CSU’s Dr. Diana Wall wins the Tyler Prize!

A big congratulations to our own Dr. Diana Wall, University Distinguished Professor and Director of the Colorado State University School of Global Environmental Sustainability, on winning the 2013 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement!

If you want to learn more about Dr. Wall’s work, check out this video of her contribution to the CSU TILT ‘My Favorite Lecture’ series.

As you can see from the list of previous laureates, this is an extremely prestigious award- there are a lot of science rock stars on the list!  While many readers are probably familiar with the work of people like Jane Goodall, Jared Diamond, and EO Wilson, I’d like to take a moment to highlight some of the others whose work is relevant to energy research and bioenergy in particular:

  • Kirk R. Smith:  An epidemiologist at UC Berkeley, Dr. Smith has spent a career studying the health and climate change impacts of the pervasive use of biomass combustion for household cooking across the developing world, highlighting how the practice contributes more to mortality and morbidity worldwide than HIV and malaria.  His research and advocacy have helped spawn an international effort to disseminate cleaner cooking technologies, and have been the inspiration for some related research and enterprise efforts closer to home.  Dr. Smith’s seminal paper on the topic is almost 20 years old now, but still serves as a great introduction:

Smith, K. R. Health, energy, and greenhouse-gas impacts of biomass combustion in household stoves. Energy for Sustainable Development 1994, 1, 23–29.

  • V. “Ram” Ramanathan:  One of the main pollutants produced from inefficient biomass combustion in developing countries, as well as from diesel engines in developed countries, is black carbon particulate matter.  While the detrimental health effect of breathing particulates are well-known, Dr. Ramanathan has been a pioneer in quantifying the contribution of black carbon (BC) emissions on climate change; current understanding suggests that BC makes a greater contribution than any other greenhouse gas besides CO2, and is also perhaps one of the easiest to mitigate.  More recently, Dr. Ramanathan has made a direct contribution to the understanding and dissemination of improved cooking technologies in India through Project Surya.

Ramanathan, V.; Carmichael, G. Global and regional climate changes due to black carbon. Nature Geoscience 2008, 1, 221–227.

  • Paul J. Crutzen:  Dr. Crutzen is perhaps most famous for his pioneering work on the role of man-made chlorinated compounds in stratospheric ozone degradation, the so-called ‘hole in the ozone layer’, for which he was awarded the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.  However, his work covers a variety of atmospheric chemistry and biogeochemistry issues, and he has recently weighed in on the issue of nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from bioenergy production, arguing that a full accounting of indirect emissions can offset the technology’s other GHG reductions.  While this particular paper has been challenged as being somewhat of a strawman, the work reminds those of us doing bioenergy lifecycle assessment of the importance of including indirect emissions. Fun fact: in the late 1970s Dr. Crutzen was a professor in the CSU in the Atmospheric Sciences Department.

Crutzen, P. J.; Mosier, A. R.; Smith, K. A.; Winiwarter, W. N2O release from agro-biofuel production negates global warming reduction by replacing fossil fuels. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 2008, 8, 389–395.

  • Mario J. Molina:   Dr. Molina was a co-recipient of the 1995 chemistry Nobel with Dr. Crutzen.  Since then, he has taken an active interest in global warming, writing on how the same emissions control protocols that brought ozone depletion under control can make a contribution to reducing non-CO2 greenhouse gases and climate forcing agents such as HFCs and black carbon, and promoting terrestrial carbon sequestration.  Reducing BC emissions from cooking and deploying biochar are two bioenergy technologies that show up high on his to-do list:
Molina, M.; Zaelke, D.; Sarma, K. M.; Andersen, S. O.; Ramanathan, V.; Kaniaru, D. Reducing abrupt climate change risk using the Montreal Protocol and other regulatory actions to complement cuts in CO2 emissions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2009, 106, 20616–20621.

Further evidence of what a cross-cutting topic bioenergy can be 🙂

Congratulations again to Dr. Wall!

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