Based at Princeton University, the Carbon Mitigation Initiative (CMI) is a university-industry partnership sponsored by BP that began in 2000. In 2014, BP renewed CMI’s contract for an additional 5 years, carrying the program forward through 2020.
Administered by the Princeton Environmental Institute, CMI currently includes 14 lead faculty and more than 60 Princeton research staff and students. The program addresses the natural and industrial processes that determine the rate of accumulation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and identifies both risks and opportunities posed by the carbon problem. Research teams are organized into three groups: science, technology, and integration.
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. CMI science features close collaboration with Princeton’s neighbor, the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) of the US Department of Commerce. Together CMI and GFDL are improving the understanding of how climate variability and departures from the historical frequency of extreme events, such as heat waves, droughts, and hurricanes, impact business and society. Another initiative is providing simplified models for understanding the movement of ice through narrow straits, which can affect flow and mixing in the ocean.
CMI Technology explores the integration of intermittent renewable energy (wind and solar) into electricity grids, as affected by carbon policy and renewable energy policy—including the evolving roles for energy conversion in conjunction with CO2 capture and storage. Capture studies include both biological and fossil fuel inputs. Storage studies emphasize leakage pathways and also investigate storage in shales. Work also continues that is directed toward maximizing energy storage in batteries.
CMI Integration introduces new conceptual frameworks that are useful for climate change policy, including efforts to make emerging statistical analyses of extreme events more accessible; improve the risk-assessment framework for the current scientific understanding of sea level rise; and expand discussions of climate change mitigation and adaptation from global-scale intervention to small-scale urban planning and engineering. In addition, there is new work on the limited potential for CO2 reuse after capture and chemical activation.
Over the course of 2016, CMI continued its extensive engagement with BP executives and staff. Princeton hosted multiple BP visitors, and several CMI principal investigators conducted town halls and met with senior BP officials in London, Houston, Chicago, and Washington DC to provide information about CMI research in climate science and technology and to engage in public policy discussions.
During a ceremony held on the Princeton campus in February 2016, Director of Climate Change and Sustainability Technology Gardiner Hill presented the 2016 CMI Best Paper Award for Posdoctoral Fellows to former fellow Caroline Farrior. Farrior, who worked in the Pacala lab, was awarded for her paper published in the January 2016 issue of Science entitled, “Dominance of the Suppressed: Power-law size structure in tropical forests.” Papers are judged for their quality and impact on the carbon mitigation community.
The 15th annual meeting of the Carbon Mitigation Initiative (CMI) was held on April 13-14, 2016 in London. This is the first time in the 16-year history of CMI that the annual meeting was held somewhere other than the Princeton University campus. Locating the meeting in London facilitated deeper interaction between CMI investigators and European colleagues. Over 60 people attended to hear presentations and take part in discussions about terrestrial and ocean carbon sinks, carbon targets and budgets, carbon dioxide and methane leakage, and post-COP21 perspectives.
The London meeting also featured “side events” throughout the week focused on climate policy, subsurface storage of CO2, methane leakage, climate variability, and battery technology. Attendees included Princeton faculty and students and colleagues from BP, GFDL, five national and international universities, and several environmental non-profit organizations and policy think-tanks.
CMI is pleased to announce two new leaders: Gabriel Vecchi, a new member of the senior faculty in geosciences, and Ian Bourg, an assistant professor of civil environmental engineering. Both also hold appointments at the Princeton Environmental Institute. Vecchi is an expert in hurricanes, and Bourg in clays in soils and geological formations.
As of 2016, CMI has a new Executive Sponsor, Cindy Yeilding, Senior Vice President, BP America.
CMI held its 2016 annual meeting at BP headquarters in London. Photo courtesy of BP.