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Sizing up a green carbon sink

Science

Forests are having their moment. Because trees can vacuum carbon from the atmosphere and lock it away in wood, governments and businesses are embracing efforts to fight climate change by reforesting cleared areas and planting trees on a massive scale. But scientists have warned that the enthusiasm and money flowing to forest-based climate solutions threaten to outpace the science. Two papers published this week seek to put such efforts on a firmer footing. One study quantifies how much carbon might be absorbed globally by allowing forests cleared for farming or other purposes to regrow. The other calculates how much carbon could be sequestered by forests in the United States if they were fully “stocked” with newly planted trees. Each strategy has promise, the studies suggest, but also faces perils. To get a worldwide perspective on the potential of second-growth forests, an international team led by ecologist Susan Cook-Patton of the Nature Conservancy (TNC) assembled data from more than 13,000 previously deforested sites where researchers had measured regrowth rates of young trees. The team then trained a machine-learning algorithm on those data and dozens of variables, such as climate and soil type, to predict and map how fast trees could grow on other cleared sites where it didn't have data. > Can the forest regenerate naturally, or can we do something to help? > > Susan Cook-Patton , the Nature Conservancy A TNC-led team had previously calculated that some 678 million hectares, an area nearly the size of Australia, could support second-growth forests. (The total doesn't include land where trees might not be desirable, such as farmland and ecologically valuable grasslands.) If trees were allowed to take over that entire area, new forests could soak up one-quarter of the world's fossil fuel emissions over the next 30 years, Cook-Patton and colleagues report in Nature . That absorption rate is 32% higher than a previous estimate, based on coarser data, produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But the total carbon drawdown is 11% lower than a TNC-led team estimated in 2017. The study highlights “what nature can do all on its own,” Cook-Patton says. And it represents “a lightning step forward” in precision compared with earlier studies, says geographer Matthew Fagan of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who was not involved in the work. But, Fagan adds, “Natural regrowth is not going to save the planet.” One problem: There is often little economic incentive for private landowners to allow forests to bounce back. Under current policies and market pricing, “nobody will abandon cattle ranching or agriculture for growing carbon,” says Pedro Brancalion, a forest expert at the University of São Paulo in Piracicaba, Brazil. And even when forests get a second life, they often don't last long enough to store much carbon before being cleared again. Fagan notes that even in Costa Rica, renowned as a reforestation champion for doubling its forest cover in recent decades, studies have found that half of second-growth forests fall within 20 years. Given such realities, some advocates are pushing to expand tree planting in existing forests. To boost that concept, a team of researchers at the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) quantified how many additional trees U.S. forests could hold. Drawing on a federal inventory, they found that more than 16% of forests in the continental United States are “understocked”—holding fewer than 35% of the trees they could support. Fully stocking these 33 million hectares of forest would ultimately enable U.S. forests to sequester about 18% of national carbon emissions each year, up from 15% today, the team reports in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . But for that to happen, the United States would have to “massively” expand its annual tree-planting efforts, from about 1 billion to 16 billion trees, says lead author Grant Domke, a USFS research forester in St. Paul, Minnesota. Cook-Patton says planting trees might make sense in some places, but natural regeneration, where possible, provides more bang for the buck. “For any given site,” she says, “we should always ask ourselves first: ‘Can the forest regenerate naturally, or can we do something to help?’”


Energy's AI director reviewing 600-plus projects for technologies worth replicating - FedScoop

#artificialintelligence

The Department of Energy's first artificial intelligence director is currently reviewing more than 600 AI projects across its agencies to identify "critical" technologies worth advancing and replicating. Earlier this month, Cheryl Ingstad was named head of DOE's new Artificial Intelligence and Technology Office (AITO), intended to prioritize department resources for AI projects as the coordinating agency. The Trump administration proposed funding AITO at $5 million in fiscal 2021 -- up from $2.5 million the previous fiscal year -- but the office will be tapping into other agencies' funds as well. "They have program and project resources available," Ingstad told FedScoop in an interview. Energy has 17 national laboratories developing and applying AI to power generation, cybersecurity, national security, and accelerating scientific discoveries.


AI Weekly: What ML practitioners are doing about climate change

#artificialintelligence

A lot happened this week in the AI space. The Guardian wrote an article with GPT-3 and again demonstrated that no matter what OpenAI paid to train and create the language model, the free marketing might be worth more. After losing the JEDI cloud contract appeal with the Pentagon, Amazon appointed to its board Keith Alexander, who oversaw the National Security Agency mass surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden leaks in 2013. And Portland passed the strictest facial recognition bans in U.S. history, outlawing government and business use of the technology. However, AI Weekly attempts to reach into the zeitgeist and highlight the issues on people's minds. This week without question it's the smoke that has hung over the western United States and the underlying problem of climate change.


AI Weekly: What ML practitioners are doing about climate change

#artificialintelligence

A lot happened this week deserving of attention in the AI space. The Guardian wrote an article with GPT-3 and again demonstrated that no matter what OpenAI paid to train and create the language model, the free marketing might be worth more. After losing the JEDI cloud contract appeal with the Pentagon, Amazon appointed Keith Alexander to its board -- the man who oversaw the National Security Agency mass surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden leaks in 2013. And Portland passed the strictest facial recognition bans in U.S. history, outlawing government and business use of the technology. However, AI Weekly attempts to reach into the zeitgeist and highlight important events on people's minds. This week without question it's the smoke that's hung over the western United States and the underlying issue of climate change.


Doing The Hard Things: AI, Space, and Climate Science

#artificialintelligence

"We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters" -Peter Thiel The closing quarter of the twentieth century was peak tech innovation in the United States. AT&T's Bell Labs invented the information age with the transistor and data networking, and many transformative technologies tangential to its core business: from solar cells to the Unix operating system to lasers.1 Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) brought about human-computer interaction with the initial computer mouse, as well as laser printing and Ethernet networking.2 In the 80's Pixar was born, creating the first ever computer-animated sequence in a feature film with novel computer-generated imagery (CGI).3,4 At the same time Gates and Allen were hacking at something special that soon revolutionized computing, as were Wozniak and Jobs.5,6 Amidst the heyday of invention in the world of bits, the "space race" brought about massive innovation and accomplishments in the world of atoms: government competition between the US and Russia put humans on the moon for the first time.


Machine learning model to project the impact of COVID-19 on US motor gasoline demand

#artificialintelligence

Owing to the global lockdowns that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, fuel demand plummeted and the price of oil futures went negative in April 2020. Robust fuel demand projections are crucial to economic and energy planning and policy discussions. Here we incorporate pandemic projections and people’s resulting travel and trip activities and fuel usage in a machine-learning-based model to project the US medium-term gasoline demand and study the impact of government intervention. We found that under the reference infection scenario, the US gasoline demand grows slowly after a quick rebound in May, and is unlikely to fully recover prior to October 2020. Under the reference and pessimistic scenario, continual lockdown (no reopening) could worsen the motor gasoline demand temporarily, but it helps the demand recover to a normal level quicker. Under the optimistic infection scenario, gasoline demand will recover close to the non-pandemic level by October 2020. The COVID 19 pandemic and consequent lockdown has had a substantial impact on mobility and therefore fuel demand and it is not clear when demand will recover. Ou et al. use a machine learning model that integrates health recovery scenarios to project the near-term future of gasoline demand.


Doing The Hard Things: AI, Space, and Climate Science

#artificialintelligence

"We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters" -Peter Thiel The closing quarter of the twentieth century was peak tech innovation in the United States. AT&T's Bell Labs invented the information age with the transistor and data networking, and many transformative technologies tangential to its core business: from solar cells to the Unix operating system to lasers.1 Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) brought about human-computer interaction with the initial computer mouse, as well as laser printing and Ethernet networking.2 In the 80's Pixar was born, creating the first ever computer-animated sequence in a feature film with novel computer-generated imagery (CGI).3,4 At the same time Gates and Allen were hacking at something special that soon revolutionized computing, as were Wozniak and Jobs.5,6 Amidst the heyday of invention in the world of bits, the "space race" brought about massive innovation and accomplishments in the world of atoms: government competition between the US and Russia put humans on the moon for the first time.


Mayor Turner and Microsoft expand digital alliance with the city of Houston

#artificialintelligence

Mayor Sylvester Turner announced on Monday that the city of Houston has expanded its groundbreaking digital alliance with Microsoft to innovate in big data, artificial intelligence and the digital economy. Microsoft brings to Houston "Accelerate," a new program designed to address economic recovery through skilling both underserved communities and re-skilling the many Americans impacted by COVID-19. The collaboration is intended to create new economic opportunity, close equity and digital skills gaps, and prepare a workforce for the 21st century. "Microsoft launched the Accelerate program at a time when closing the digital divide has never been more important," said Kate Johnson, president of Microsoft U.S. "We're thrilled to be joining Mayor Turner and an impressive group of partners in this effort to expand access to in-demand digital skills--and close digital skills gaps widened by COVID-19--through Accelerate: Houston." The mayor was joined by Jacky Wright, chief digital officer, Microsoft U.S., to announce details of the Houston Innovation Alliance and Accelerate: Houston.


ORNL's New AI Platform Assesses 3D Printed Parts in Real-Time - 3DPrint.com

#artificialintelligence

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is behind the development of a new type of artificial intelligence (AI) software called Peregrine, meant to improve the quality of functional parts being produced via powder bed 3D printers. Peregrine requires no "expensive characterization equipment," yet possesses the ability to evaluate parts during manufacturing. "Capturing that information creates a digital'clone' for each part, providing a trove of data from the raw material to the operational component," said Vincent Paquit, leader of advanced manufacturing data analytics research as part of ORNL's Imaging, Signals and Machine Learning group. "We then use that data to qualify the part and to inform future builds across multiple part geometries and with multiple materials, achieving new levels of automation and manufacturing quality assurance." Oak Ridge National Laboratory researcher Chase Joslin uses Peregrine software to monitor and analyze a component being 3D printed at the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL (Image: Luke Scime, ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy) The software is based on a convolutional neural network that imitates the human brain, rapidly evaluating images from cameras during printing.


Robots can now store energy like humans in 'fat reserves' after battery breakthrough

The Independent - Tech

A breakthrough with biomorphic batteries could allow robots to store up to 72-times more energy through a system similar to biological fat reserves. Researchers at the University of Michigan – funded by the US Department of Defense – developed a new rechargeable zinc battery that integrates into the structure of a robot in order to free up space and reduce weight that conventional lithium-ion batteries create. "Robot designs are restricted by the need for batteries that often occupy 20 per cent or more of the available space inside a robot, or account for a similar proportion of the robot's weight," said Nicholas Kotov, a professor of engineering who led the research. "We don't have a single sac of fat, which would be bulky and require a lot of costly energy transfer. Distributed energy storage, which is the biological way, is the way to go for highly efficient biomorphic devices."