Robert Downey Jr.'s FootPrint Coalition is launching a new research initiative alongside the Direct Air Capture Coalition and CAS, to find and fund early scientific research into negative emissions technologies.
These technologies are ones that will remove carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the environment. It's these emissions from energy, industry, and transportation that are warming the planet and leading to more destructive natural disasters.
Working with CAS, a division of the American Chemical Society that accelerates scientific breakthroughs by providing access to information and research, and the Direct Air Capture Coalition, FootPrint Coalition's Science Engine and Experiment.com will identify and fund promising research projects that aim to slash emissions.
“As of May 2022, the average monthly level of CO2 in Earth's atmosphere reached a new high of 421 parts per million. The current climate tech boom continues to generate ways to decarbonize industry and improve business practices for the planet, but meeting humanity’s climate goals is also going to require carbon dioxide removal (CDR),” said Rachel Kropa, the Managing Director, Nonprofit + Science at FootPrint Coalition, in a statement.
Removing some of the existing carbon load directly from the air — on roughly a one billion- tonne scale by mid-century – will be necessary to balance out hard-to-eliminate emissions from heavy industry.
"Pursuing solutions to our world's most critical challenges, such as climate change, from many different scientific perspectives is critical to accelerating breakthroughs," said Dr. Michael Dennis, Vice President of Innovation at CAS. "We are delighted to collaborate with the FootPrint Coalition and Direct Air Capture Coalition through the recently launched CAS Innovation Incubator to catalyze novel innovation in sustainable carbon removal."
Carbon removal can take many forms — including natural mechanisms like tree and soil sequestration, and technological mechanisms like biotech augmentation of plants and “vacuuming” CO2 from the air.
Direct air capture (DAC) is one type of technological carbon
removal that shows promise today and could be a major piece of the puzzle in the near future.
"Advancing research efforts and facilitating knowledge creation will be critical to advancing direct air capture technology. Breakthrough innovations that lead to lower cost and more effective DAC systems can stem from the dedicated work of brilliant scientists. We are thrilled to
be partnering with the FootPrint Coalition to establish the NET leg of their Science Engine to support the talented researchers working to address some of the world's greatest challenges,” said Jason Hochman, Co-Founder and Senior Director of the Direct Air Capture Coalition.
The Science Engine’s research portfolio is selected with the help of esteemed "Science Leads" who spearhead these efforts in new, vitally important fields. Two Science Leads will manage the new Negative Emissions Technology category; both are field-builders working to approach the problem in different ways.
Merritt Dailey, a science advisor at Carbon Direct, has a vast background in carbon removal science. Before her current work at Carbon Direct, Dailey was a solutions consultant at Google, and a carbon removal engineer at Good Machine. Dailey is a PhD candidate at Arizona State
University at the Center for Negative Emissions. While her co-lead, Paul Reginato, is a co-founder and Co-Director of Homeworld Collective, where he supports the growth of Climate Biotech through a community-focused approach. He is also an Independent Fellow at UC Berkeley's Innovative Genomics Institute, supported by Additional Ventures, where
he is mapping possibilities for biotechnology in negative emissions technologies.
He holds a PhD in Biological Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he developed novel genomics technologies while working in the labs of Ed Boyden and George Church at MIT and Harvard. Toward the end of his PhD, he transitioned his focus to biotechnologies for CO2 removal and sequestration.