The Carbon Mitigation Initiative (CMI) at Princeton University is a university-industry partnership sponsored by BP that began in 2000. Both parties are committed to a rigorous research initiative to address the ever-increasing challenges associated with the climate problem. This past November BP renewed CMI’s contract for an additional 5 years, carrying the program forward through 2020.
In addition, in November 2014 the administering entity for CMI, the Princeton Environmental Institute, underwent a leadership transition. François Morel, the Albert G. Blanke, Jr. Professor of Geosciences and a CMI principal investigator (PI), became the Institute’s new director for a second term, having presided over the early years of CMI during his first term (1998 to 2005). Morel succeeded CMI co-director Stephen Pacala, the Frederick D. Petrie Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, who completed a nine-year term as director (2005 to 2014).
The research hallmark of CMI is connectivity across science, technology and policy to offer an integrated assessment of earth-systems 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 discussion.
The CMI program currently includes approximately 20 lead faculty and over 70 research staff and students at Princeton. During the latest renewal process, 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 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 of the U.S. 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. The program on advanced batteries continues.
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 or vehicle or addition to infrastructure is placed into service.
In this report, each of the PIs or team of PIs has selected to feature one research highlight from 2014 and has provided context for the work. These highlights are supplemented by a complete list of the year’s peer-reviewed and submitted publications.