If all the world’s coal, oil, gas, and other fossil fuels reserves were burned and the carbon they contain were released to the atmosphere, then atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels would reach levels five to ten times higher than today’s. Such high levels of this greenhouse gas would lead to dramatic and damaging climate change. This prospect has prompted many people in the scientific, governmental, corporate, and non-profit communities to call for early action to reduce future CO2 emissions.

The Carbon Mitigation Initiative is a 10-year, 20 million dollar program jointly funded by bp and Ford that seeks solutions to the CO2 problem. The goals of this university-industry partnership are to determine:

  • the size of emissions reductions needed to stabilize atmospheric CO2 at a safe level
  • the feasibility of emission reduction strategies
  • the impacts (both positive and negative) of mitigation programs
  • the cost of proposed emissions reductions
  • the effectiveness of proposed policies for encouraging emissions cuts.

The program officially started in January 2001 and and is led by Co-Directors Steve  Pacala and Rob Socolow. The CMI is comprised of five teams:

The Capture Group, led by Bob Williams, focuses on low-emissions options for generating electricity and producing fuels, the logistics of distributing energy to the public, and hydrogen combustion and safety.

The Storage Group, led by Mike Celia, investigates the short- and long-term fate of CO2 injected into underground reservoirs using both numerical and experimental methods.

The Science Group, led by Jorge Sarmiento, concentrates on the global carbon cycle and climate system. The group estimates how the sizes of natural sources and sinks for carbon will change with time.

The Policy Group, led by David Bradford and Michael Oppenheimer, studies the costs and benefits of carbon mitigation and potential policies for achieving cost-effective mitigation.

The Integrative Activity, led by Pacala and Socolow, provides coordination, attacks crosscutting problems, and communicates results to the wider community.

The group has grown to include over 60 university researchers, including 17 faculty members in six departments. The CMI team now also includes 18 professional research and technical staff members, 13 postdocs, and 13 graduate students.

CMI research benefits from interaction with our corporate sponsors, but the research initiatives of the program are investigator-driven.