Environmental engineers have played a critical role in improving human and ecosystem health over the past several decades. These contributions have focused on providing clean water and air as well as managing waste streams and remediating polluted sites. As environmental problems have become more global in scale and more deeply entrenched in sociotechnical systems, the discipline of environmental engineering must grow to be ready to respond to the challenges of the coming decades. Here we make the case that environmental engineers should play a leadership role in the development of climate change mitigation technologies at the carbon-water nexus (CWN). Climate change, driven largely by unfettered emissions of fossil carbon into the atmosphere, is a far-reaching and enormously complex environmental risk with the potential to negatively affect food security, human health, infrastructure, and other systems. Solving this problem will require a massive mobilization of existing and innovative new technology. The environmental engineering community is uniquely positioned to do pioneering work at the CWN using a skillset that has been honed, solving related problems. The focus of this special issue, on "The science and innovation of emerging subsurface energy technologies," provides one example domain within which environmental engineers and related disciplines are beginning to make important contributions at the CWN. In this article, we define the CWN and describe how environmental engineers can bring their considerable expertise to bear in this area. Then we review some of the topics that appear in this special issue, for example, mitigating the impacts of hydraulic fracturing and geologic carbon storage, and we provide perspective on emergent research directions, for example, enhanced geothermal energy, energy storage in sedimentary formations, and others.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Chemistry
- Waste Management and Disposal
- carbon water nexus
- climate mitigation
- emerging research directions