The Carbon Mitigation Initiative (CMI) at Princeton University is a university-industry partnership sponsored by BP that began in 2000. The goal of the initiative is to lead the way to a compelling and sustainable solution to the carbon and climate change problem. 2015 concludes the first 15 years of the CMI program and marks the transition to the second renewal that will carry the program forward through 2020.
Interaction between Princeton and BP this year has been more extensive than in previous years. At BP’s request, Princeton researchers spent several days in conversations with senior BP leaders, first in London in May and then in Houston in September. The two-day CMI annual meeting in Princeton attracted more BP participation than in any prior year. There were numerous teleconferences.
This thread of high-level and close interaction continues into 2016 as preparations are underway for Princeton to host the CMI annual meeting at BP’s headquarters in London—the first time in CMI’s 16-year history that the meeting has not been in Princeton. Holding the annual meeting in London creates opportunities for deeper involvement of BP with Princeton’s program and suggests an increased determination on BP’s part to pay attention to climate change.
The hallmark of CMI’s research is connectivity across science, technology, and policy to offer an integrated assessment of Earth system science, carbon mitigation options, and societal responses. A major component of the next five years is a concerted effort to enhance integration and outreach and to provide sound information about climate science that will enable effective public policy discussions.
The CMI program currently includes approximately 14 lead faculty and more than 50 research staff and students at Princeton. In 2015, CMI was restructured to form three research work groups: Science, Technology, and Integration and Outreach.
CMI Science focuses on how terrestrial vegetation and the oceans soak up carbon and thereby determine the fraction of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted into the atmosphere that actually stays there (the fraction is about one-half). CMI science increasingly features close collaboration with Princeton’s neighbor, the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) of the US Department of Commerce. A recent and growing component of CMI addresses climate variability and departures from the historical frequency of extreme events, such as heat waves, droughts, and hurricanes.
CMI Technology studies energy conversion in conjunction with CO2 capture and storage. Capture studies include both biological and fossil fuel inputs. Storage studies emphasize leakage pathways and now also investigate storage in shales. A program on advanced batteries has begun.
CMI Integration and Outreach introduces new conceptual frameworks that are useful for climate change policy. One effort seeks to make the emerging statistical analyses of extreme events more accessible. A second effort focuses on improving the risk-assessment framework for the current scientific understanding of sea level rise. A third explores the value for climate policy analysis of adding a new component to traditional carbon accounting that tracks “committed emissions,” i.e., the future emissions that are likely to result when a power plant, vehicle, or addition to infrastructure is placed into service.
In this report, each of the PIs or teams of PIs has chosen to feature one research highlight from 2015 and has provided context for the work. These highlights are supplemented by a complete list of the year’s publications.
The Carbon Mitigation Initiative (CMI) held its 14th annual meeting at Princeton University on April 14 and 15, 2015. More than 100 participants gathered to discuss CMI’s most recent initiatives in the areas of science, technology, and integration and outreach. Attendees included Princeton faculty and students and colleagues from BP, the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), the US Department of Energy (DOE), 9 national and international universities, and several environmental non-profit organizations and policy think-tanks. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)