BP renews University's carbon contract
In a statement released this week, BP Research and Technology Group vice president David Eyton emphasized the importance of scientific research.
“The challenge of climate change requires policy development at all levels: global, national and local,” Eyton said. “Our work with Princeton is an example of BP’s commitment to collaborative research, and has already provided a vital contribution to the pace of policy development.”
Though the partnership, which provides $2 million annually to CMI, was not scheduled to expire until 2010, the early announcement of an extension will give the initiative the time it needs to plan future research, CMI co-director and mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Robert Socolow said.
Socolow said that BP’s decision was unprecedented but very welcome. “The expectation was that it would last 10 years, but the partnership was one widely appreciated by both BP and Princeton,” he said.
“BP has made it clear the renewal was an unusual decision,” he added.
Geosciences professor and CMI member Daniel Sigman said that an important feature of CMI is its multidisciplinary approach, with four main working groups in the areas of carbon capture, carbon storage, climate science and carbon integration.
“If you have a bad social understanding of what it will take to make a given technology work, not just at the technological level but at the social level, then you’re wasting your time,” Sigman said.
Princeton Environmental Institute assistant director and CMI member Pascale Poussart explained that, in addition to continuing research in these four groups, “there’ll be continued research on how we develop public acceptance of this technology, and looking at several facets of the policy.”
One of the most significant contributions to the scientific community through CMI was an influential paper by its two directors. In 2001, Socolow and CMI co-director and ecology and evolutionary biology professor Stephen Pacala, published an article in the journal Science that proposed the idea of stabilization wedges, a set of technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the future.
Socolow and Pacala proposed 15 possible stabilization wedges and wrote in the paper that adopting as few as seven of the wedges as official policy may prevent a rise in greenhouse gas emissions for the next half century.
But Socolow noted that the paper, which utilized data from 2001 was rendered outdated by results from 2005.
“The emissions from the planet are already considerably larger than when we wrote the paper,” he said.
Future projects have not been fully outlined, and CMI sees this more as a continuation of the work they’ve been doing than an expansion, Socolow said.
One issue that CMI has already started working on is how responsibility for solving the global climate problem ought to be assigned and what the division of labor between developed and developing countries ought to be, he said.
Geosciences professor Francois Morel, another member of CMI, said he was pleased with the opportunity for more long-term research and suggested that interest in climate change was part of a larger trend.
“I think that this is part of a whole series of activity in funding, research, buildings [and] professorships having to do with Princeton playing an important role in research on energy and the environment,” Morel said.
Socolow explained that BP was very respectful of the independence of University researchers.
“This relationship between industry and University has somehow gone very well,” he said. “Princeton regards this as a model. We have a sense we’re influencing many of the company’s decisions in carbon mitigation.”
More than 100 faculty members and students in various departments are involved in the project, he said.
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