Climate change and Fermilab’s Site Sustainability Plan

Thunderstorms with the potential to affect Fermilab operations may increase in frequency and severity in the future. Photo: Steve Krave, TD

Once again, it is time for Fermilab, along with all other DOE facilities, to prepare a report on our sustainability efforts over the past fiscal year. We are also asked to look ahead to a plan for this fiscal year to help DOE and the federal government at large to fulfill national sustainability goals. The goals include efforts to improve energy and water efficiency, increase the use of renewable forms of energy, minimize the generation of waste, and design, build and operate safer, smarter, and more efficient buildings.

Each of the last three years, we have prepared a Site Sustainability Plan for DOE that ultimately is used to report to the Office of Management and Budget on the performance of the entire federal complex. This exercise, motivated by a series of executive orders signed by Presidents Bush and Obama, is intended to give the federal government the lead in demonstrating sustainable strategies for the entire country and to use its economic power to make markets for cleaner and more efficient products and materials.

This year, we will report on a total of 23 performance measures, including several categories of greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency for the complex and for our individual buildings, fleet efficiency, and “green” purchasing. These are measures that we have reported on an annual basis in the past, and the overall objective is to improve upon performance year after year. This year the goal of climate change resilience was added to the request from DOE. The goal is to imagine the impacts to Fermilab operations as the global climate changes. What that means depends to some extent on our geographic location. Located far from coastlines and in a continental climate, the key changes for us would be increasingly severe fluctuations in weather, including stronger and more frequent storms, longer drought periods, and more extreme temperatures.

The impact of these potential changes in climate on Fermilab’s mission would likely be centered on the effects of flooding on the accelerator complex and/or an increased demand for cooling of critical accelerator components. These problems have occurred to some extent in the past, and our task is to extrapolate from these uncommon occurrences to more frequent and more severe ones in the future.

Avoiding or at least mitigating these impacts gets back to the overall goal of the efforts to act more sustainably and, in particular, to minimize the release of greenhouse gases as much as possible. Everyone can play a part by taking small individual steps, such as using public transportation where available and ensuring our energy use is efficient.

Rod Walton