UCLA’s Institute for Carbon Management to Demonstrate Carbon Removal Technologies at AltaSea Campus

By Emily Vidovich. Emily has a background in environmental journalism and sustainability and is a member of the George Washington University Class of 2019.

A recent report on climate change mitigation from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) delineated seven pathways that humanity could follow in order to avoid unchecked, catastrophic global warming. Four of those pathways would limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and three would halt warming at 2 degrees Celsius. In six of those seven scenarios, the IPCC found that carbon capture was a necessary part of the solution.

Carbon capture refers to technology that can filter emitted carbon out of the atmosphere and store it underground, where it cannot warm the planet. There are two variations—carbon capture refers to grabbing emissions as they come out of a high-emitting source such as a power plant, while carbon removal sucks carbon out of the air without targeting a particular emissions source. 

As climate solutions, carbon capture is promising for industries that will be the most challenging to decarbonize—such as steel and concrete—while carbon removal can help draw down past emissions in order to rectify past harms. Because of this, carbon capture can be seen as a way to buy much needed time to design solutions for the most challenging aspects of the fossil fuel-free future, and carbon removal presents a way to help turn back the clock and retroactively address climate inaction. While neither should be used as a substitute for decarbonization, the IPCC mitigation report makes it clear that both technologies are necessary in order to have a fighting chance at stopping climate change.

Because of the importance of carbon removal to a sustainable future, AltaSea has partnered with the Institute for Carbon Management (ICM) at the University of California Los Angeles Samueli School of Engineering to demonstrate carbon removal technologies at the AltaSea campus. ICM’s innovative technology focuses on marine-based carbon removal—removing excess carbon dioxide (CO2) from the ocean instead of from the air. The process involves using renewable energy to trap carbon dioxide by transforming it into solid carbonates.

Removing excess CO2 from the ocean has the significant co-benefit of counteracting ocean acidification, the phenomenon that describes the decrease of the ocean’s pH as seawater absorbs the CO2 emitted from burning fossil fuels. The ocean has become 30 percent more acidic since the beginning of the industrial revolution, negatively impacting marine ecosystems and shell-building organisms. By addressing excess CO2 in the ocean, ICM’s technology could both address climate change and restore balance to ocean ecosystems.

In a press release, AltaSea CEO Terry Tamminen applauded the new partnership.

“AltaSea’s mission is to convene the best and brightest that are fighting climate change through innovative technology, and ICM’s carbon removal technology is a gamechanger in our global fight against climate change,” he said, “We are excited to have them on board and be able to help foster the development and growth of breakthrough technologies that can have positive, impactful change on our planet.”

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