Based at Princeton University, the Carbon Mitigation Initiative (CMI) is an independent academic research program sponsored by BP and administered by the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI). CMI is Princeton’s largest and most long-term industry-university relationship. Established in 2000, the mission of CMI is to lead the way to a compelling and sustainable solution to the carbon and climate change problem.
CMI currently includes 17 lead faculty investigators and over 60 research staff and students. The program brings together scientists, engineers, and policy experts to investigate the dual challenge of supplying the energy that the world needs without emitting greenhouse gases that change the climate. Since its inception, CMI has been committed to the dissemination of its research findings so they may benefit the larger scientific community, government, industry, and the general public.
One of the unique characteristics of the CMI is that it continually readjusts its programming based upon new scientific discoveries, technological advances, and changing political landscapes. Over the past two years, CMI launched three new initiatives.
Methane: Methane is the second most important anthropogenic climate forcer after carbon dioxide. Efforts to decipher current trends and assess future methane emissions necessitate accurate accounting of different methane sources and sinks, as well as a clear understanding of their variability across temporal and spatial scales. These remain fundamental challenges for the scientific community. Since 2017, CMI has supported three complementary projects that address the largest unknowns in methane cycling. They include research on wetland methane emissions and the development of two global-scale modeling projects aimed at quantifying the individual sources, sinks, and variations of methane associated with land and atmosphere.
Soil Carbon: Soils are the largest pool of carbon near the Earth’s surface, roughly as large as the atmosphere, biosphere, and surface-ocean combined. Each year, soils take up more carbon than they emit. Because of the imbalance between soil carbon uptake and emissions, soils presently act as a net carbon sink absorbing roughly 20% of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Recent studies reveal that a key predictor of soil carbon storage is the abundance of certain fine-grained minerals. A primary goal of this project is to decipher the fundamental mechanisms that cause this correlation in order to inform new soil carbon sequestration approaches.
Infrastructure: To meet the 2°C target of the Paris Agreement, global greenhouse gas emissions would have to decline from their current value of over 50 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalents per year, to net- zero sometime between the middle and the end of this century. The U.S. would need to meet a similar, if not more stringent, target. Many deep decarbonization scenarios for the U.S. have been proposed, but these have paid little attention to constraints related to rates of deployment. Thus CMI is initiating a large project on net-zero greenhouse gas-emitting infrastructure for the U.S.
The purpose of the project is to describe qualitatively and quantitatively the engineering/industrial activities and financial flows associated with one or more infrastructure plans that have the potential to deeply decarbonize the U.S. economy by mid-century. Organized by CMI, this is a joint effort involving several other University entities and external collaborators.
Ongoing Research Activities
In addition to the methane, soil carbon, and infrastructure projects, recent progress has been made pertaining to several ongoing research initiatives:
- New findings obtained through robotic observation systems challenge previous estimates of carbon uptake by the Southern Ocean.
- Global modeling of Tropical Cyclone activity indicates that the urbanization of Houston acted to enhance the flooding from Hurricane Harvey. Another modeling study indicates that explosive volcanic activity could impact global cyclone activity in the years that follow.
- Efforts to estimate the contribution of wave breaking and bubbles to global air-sea carbon dioxide flux indicate that bubbles play a critical role in total air-sea CO2 flux over time.
- Simplified computer models are enhancing the understanding of sea ice formation and movement with implication for ocean mixing and ecology.
- Climate models suggest that land use change and carbon mitigation offer opportunities to reduce the effect of drought on the carbon cycle.
- New research indicates that a transition from a tree-dominated ecosystem in the tropics to one dominated by vines has the potential to produce a large loss of terrestrial carbon and an increase of CO2 in the atmosphere.
- Modeling of carbon capture and storage opportunities in the United States, China, and India is revealing the importance of constraints related to rate of deployment.
- New findings reveal that lithium ion batteries may be charged more quickly if the charging is done at a higher temperature than usually considered.
To learn about CMI’s sponsor, check our Sponsor page.
For all open positions within CMI, check our Employment Opportunities page.
You may contact us by using the form in our Contact Us page.