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Beyond Green: Sustainability Engineering

Professor Paul Linden, director of UCSD's Environment and Sustainability Initiative
Professor Paul Linden, director of UCSD's Environment and Sustainability Initiative

Cyclonic eddies in ocean currents, natural ventilation of large buildings such as the new Children's Museum of San Diego, and understanding the turbulence of various gases and liquids are a few of Paul Linden's many, seemingly unrelated areas of expertise. This applied physics and engineering expert is interested in anything that flows across, through or against volumes of air, land, or water. Linden, chair of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, is the newly named director of UC San Diego's Environment and Sustainability Initiative (ESI). He is using those positions to advance his view that engineers possess the expertises needed to guide universities, cities and even nations as they increasingly try to use less energy and water, resulting in lower environmental costs. Linden says that scientifically informed policies may one day help drastically cut our reliance on fossil fuels long before those current sources of energy are exhausted.

"We didn't come out of the Stone Age because we ran out of stones and we won't come out of the carbon economy because we ran out of coal, oil and gas," says Linden. "Burning fossil fuels has increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Whether or not that rise has caused climate change is very difficult to answer with absolute certainty, but if we wait until we can prove it unequivocally, it may be too late to do anything about it. We need to act now."

UCSD chancellor Marye Anne Fox announced the formation of the ESI around the challenges of sustainability to bring together the intellectual resources of the Jacobs School, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, and the San Diego Supercomputer Center, and the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies. The traditional disciplines in Biological, Physical, Health, and Social Sciences are also involved, along with Humanities and the Rady School of Management. Linden is operating ESI to identify and to build partnerships beyond the university to provide the knowledge to inform policy and contribute to solutions to present and future environmental problems. "There are many things we can do in this interdisciplinary realm of sustainability to permanently reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases," says Linden. "Such ESI-inspired reductions would be a good measure of our success."

This is a map of carbon dioxide concentrations in the mid-troposphere (8 km), with dark blue representing 365 parts per million (ppm), light green is 375 ppm, and red is 380 ppm. The measurements were recorded by NASA's Aqua spacecraft.
This is a map of carbon dioxide concentrations in the mid-troposphere (8 km), with dark blue representing 365 parts per million (ppm), light green is 375 ppm, and red is 380 ppm. The measurements were recorded by NASA's Aqua spacecraft.

UCSD Sustainability Report Card

• UCSD freshmen are helping to design a new residence facility and improve campus recycling.The Environmental Systems undergraduate major includes a community project or internship.

• Since 2002, UCSD has received more than a dozen awards and special recognitions for its green practices in campus operations.

• UCSD has replaced 225 of its high emission gas burning vehicles with zero-emission electric vehicles.

• UCSD was the firstWest Coast university to join the Chicago Climate Exchange.

• UCSD is one of only two California universities to be recognized by the California Climate Action Registry as a "Climate Action Leader."

• UCSD operates one of the largest, most efficient, low-smog-emission cogeneration plants on any university campus in California.The UCSD cogeneration plant supplies 80 percent of the campus's electricity, saving $8 million per year in electricity costs.

• The university invested $50 million in additional energy-efficiency projects completed since 2001,which save the campus an additional $10.5 million per year.

• The U.S. EPA and DOT named UCSD one of the "BestWorkplaces for commuters" because of its popular transportation alternatives: 42 percent UCSD commuters use bikes, trains, buses, vanpools or other forms of alternative transportation.

• UCSD will exceed UC energy efficient building standards by achieving a LEED Silver-equivalent rating on all new buildings.All UCSD design and construction project managers have LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) training.

• UCSD purchases only energy-efficient appliances, low-flow toilets and shower heads.All facilities have single-stream recycling.


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