featuring LLNL's Carbon Capture Lab
Since its founding in 1952, the mission of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has been to meet urgent national security needs through scientific and technological innovation. Expanding from its focus on nuclear weapons science at the height of the Cold War, LLNL has become a national research leader in counterterrorism, intelligence, defense, and energy, with its emphasis in the latter being to advance national energy security while also reducing its impact. Critical to reducing the environmental impact of the national energy sector is determining how to remove historical greenhouse gas emissions (what has already been released) from the atmosphere in parallel with ongoing global decarbonization efforts.
Climate Now’s James Lawler was invited to tour LLNL’s Carbon Capture Lab, home to a team of scientists working to reduce the cost and bottlenecks of implementing large-scale carbon capture facilities, to learn how this research is developed, where the state-of-the-art is in carbon capture technology, and where we could go next (Direct Air Capture skyscrapers?).
Staff Scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Engineer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Elwin Hunter Sellers
Staff Scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Lab
Energy Program Chief Scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Group Leader for the Materials for Energy and Climate Security group, LLNL
Direct Air Capture Pillar Lead at Lawrence Livermore National Lab
In 2021, 40 billion tonnes of manmade CO2 were released globally. But global greenhouse gas emissions for that year are described as 55 billion tonnes in CO2-equivalent (or CO2e). What’s the difference?
CO2 represents around 75% of greenhouse gases emitted by human activities, by weight. But by warming potential, it is much less. Other greenhouse gases (primarily methane, nitrous oxides and fluorinated gases) have much stronger warming effects in the atmosphere, and also remain in the atmosphere for vastly different periods of time. So how can we compare the warming impact of different emissions? By using CO2e.
w/ Melissa Ho
How many crises can we address at once?
In October of this year, headlines broke that the global animal population in 2018 is 69% smaller than it was a half century ago, in 1970. It is the latest bad news in a string of studies on biodiversity loss, which is happening at a rate not seen on this planet since the last mass extinction. It also follows on the heels of an analysis from the U.N. World Food Program, estimating that due to Russia’s war in Ukraine, a record 345 million people are at risk of starvation this year, and that it is likely that by the end of this decade, the cumulative progress made in reaching the U.N.’s 2015 goal of eradicating hunger by 2030 will be 0%.
Conservation of natural lands and freshwater ecosystems are critical to biodiversity preservation efforts, but how do you feed the world without agricultural development, and how do you stem the impact of climate change without developing land-intensive clean energy solutions like wind and solar? It turns out, solutions to these issues do not have to be mutually exclusive.
Melissa Ho, Senior Vice President of the World Wildlife Fund, joined Climate Now to discuss how WWF addresses the competing priorities for humanity and the natural world, and why a holistic valuation of the services healthy ecosystems provide can help us develop co-beneficial solutions to all of these crises.
w/ Katie McGinty and Ian Harris
The side benefit of reducing building emissions? Increasing quality of life.
Building operations (heating, cooling and electrification) account for 27% of global CO2 emissions, but represent some of the lowest-hanging fruit in the challenge of global decarbonization. With efficient design and transitioning to cleanly-sourced electricity, like solar panels, building-related emissions could be decreased by as much as 80%.
Katy McGinty, vice president and chief sustainability officer of Johnson Controls and Ian Harris, business development manager at BlocPower, joined Climate Now to discuss how implementing smart control technologies, more insulated building envelopes, and clean-energy technologies like solar power and heat pumps, aren’t just critical to reaching global net-zero goals, they also make homes and buildings safer, more comfortable, and more affordable to live and work in. And with smart business approaches and community buy-in, building decarbonization can be a tool for environmental justice as much as climate mitigation, by engaging low-income communities, underserved communities and communities of color in the fight against climate change.
w/ Alisha Fredriksson
The global shipping industry emits ~1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, about as much as the sixth highest emitting nation in the world. In hopes of changing course, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has mandated that starting in 2023, most commercial vessels will have to document their CO2 emissions, and demonstrate progress towards reaching the IMO objective of an industry-wide 40% reduction in emissions by 2030.
But that is easier said than done. As we learned in earlier conversations on maritime shipping (here and here), low-emission alternatives to the cheap and extremely dirty bunker fuels that ships currently use are far from ready to deploy at scale. So what can ship owners do to start cutting their emissions as soon as next year?
We spoke with Co-founder and CEO of the start-up Seabound, Alisha Fredriksson, about her teams’ proposed solution: equipping ships with carbon capture devices that trap and store CO2 from fuel exhaust. The CO2 can be brought to port and either sold for CO2 utilization projects, or permanently stored underground. Learn more about how their technology works and their business case for why it is a good idea to get onboard with carbon capture.
w/ Adam Rauwerdink and Rebecca Dell
For some sectors of our economy, electrification as a decarbonization strategy is a whole lot easier said than done. Take the steel industry – which is responsible for 11% of global CO2 emissions. A large part of those emissions come from the ‘coking’ process – where coal-fired furnaces burning at up to 1,100 degrees Celsius (2,000 degrees Fahrenheit) are used to break the bonds between iron and oxygen in the ore materials used to make steel. Driving this reaction with electricity, instead of a coal furnace, is an enormous challenge – but one that Boston Metals are taking the lead on.
Climate Now sat down with Adam Rauwerdink, senior vice president of Boston Metals, to better understand the landscape of developing clean steel technologies, and why the electrification process they are developing – “molten oxide electrolysis” – could be the decarbonization solution that the steel industry needs.
Electric vs Gas-Powered Emissions
Adopting green transportation and transitioning to a 100% electric fleet requires a momentous cultural, technological, and infrastructure overhaul of the entire global automotive industry. If we are going to undertake such a task, we have to know that it will bring significant results in reducing emissions. So what is the real impact of going electric?
As part of our decarbonizing transportation series, we sat down and did the math. We looked at the net carbon dioxide emissions of an EV over its lifecycle versus lifecycle emissions of a gas-powered vehicle to find out just what the climate benefit of going electric could be.