The climate issue

At home and beyond, Los Alamos National Laboratory strives for sustainability and a greener, healthier future.

By Monica Witt | July 25, 2022

Climate Feature@2x Opt
The Cerro Pelado fire started on April 22 just southwest of Los Alamos National Laboratory. On May 4, photographer David Woodfin snapped this image of Frijoles Canyon, just a few miles from Lab property. “I took it through the window of the SUV that we were being escorted in,” Woodfin says. “We stopped at this spot for less than a minute, and this is one of 30 photos I took in about 45 seconds.” Turn to the back cover to learn more about firefighting efforts in Los Alamos County. Los Alamos National Laboratory

This issue of National Security Science magazine explores the scientific and operational contributions Los Alamos National Laboratory is making to address climate change.

As I write this, the topic seems especially timely. I can look out my window and see the smoke from the nearby Cerro Pelado fire and the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon fire, which is the largest wildfire in New Mexico history. Across the globe, India’s heat wave is the hottest on record in over 122 years. The ever-present and growing threat of climate change is not a problem any of us can ignore.

Monica Witt Small
Monica Witt, Deputy Facility Operations Director at Los Alamos National Laboratory

At the Lab, we are taking steps to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045. The commitment and follow-through required to meet this target will take a tremendous amount of dedication, focus, and adoption of new technology. Luckily, we have decades of experience in carbon capture and clean-energy technologies. We will change the energy we use, cars we drive, buildings we work in, gases used in programmatic work, and the vast web of our supply chain.

The energy we use comes from many sources, including coal, gas, hydroelectric, wind, and solar. Transitioning our energy profile away from fossil fuels to cleaner sources is key to reaching net-zero. Los Alamos is planning a 50-acre solar array as one of the first steps to change our energy profile. We are also working to integrate carbon capture technologies and a hydrogen fuel blend in our on-site gas turbine generator, and investing in efficient lighting systems and building controls to improve facility operations. Carbon neutrality can be achieved by transitioning our fleet, facilities, and operations away from fossil fuels and incorporating science-based technologies. This is where operations meets science, and where we truly shine.

In 2021, after more than 20 years at Los Alamos, I received the Department of Energy’s Sustainability Champion award. This was a rewarding moment, and I told my then-17-year-old daughter about our efforts that resulted in a reduction of energy use by more than 7 percent since 2015 and water consumption by more than 20 percent since 2007. She seemed unimpressed. Good thing I’m not ready to retire.

In this magazine, you will read about the research and initiatives Los Alamos is taking—from developing a global climate model of the Earth’s climatic future, to exploring geothermal energy, to studying how climate change affects the spread of disease. You will see how climate change threatens our national security and some of the many ways Los Alamos National Laboratory is protecting our nation and our planet. I hope you will join me in supporting and contributing to this essential and consequential endeavor.