices

The adoption of climate-smart practices can play an important role in the success of agriculture and the reduction of climate-altering gases in the future. EITHERCollege of Agriculture and Life SciencesIt recently received an $80 million grant from the US Department of Agriculture to pilot a program that will pay farmers to implement climate-smart practices on farms of all sizes. EITHERMADURO(Rural Investing to Protect Our Environment) The association will implement three-year pilot programs in Virginia, Arkansas, Minnesota and North Dakota. If implemented nationally, RIPE could help growers reduce agricultural emissions by 55% and total US emissions by 8% after 10 years.

“We are proud to lead this effort that provides agricultural producers with the incentives to adopt climate-smart practices and the financial means to do so,” he says.Tom Thompson, principal investigator of the project, associate dean of the faculty and director of CALS Global. “This is a decisive program that helps the agricultural industry to be a leader in the fight against climate change and achieve sustainable productivity growth.” Thompson is available to talk about the RIPE partnership, the climate-smart practices that will be implemented, and why this is essential to reduce emissions. Furtherhere.

Optimizing the energy use of electric vehicles and reducing the carbon footprint of trains

Battery life becomes a major concern for anyone who drives or is considering purchasing an electric vehicle.Hisham Raja, Director ofSustainable Mobility Centerat the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, he conducts research to optimize routes for electric vehicles to travel and highway speeds for electric vehicles to maintain while minimizing their energy consumption. Creating these EV trip optimization methods may even involve exchanging data between your car and traffic lights along the highways.

In addition to electric vehicles, the Center for Sustainable Mobility is exploring how to reduce carbon emissions from freight rail services in the United States. “In this paper, we are looking at various options, including hybrid diesel, biodiesel, hybrid biodiesel, battery electric trains, catenary train electrification, and hydrogen fuel cells,” he says.

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Help businesses pay for recycling and reduce energy costs

Industries that want to be good stewards of the environment may find the cost of recycling prohibitive because they lack the technology to turn old plastic into the raw material that can be used to make new plastics.jennifer russel, associate professor atDepartment of Sustainable Biomaterialsin the Faculty of Natural Resources and Environment, has been working on building "circular economies" that make recycling an integrated part of the supply chain that already includes manufacturers, retailers, and consumers, making that supply chain supply is "circular". Russell's work has focused particularly on polyurethane foam, a substance used in running shoes, vehicle interiors, and many other products.

Russell and his students have also collaborated with businesses in Virginia to help them reduce operating costs by increasing recycling and decreasing energy use. “This is increasingly important for companies as they commit to sustainability but don't necessarily have the internal resources, capabilities or tools to get started,” she says.

Saving energy and building a more sustainable electrical network

In recent years, power outages have become increasingly common. according to areportpublished byUS Energy Information Administration, the average person living in the United States in 2020 spent a record more than eight hours without power that year.

To address grid sustainability, innovative approaches to power conversion and related technologies, Virginia Tech expertCristina DiMarinohopes to find a more sustainable and efficient grid soon, thanks to a new $2.9 million grant recently received fromUS Department of Energy.

“Power grid technology in the United States is over 100 years old. Because of this outdated network technology, it is more susceptible to power outages, especially as we face increasingly extreme weather,” DiMarino said. “When you add the increased penetration of renewable energy sources and charging capacities, you are putting a significant demand on our grid that it was not originally designed to meet.”

DiMarino's team seeks to create a more streamlined structure that combines the functionality of power electronics and the power density benefits of high-voltage cables to replace the bulky power substations in the electrical grid we use today.

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Raise community awareness on how to deal with extreme heat and its impacts.

Working to increase community awareness and solutions to deal with extreme heat. That isby Theodore Limobjective together with more than a dozen partners in theroanoke city. City government, libraries, public schools, Virginia Tech teachers,Carilion Clinic,Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action, various arts, faith and service organizations, as well as mental and behavioral health providers are participating in the study.

Heat waves are the deadliest natural disasters in the US, but as Lim, assistant professor of Planning and Urban Affairs at theSchool of Public and International Affairsexplains, residents don't always think about how their neighborhoods might be at risk during a heat wave. “The neighborhoods that have the hottest temperatures are also the ones that experience high levels of gun violence, evictions and lack of affordable housing, systemic racism, and mass incarceration,” Lim says.

The partners have been working together to link the heat issue more generally to overall neighborhood and community improvement and better outcomes for these residents. So far, this has included integrating urban heat STEM curricula into K12 classes, youth activities, collaborative planning workshops, and training for physicians and community health workers. The team currently hopes to expand the programs to include workforce development and more youth-oriented programs.

Social impact of natural and environmental disasters

Concerns linger after a February train derailment in East Palestine, OH. The chemicals contaminated nearby streams and rivers. It is a disaster that could have great social impacts for years to come.

As a disaster resilience specialist, it isLiesel Ritchiework to adopt a sociological approach. Ritchie, professor of sociology and associate director of theVirginia Tech Center for Coastal Studies, examined such devastating events as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Hurricane Katrina, and various earthquakes around the world. She travels to disaster sites around the world to work with communities to influence government and industry policy. “Even after a natural disaster is over, people will need help; they're going to need financial support and social support,” says Ritchie.


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