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"Managing a Terraformed Planet: Earth Systems Engineering


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Lincoln Center at ASU

Lincoln Center at ASU

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  • 1. Managing a Terraformed Planet: Earth Systems Engineering Esri GeoDesign Summit January 5-6, 2012 Brad Allenby Founding Director, Center for Earth Systems Engineering and Management Lincoln Professor of Ethics and Engineering Professor of Civil, Environmental, and Sustainable Engineering CESEM Center for Earth Systems Engineering and Management
  • 2. So long as we do not, through thinking,experience what is, we can never belongto what will be.The flight into tradition, out of acombination of humility andpresumption, can bring about nothing initself other than self deception andblindness in relation to the historicalmoment. Source: M. Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, translation by W. Lovitt (New York, Harper Torchbooks, 1977), “The Turning,” p. 49; “The Age of the World Picture,” p. 136.
  • 3. Why Earth Systems Engineering?• Age of human impact on global systems: – Global climate change – Major natural cycles: carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous – Biodiversity – Economy – Technology systems (e.g., human as design space) – Social and cultural behavior (mass consumption) – Water
  • 4. Earth Systems Engineering and Management: Climate Change- Carbon Cycle Schematic Nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur cycles Biosphere Atmosphere and Hydrologic Oceanic Systems Engineering/ cycle Management of Earth system relationships Human systems: economic, cultural, Carbon cycleOther cycles religious, etc Earth System Engineering Other Geoengineering Energy Ocean options options Biomass system fertilization Genetic Other agriculture Fish farming, Engineering/ engineering and Technology etc Management of biotechnology systems carbon cycle Information technology and Fossil fuel Organic chemical services (e.g., industry, etc. industry, etc. telework) Scope of traditional engineering disciplines Implementation at firm, facility, technology and process level
  • 5. Why Earth Systems Engineering?• These Earth systems are difficult in themselves, but because they are foundational, they are coupled to each other, and to many others• They integrate human, natural and built components, and cannot be understood, designed, and managed using just information from one of those domains• Water is quintessential Earth system
  • 6. Global Freshwater Use 1700 - 2000 Withdrawals Withdrawals Use (in percent) 3 Year (km ) (per capita) Irrigation Industry Municipal 1700 110 0.17 90 2 8 1800 243 0.27 90 3 7 1900 580 0.36 90 6 3 1950 1,360 0.54 83 13 4 1970 2,590 0.70 72 22 5 1990 4,130 0.78 66 24 8 1] 2000 5,190 0.87 64 25 9140 (est.) 1] In richer countries, water use stabilized after the 1970’s. In the U.S., total water use peaked around 1980 and had declined by a tenth as of 1995, despite simultaneous addition of some 40 million people. Source: Based on J. R. McNeill, 2000, Something New Under the Sun (New York: W. W. Norton & Company), Table 5.1, p. 121, and sources cited therein.
  • 7. Decoupling U.S. Water Consumption from Economic Performance 10 1000 9 GDP trillion 2002 $ 900 8 800 7 700 6 600 5 500 4 Water consumption km3 per 400 year 3 300 2 200 Population 1 100 0 0 1885 1905 1925 1945 1965 1985 2005 Adapted from The Economist, “Priceless: a Survey of Water”, July 19 2003, center section, Pg 4.
  • 8. Water as Earth System• It is a material• It is a commodity (a material that can be owned)• It is a legal construct – “water rights”• It is a cultural construct – “water as human right”• It is a technological construct (technology makes “potable water” from “sewage”)
  • 9. Water as Earth System• It is transport (Roman empire: moving a given load 1 mile by oxcart = 5.7 miles by river = 57 miles by sea) – Development economics theory that inland countries are disadvantaged because of lack of access to ocean shipping• It is energy• It is political power (cf. water wars)• Essential for life (critical environmentally)
  • 10. Water as Earth System• It is something that can be used, but not used up (form and quality matter)• Availability in a particular circumstance is a matter of pricepoint, infrastructure and power, not “natural” constraints. – Compare with climate change and ambient atmospheric carbon capture
  • 11. Water as Earth System• Distribution challenges arise from transitional regimes (e.g., climate change, technology and infrastructure design and construction) and cultural regimes (e.g., water as “human right” must be economically free)• Traditional definitions fail (e.g., factory beef from stem cells as “water technology”)
  • 12. Water as Earth System• Like all critical earth systems, it can be weaponized (cf: food as weapon in Darfur)• It is provided, traded, and sold both as a material (“water”) and as embedded in other products (“virtual water”)• Trade networks in virtual water (which necessarily implicate similar networks for, e.g., virtual N, or C, or S, or P) are not “ancillary” to managing water issues, but core.
  • 13. Embedded Water Content of Selected ItemsProduct Embedded water content Embedded Water Content, (liters) liters per gram1 microchip (2 g) 32 161 sheet of A4-size paper 10 .125 (liters/m2) (80 g/m2)1 slice of bread (30 g) 40 1.331 potato (100 g) 25 .251 cup of coffee (125 ml) 140 1.12 (l/ml)1 bag of potato crisps 185 .97 (190 g)1 hamburger (150 g) 2,400 16 Based on Gradel and Allenby, Industrial Ecology and Sustainable Engineering, 2010, Prentice-Hall; A.Y. Hoekstra and A.K. Chapagain, Water footprints of nations: Water use by people as a function of their consumption pattern, Water Resources Management, 21, 35–48, 2007
  • 14. Embedded Water
  • 15. Embedded Water• To produce: – 1 ton of vegetables requires about 1,000 cubic meters of water – 1 ton of wheat requires about 1,450 cubic meters – 1 ton of beef requires 42,500 cubic meters
  • 16. Water as Earth Systemsust
  • 17. Water as Earth System
  • 18. Water as Earth System Biodiversity Human Health E A Nitrogen Cycle RPhosphorous Cycle Agriculture T H Carbon Cycle Global Trade S Y S WATEROTHER TECHNOLOGY T ECONOMICS Culture/Law SYSTEMS E M WATER SYSTEMS S Treatment Technologies Production Technologies Recycling Technologies USUAL FOCUS OF Efficient Use Options WATER POLICY
  • 19. Relevant ESEM Considerations• Development of robust technological options at all scales. – Such options are a public good, in that private parties have little incentive to invest in developing them. – Highly likely that society as a whole is seriously under- investing in water technology option spaces (and in terraforming technologies generally).• Examples for water include technologies to – Recycle water at the household level – Blend appropriately treated wastewater with potable water – Reduce water use in agriculture in low technology environments.
  • 20. Relevant ESEM Considerations• Development of water efficient technological options in relevant coupled technologies. – Water efficient agricultural practices to reduce virtual water in food, fibre, bioenergy • Biotech designed cultivars that use less and lower quality (e.g., saline) water • Satellite and sensor technologies to reduce direct demand for agricultural water, and indirect demand for demand for agricultural chemicals, which contain their own embedded water.
  • 21. Relevant ESEM Considerations – Water efficient energy production • Engineering methods that include reduction in water per unit energy produced, not just CO2 emissions, as important design consideration. • Energy efficiency programs that quantify water use, not just CO2 emissions, avoided. • Consider water quality and quantity impacts in economy- wide energy technology and site choice decisions.• Encourage stable trade relationships (thus enhancing embedded water trade, especially in food)
  • 22. Relevant ESEM Considerations• Encourage non-traditional technological evolution – Factory meat from stem cells – Reduced food waste (= water waste) – therefore better transportation/storage infrastructures and information systems• Encourage pricing with distributional equity tools – Market pricing necessary to develop and manage complex adaptive system information on water – Geographic information needs to be mapped onto complex system patterns generated by earth systems of many different kinds
  • 23. Relevant ESEM Considerations• Development of robust cultural options – At what pricepoint can water consumers be shifted to treated wastewater, in whole or in part? – At what pricepoint can homeowners in places like Phoenix, Arizona, be encouraged to shift from lawn to xeriscaping? – At what pricepoint do legal regimes shift to becoming more economically rational? – Should “water footprint” techniques be used to socially engineer attitudes towards water? Why or why not?
  • 24. Relevant ESEM Considerations – Are large scale water redistribution projects culturally acceptable, and if so at what social and environmental cost? – What distributional equity options are appropriate for what circumstances? – Does it matter in terms of water availability and price whether water is culturally perceived as a “right” or as a commodity appropriate to private firm provision? • In either case, should public views be shifted to support more effective provisioning systems, and if so, how?
  • 25. Relevant ESEM Considerations• Can we develop integrated long term supply and demand curves that include in their construction: – Perturbations to existing natural regimes (such as potential climate change effects) – Reasonable estimates as to the pricepoint at which different technologies will be drawn into the market? – Pricepoint at which different legal regimes created?
  • 26. Relevant ESEM Considerations• In addition to foundational supply and demand curves, need to understand and manage: – Transitional paths as new options are implemented; infrastructure – both built and legal – cannot be constructed instantaneously.
  • 27. Relevant ESEM Considerations – Flexibility as transitions occur to respond to unanticipated instability in supply, demand, and system function. – Developing such flexibility will require a more rigorous understanding of technological change with respect not just to water systems, but to coupled natural, built, and human systems.
  • 28. “He, only, merits freedom and existence who wins them every day anew.” (Goethe, 1833, Faust, lines 11,575-76)
  • 29. BACKUP SLIDES ESEM Principles
  • 30. Relevant Earth Systems Engineering and Management Principles• Only intervene when required and to the extent required (humility in the face of complexity).• ESEM projects and programs, such as managing hydrologic systems at regional and global scales, are not just technical and scientific in nature, but unavoidably have powerful legal, cultural, ethical, and even religious dimensions. Complex adaptive integrated human/built/natural systems are necessarily involved, and design and management must also integrate across all relevant domains.• Because ESEM involves such complex, multi-domain issues, the only appropriate governance model under these conditions is one which is democratic, transparent, and accountable. Social engineering by elites is questionable under this principle.
  • 31. Relevant Earth Systems Engineering and Management Principles• Major shifts in technologies and technological systems should be evaluated before, rather than after, implementation.• ESEM initiatives should all be characterized by explicit and transparent objectives or desired performance criteria, with quantitative metrics which permit continuous evaluation of system evolution (and signal when problematic system states may be increasingly likely).• ESEM projects should be incremental and reversible to the extent possible.
  • 32. Relevant Earth Systems Engineering and Management Principles• ESEM should aim for resiliency, not just redundancy, in systems design. Resiliency should be both short term (e.g., a year long drought) and long term (e.g., resilient in the face of unpredictable changes in hydrologic regimes associated with climate change)• ESEM deals with complex adaptive systems that are inherently unpredictable, and thus of necessity becomes a real time dialog with the relevant systems, rather than a definitive endpoint. This requires development of appropriate institutional capability, with such institutions characterized by a high level of institutional flexibility and adaptability.• The ESEM environment and the complexity of the systems at issue require explicit mechanisms for assuring continual learning, including ways in which learning by stakeholders can be facilitated.