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Environmental Challenges Around the Globe:
What is Woods Hole Group Doing About Them?

Woods Hole Group is pleased to continue its two part series focused on the environmental challenges around the globe, and what Woods Hole Group is doing about them.  Although some may view Woods Hole Group as a local consulting company, our people have worked in more than 100 countries, and we have ongoing projects in dozens of countries each year. The scope of our studies leads to actions on global environmental issues. Our newsletter offers a brief description of what we are doing to improve the quality of life on our planet, for the major threats as we see them:

  • global warming
  • loss of biodiversity
  • fisheries collapse
  • pollution and waste management
  • coastal development
  • energy consumption
  • water supply and quality

Part one addressed the first three topics above in our previous newsletter.

Part Two
Pollution and waste management:  Global pollution is at the root of many of the above environmental issues, including climate change (discharge of CO2 and other greenhouse gases with radiative forcing), loss of biodiversity (deterioration of habitats due to pollution by industry, cities, and from atmospheric deposition), loss of fisheries, and lack of water supplies.  Although waste products are a natural result of industrialization and human existence on earth, the quantity and quality of those waste products are within our control to a large extent.  Pollution can be described as discharge of waste products in an environmental insensitive manner.  Lack of regulation, lack of enforcement, and insufficient public involvement often lead to less-than-adequate pollution control measures.  The solution to this problem involves large-scale modifications of industrial processes, stricter measures to implement waste management strategies (at factory, local, regional, national, and international levels), improved technology, and a market system that rewards investment in stricter pollution control and waste management.

What is Woods Hole Group doing?  Woods Hole Group has long been involved in issues related to pollution and waste management.  Through local projects, national projects, and international projects (such as the Global Environment Facility), Woods Hole Group has contributed to studies of pollution, recommendations for pollution reduction, and implementation of pollution reduction measures.  For instance, our present projects include developing a waste management program for a Middle Eastern client, helping develop and implement improved processes for industrial pollution control, and design and construction of hazardous liquid waste management projects for various industrial areas.  Woods Hole Group strives to contribute to better understanding of the scope and breadth of pollution by developing monitoring and measurement systems for pollution, by performing assessments of pollution, and then continuing onto providing solutions to these problems.  One of Woods Hole Group’s foci is to turn waste into re-usable products, such as in the liquid waste management process, where water and various industrial materials will be recycled.

Coastal development:  In the United States, more than 50% of the population lives within 50 miles of the nation’s coast, an area comprising only 11% of the nation’s land area.  This coastal development creates numerous issues of a local and global nature.  Access to coastal waters are restricted in many cases (in Saudi Arabia, for instance, a recent newspaper article cited that only 4% of the nation’s coastline is in the public domain!).  Concentration of industry along the coast has led to increased pollution.  Massive movement to the coast has led to increased exposure to natural hazards, such as storms, tsunamis, and floods.  Conflicting uses often leads to less than ideal zoning of coastal areas; often environmental issues are neglected in favor of economic development.

What is Woods Hole Group doing?  Woods Hole Group is involved in coastal development in many ways.  We perform coastal zone management studies, and recommend coastal management strategies for local communities, nations, and for multi-national settings.  We are proponents of integrated coastal zone management, for a variety of clients ranging up to the multi-national scale.  We provide engineering studies and designs so humans can live more safely and more adaptively with the coast and the oceans.  Examples include regional engineering solutions and beach nourishment, relying on hard and soft methods of beach protection.  Our Environmental Impact Assessments help avoid and reduce the negative impacts of industrial, recreational, and residential coastal developments.  Our focus is on proper planning and on public-private partnerships to develop rational planning for coastal zones, taking into account economic requirements, the environment, and human/social dimensions.

Energy use:  Energy use is expected to continue to grow in the foreseeable future, as developing countries (particularly China and India) increase their industrial capacity.  Developing countries currently are the biggest users of energy globally, with the U.S. being the largest contributor to one by-product of energy use:  emission of CO2 to the atmosphere leading to global warming.  This increased rate of energy usage will lead to numerous problems, including continued global warming (absent internationally - coordinated reductions in emissions associated with energy usage), increased pollution, and possible continued deterioration of our global oceans due to oil spills and uncontrolled discharges to the oceans and coastal areas.

What is Woods Hole Group doing?  We are working on the energy issue from a number of different perspectives.  From an energy production standpoint, Woods Hole Group has developed and deploys monitoring equipment on drilling and production platforms around the world to create safer conditions for drilling and production operations, by providing advanced warning of dangers to operational activities from ocean currents, waves, and winds.  Woods Hole Group also contributes to the safe use of energy by providing environmental impact studies and analyses for energy pipeline corridors, and new energy development (e.g., offshore LNG facilities), to identify critical ecosystems, methods for their protection, and where necessary, mitigation methods.  We have worked on renewable energy projects, to help develop design criteria to optimize the operations of renewable energy projects such as wind farms and tidal energy capture.  We also have embarked on projects related to energy credits for environmental sensitive design, through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) whereby money invested in reductions in discharge of CO2 equivalents can be traded on the open market, through mechanisms established from the Kyoto protocol.  In energy-producing nations such as Saudi Arabia, such trading can provide significant encouragement to improve the environmental friendliness of energy projects. 

Water:  Potable water resources are diminishing world-wide as over-use has reduced our surface and sub-surface reservoirs of water, and pollution has tainted some of those remaining.  A third of the planet’s population lives in water-stressed environments now, and that figure is expected to rise to two-thirds by 2025.  Five million people die from water-borne diseases each year, much of these caused by human desecration of water resources.  As the population continues to grow, the demands on water will also increase.  In principle, there is enough water for us all, but the allocation of water is uneven and wasteful.  Agriculture consumes some 70% of water used, and agriculture will only expand as nations develop.

What is Woods Hole Group doing?  Woods Hole Group is working on the water issue from a number of approaches.  We team with municipalities and engineering partners to address alterative water supply solutions, such as desalination.  Woods Hole Group has helped plan and evaluate a number of reverse osmosis desalination facilities, by modeling the potential impacts of the concentrate discharge on the marine environment and making suggestions to minimize impacts.  In the middle East, we are working on projects addressing sourcing water from groundwater:  what is the volume available?  What is the sustainable use?  Woods Hole Group also is interested in well inventories:  which wells exist?  What are their production rate and capacity?  What is the quality of water?  This initiative involves evaluation of National Water Demand Projections for the next 50 years. And, Woods Hole Group is involved in various projects revolving around water re-use from domestic, industrial and other sources.  Water re-use is one key to sustainable water policies in the future.

 

David Aubrey, Ph.D.

David Aubrey, Ph.D., CEO, Chief Scientist
In 1986, Dr. Aubrey founded Aubrey Consulting, later called Woods Hole Group. Prior to founding the Woods Hole Group, Dr. Aubrey was for 22 years a Senior Scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).  Dr. Aubrey specializes in international environmental projects, including science, engineering, policy, legal, regulatory, and management.  Dr. Aubrey has performed many environmental impact analyses, health impact analyses, and audits to evaluate the impacts of proposed projects on both the environment and human health, for various sectors including intergovernmental bodies (UNEP, UNDP, World Bank, International Development Bank), national governments, local governments, commercial firms, and private individuals.

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