Contact Us  |  Search:  
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Science and Technology for Sustainability Program
Science and Technology for Sustainability Program
Policy and Global Affairs
Home About Us STS Roundtable Sustainability Across The Academies
Quick Links


Download a description of our program

Upcoming Events

Reducing Food Loss and Waste Workshop
October 17, 2018, Washington, DC
Registration opens soon

View a list of Sustainability-related meetings at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

Recent Events

Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability
January 30-21, 2018, Washington, DC

Symposium at the National Council for Science and the Environment Conference

January 23, 2018 Arlington, VA

The Network for Emerging Leaders in Sustainability (NELS)
October 26, 2017 Washington, DC


April 2013

Table of Contents


We are pleased to present you with Sustainability at the National Academies, a monthly update highlighting activities related to sustainable development from throughout the National Academies. Please visit our website for additional information on these and other activities at

The Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability  provides a unique forum for sharing views, information, and analyses related to sustainability. The goal for the Roundtable is to mobilize, encourage, and use scientific knowledge and technology to help achieve sustainability goals and to support the implementation of sustainability practices. Through its activities, the Roundtable identifies new ways in which science and technology can contribute to sustainability. What follows is a brief summary of sustainability-related activities being conducted throughout the National Academies.

You are receiving this update based on your participation in ongoing or past activities of the Roundtable. If you would prefer not to receive future monthly updates or would like to be added to the recipient list, please contact Dylan Richmond at 202-334-2489 or or visit our website. 

Return to top of page


Network for Emerging Leaders in Sustainability
NELS invites you to attend an upcoming event on Tuesday, May 14, from 5:30-7:30 pm at the Koshland Science Museum (525 E St NW, Washingotn, DC). Matthew Kotchen, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment and Energy at the Department of the Treasury, will deliver remarks. Please register in advance of the event if you would like to attend.

Pathways to Urban Sustainability: A Focus on Portland 
The National Academies' Science and Technology for Sustainability (STS) Program is organizing a public workshop to examine issues relating to urban sustainability in the Portland metropolitan region. The two-day workshop will be held May 28-29, 2013, at the Ecotrust Natural Capital Center in Portland's Pearl District. We ask those interested in attending to please register in advance.  

Return to top of page


A Review of the Draft 2013 National Climate Assessment

As mandated by the Global Change Research Act (GCRA), the U.S. Global Change Research Program is currently producing a "National Climate Assessment" (NCA). The NCA is a report to inform the President, the Congress, and the American people about the current state of scientific knowledge regarding climate change effects on U.S. regions and key sectors, now and in the coming decades. This document contains an evaluation of the draft NCA report, presented through consensus responses to the Panel's Task Statement questions, and through a large collection of individual Panel member comments and suggestions for specific chapters, statements, figures, etc. While focusing primarily on practical suggestions for immediately improving the current draft, the Panel also raises some broader considerations about fundamental approaches used in certain parts of the NCA report, and about the scope of USGCRP research that underlies the NCA findings. Some suggestions can be viewed as longer-term advice for future versions of NCA work. 

Levees and the National Flood Insurance Program: Improving Policies and Practices
The Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration (FIMA) manages the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is a cornerstone in the U.S. strategy to assist communities to prepare for, mitigate against, and recover from flood disasters. The NFIP was established by Congress with passage of the National Flood Insurance Act in 1968, to help reduce future flood damages through NFIP community floodplain regulation that would control development in flood hazard areas, provide insurance for a premium to property owners, and reduce federal expenditures for disaster assistance. An ad hoc committee was charged to examine FEMA's current treatment of levees within the NFIP and provide advice on how those levee-elated policies and activities could be improved. The study addressed four broad areas, risk analysis, flood insurance, risk reduction, and risk communication, regarding how levees are considered in the NFIP. Specific issues within these areas include current risk analysis and mapping procedures behind accredited and non-accredited levees, flood insurance pricing and the mandatory flood insurance purchase requirement, mitigation options to reduce risk for communities with levees, flood risk communication efforts, and the concept of shared responsibility. The principal conclusions and recommendations are highlighted in this report.

Worker Health and Safety on Offshore Wind Farms
TRB Special Report 310: Worker Health and Safety on Offshore Wind Farms examines the hazards and risks to workers on offshore wind farms on the outer continental shelf as compared to offshore oil and gas operations; explores gaps and overlaps in jurisdictional authority for worker health and safety on offshore wind farms; and evaluates the adequacy of-and recommends enhancements to-the existing safety management system (SMS) requirement published in 30 CFR 585.810. Specifically, the committee recommends that the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) adopt a full SMS rule for workers on offshore wind farms at a level of detail that includes the baseline elements identified in this report. An enhanced SMS rule should require the use of human factors engineering elements in the design process and should encompass all activities that the lessee and its contractors undertake. In collaboration with other regulatory agencies and industry stakeholders, BOEM should clearly define roles and responsibilities and indicate which standards could apply for all phases of wind farm development regardless of jurisdiction. Also, with the help of stakeholders, BOEM should support the development of guidelines and recommended practices that could be used as guidance documents or adopted by reference.

Return to top of page


Mississippi River Water Quality Science and Interstate Collaboration
An ad hoc committee will issue a consensus report summarizing scientific challenges and priorities regarding Mississippi River water quality monitoring and evaluation. The report will be based in large part on presentations and information gathered during a two-day public workshop.  This event will include presentations that focus on the science behind understanding Mississippi River basin water quality conditions.  The emphasis will be on the science and evaluation of water quality conditions, along with discussion and dialogue about these and other related issues.  The geographical focus will be on the 10-state Mississippi River corridor and the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Geoengineering Climate: Technical Evaluation and Discussion of Impacts
An ad hoc committee will conduct a technical evaluation of a limited number of proposed geoengineering techniques, including examples of both solar radiation management (SRM) and carbon dioxide removal (CDR) techniques, and comment generally on the potential impacts of deploying these technologies, including possible environmental, economic, and national security concerns. The study will evaluate what is currently known about the science of several (3-4) selected example techniques, including potential risks and consequences, and describe what is known about the viability for implementation of the proposed techniques including technological and cost considerations. It will also briefly explain other geoengineering technologies that have been proposed (beyond the selected examples), and identify future research needed to provide a credible scientific underpinning for future discussions. The study will also discuss historical examples of related technologies (e.g., cloud seeding and other weather modification) for lessons that might be learned about societal reactions, as well as examine what international agreements exist which may be relevant to the experimental testing or deployment of geoengineering technologies.

Opportunities to Use Remote Sensing in Understanding Permafrost and Ecosystems: A Workshop
Permafrost thaw stands to have wide-ranging impacts, such as the draining and drying of the tundra, erosion of riverbanks and coastline, destabilization of infrastructure, and potential implications for ecosystems and the carbon cycle in the high latitudes. A committee will plan a workshop to explore opportunities for using remote sensing to advance our understanding of permafrost status and trends and the impacts of permafrost change, especially on ecosystems and the carbon cycle in the high latitudes. The workshop would address questions such as how remote sensing might be used in innovative ways, how it might enhance our ability to document long-term trends, whether it is possible to integrate remote sensing products with the ground-based observations and assimilate them into advanced Arctic system models, what are the expectations of the quality and spatial and temporal resolution possible through such approaches, and what prototype sensors are available and might be used for detailed ground calibration of permafrost/high latitude carbon cycle studies. The workshop discussions will be designed to encourage participants to articulate gaps in current understanding and identify potential opportunities to harness remote sensing techniques to better understand permafrost, permafrost change, and implications for ecosystems in permafrost areas.  

Return to top of page


Sustainability Linkages in the Federal Government
An ad hoc committee under the STS Program will identify the linkages among areas such as energy, water, health, agricultural production, and biodiversity that are critical to promoting and encouraging long term sustainability within the federal policy framework, recognizing that progress towards sustainability necessarily involves other levels of government, the private sector, and civil society. The premise is that achieving sustainability is a systems challenge that cannot be realized by separately optimizing pieces of the system. The study will build upon existing and emerging expertise throughout the scientific and technological communities. It will describe the nexus where domains intersect but in which existing institutions and disciplines often do not intersect. The consensus report will be released in June 2013.

Symposium on Science, Innovation, and Partnerships for Sustainability Solutions  
An ad hoc committee under the STS Program held a three day public symposium, May 16-18, 2012, on fostering partnerships and linkages between disciplines, sectors, agencies and nations in sustainability science and innovation. The symposium featured invited presentations and discussions to showcase federal investments and institutional structures regarding sustainability, identify opportunities to help promote practices that would lead communities toward sustainability, and address communication issues needed to recognize science and innovation as central to the understanding and adoption of sustainable practices.   Video of the sessions,   PowerPoint presentations, and the symposium summary are available on the STS website. Dissemination activities are being planned for 2013.

Sustainability and the U.S. EPA
An ad hoc committeee under the STS program has authored a consensus report, released in August 2011, for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s Office of Research and Development (ORD) to help define their efforts to incorporate sustainability concepts into agency programs. This report builds on existing sustainability efforts that ORD has conducted by strengthening the analytic and scientific basis for sustainability as it applies to human health and environmental protection within the Agency's decision-making process. Dissemination activities are being planned for 2013.

Return to top of page


May 2013
Sustainable Diets: Food for Healthy People and a Healthy Planet
May 7-8, 2013, Washington, DC
Emerging Research Questions in the Arctic
May 7-9, 2013, Anchorage, AK 
Global Environmental Health and Sustainable Development Innovation Collaborative
May 9, 2013, Washington, DC
Options for Implementing the Requirement of Best Available and Safest Technologies for Offshore Oil and Gas Operations
May 13, 2013, Washington, DC
Network for Emerging Leaders in Sustainability
May 14, 2013, Washington, DC
2013 China-America Frontiers of Engineering Symposium
May 15-17, 2013, Beijing, China  
Health in the Context of Sustainable Economic Frameworks: Beyond GDP
May 23, 2013, Webinar
Pathways to Urban Sustainability: A Focus on Portland
May 28-29, 2013, Portland, OR
Risk Management and Governance Issues in Shale Gas Development: Two Workshops
May 30-31, 2013, Washington, DC    

Return to top of page


PNAS Sustainability Science, Special Features 
PNAS offers a series of special feature issues that highlight emerging fields in the physical, social, and biological sciences and are edited by leaders in the field. Special Features include a cluster of Perspectives and peer-reviewed research articles. As a service to readers, Special Features are freely available online from the date of publication. 

From the April 2013 issue:

To learn more about sustainability activities, both in the STS program and throughout the other boards and committees of the National Academies, please visit our webpage.

Preparation of this update was supported by the National Academies' George and Cynthia Mitchell Endowment for Sustainability Science

Return to top of page

To stop receiving these emails, use this link to unsubscribe or reply to this message with "unsubscribe" in the subject line.

Send questions or comments to
Copyright © 2013. National Academies.
500 Fifth Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20001.
Privacy Statement