Dr. Graciela Chichilnisky, co-founder and CEO of Global Thermostat, pioneered climate change policy and sustainable development planning, participating in the development of the Kyoto Protocol and as lead U.S. author for the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports and guidelines. An economist and mathematician, she recognized early the looming climate impact of CO2 in the atmosphere and has been recognized by Time, The Washington Post, and other publications as a leader in environmental innovation. Dr. Chichilnisky talks with Earth911’s Mitch Ratcliffe about the economic and climate-saving potential of Global Thermostat’s carbon capture technology.
Global Thermostat uses a CO2 capture method based on amine, a compound of ammonia, to bond to CO2 in the air. Using less energy than many other carbon capture technologies, the Global Thermostat process uses steam to liberate the captured CO2, producing 99 percent pure CO2 for industrial uses. That CO2 can be made into fuel, turned into biodegradable plastic, used in greenhouses to accelerate plant growth, and manufactured into carbon fiber, among many uses. The units are small and, because they are co-located with industrial facilities, inexpensive to operate using waste heat from the factory whose emission it cleans. Chichilnisky, whose company is backed by long-term environmental investor Edgar Bronfman, says even an oil refinery can be made carbon neutral using Global Thermostat technology. She discusses the $1-trillion-plus economic opportunities for the system, including the kinds of workers who will be needed by the carbon removal industry as it matures.
We start the conversation with a basic answer to the questions we all want to understand: What makes CO2 heat the atmosphere and can emissions reductions alone resolve the problem? Dr. Chichilnisky explains the physics of CO2 and offers that, without carbon removal technology, current atmospheric CO2 levels will warm the planet more than our society can withstand. The time for change is here, and an industry with massive job opportunities can deliver the raw materials for making essential products we rely on in modern life. From start to finish, you’ll find this innovator interview a mine of useful ideas and insight.
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