Climate change is caused and accelerated primarily by the burning of carbon-based fossil fuels: coal, oil, and natural gas. Impacts of the climate crisis depend on the scope, speed, and willingness of society to transition to a low- or zero-carbon economy. University of Michigan experts are leading new green fuel development and assessing the continued viability of fossil fuels, the economic and environmental harm that they exact on society, and innovations toward carbon management. Researchers are focusing on everything from gains in fuel efficiency to developments, investments, and innovations toward a circular carbon economy. Central to this analysis is the Global CO2 Initiative, which aims to turn a liability into an asset through the development of CO2 removal and utilization technologies and solutions.
Portico Fall 2021: Larissa Larsen on a new energy landscape
“Meeting the climate challenge means making significant changes to our daily lives. One important component of that change is our energy landscape. Shifting from coal, gas, and natural gas toward cleaner renewables will require building new infrastructure.”
Energy from waste: $6.8 million for cow-inspired biodigesters
Cattle are supremely efficient at digesting tough materials, and a proposed energy-production system based, in part, on cow stomachs could generate 40% more power from municipal waste streams, at a 20% reduced cost—and provide a viable alternative to sending waste to landfills.
100% renewable diesel cars can reduce carbon emissions while waiting for electric vehicles
While the move from petroleum fuels to biofuels is not as environmentally drastic as a complete transition from diesel to electric motor power, switching to vehicles run with biofuels is a more immediate solution. Even though it is estimated that half of new cars sold will be electric in the year 2030, it will still take many more years after to make a significant dent in greenhouse gas emissions.
$2M to replace fossil fuels with solar power in fertilizer production
Producing the fertilizer that helps feed Earth’s 7.8 billion people comes with an environmental cost—one that U-M engineers are hoping to lessen with a new strategy that favors sunlight over fossil fuels. The National Science Foundation has awarded U-M researchers $2 million to study the effectiveness of a new ammonia production process aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Small changes in diet could help you live healthier, more sustainably
A U-M study evaluated more than 5,800 foods, ranking them by their nutritional disease burden to humans and their impact on the environment. It found that substituting 10% of daily caloric intake from beef and processed meats for a mix of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and select seafood could reduce your dietary carbon footprint by one-third and allow people to gain 48 minutes of healthy minutes per day.
Raimi maps U.S. energy economy in new report
How will actions taken towards preventing climate change affect communities that rely on a fossil fuel economy? In a recent report titled "Mapping the US Energy Economy to Inform Transition Planning," Daniel Raimi, Ford School lecturer and fellow at Resources for the Future, explored the economic consequences of moving away from fossil fuels for those communities.
First-ever DACC-A-THON student competition launched
The U-M Global CO2 Initiative is partnering with the OpenAirCollective to launch an annual student hackathon for direct air carbon capture. Four student teams are working to maximize the amount of CO2 removed while minimizing energy use.
The future of Line 5: Engineering under Lake Michigan
As the deadline approaches for Canadian oil company Enbridge to shut down a 4.5-mile section of the Line 5 pipeline that runs beneath Lake Michigan, U-M engineering researchers offered insights into how the company might go about doing that, and also how they might construct a tunnel under the lakebed for a replacement section of the line.
U-M discontinues investments in the largest contributors to greenhouse gases
The University of Michigan will immediately shift its natural resources investments to focus more on renewable energy, stop investing in funds primarily focused on certain fossil fuels and discontinue direct investments in publicly traded companies that are the largest contributors to greenhouse gases.
U-M Carbon Neutrality Acceleration Program awards $1.75M in grants to seven research projects
The Carbon Neutrality Acceleration Program at U-M’s Graham Sustainability Institute has awarded research grants to seven projects aimed at reducing net carbon emissions. The first round of funding was awarded to projects that investigate groundbreaking energy-storage and carbon-capture technologies, innovative ways to reduce carbon emissions in agriculture, and new options for lowering the carbon footprint of U-M student diets.
Virtual conference CO2 emissions quantified in new study
The virtual conferencing that has replaced large, in-person gatherings in the age of COVID-19 represents a drastic reduction in carbon emissions, but those online meetings still come with their own environmental costs, new research from U-M shows.
Carbon neutrality commission releases draft recommendations
The President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality, charged with recommending scalable and transferable strategies for U-M to achieve net-zero emissions, has released its preliminary draft recommendations for public comment. The draft report includes a collection of steps that U-M could take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the Flint, Dearborn and Ann Arbor campuses, including Michigan Medicine.
Research into action: Hausman’s research key to new legislation
Methane is the primary component of natural gas, a greenhouse gas with 34 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. More than one percent of methane in the U.S. supply chain escapes into the atmosphere, much of which is caused by degraded pipes and loose-fitting components during distribution of natural gas. Ford School professor Catherine Hausman’s research has been cited as the primary influence of a law that passed in Washington state to address the problem.
Fish carcasses deliver toxic mercury pollution to the deepest ocean trenches
The sinking carcasses of fish from near-surface waters deliver toxic mercury pollution to the most remote and inaccessible parts of the world’s oceans. And most of that mercury began its long journey to the deep-sea trenches as atmospheric emissions from coal-fired power plants, mining operations, cement factories, incinerators and other human activities.
Carbon emission from permafrost soils underestimated by 14%
Scientists estimate that 5-15 percent of the carbon stored in surface permafrost soils could be emitted as the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide by 2100, given the current trajectory of global warming. This emission, spurred by microbial action, could lead to 0.3 to 0.4 degrees Celsius of additional global warming.
Driving toward sustainability
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen great reductions in travel, a major source of the carbon emissions that drive climate change. Sustainable systems master’s student Nate Hua is working to help the university reduce its own travel impact in the future.
Carbon footprint hotspots: Mapping China’s export-driven emissions
China is the world’s largest emitter of climate-altering carbon dioxide gas, generated by the burning of fossil fuels. A new study details the links between China’s exports and its emissions by mapping the in-country sources of carbon dioxide emissions tied to products consumed overseas.
Engineers’ Deafening Silence on Climate Change
Domenico Grasso, chancellor of U-M Dearborn, argues that professional engineering societies need to stand boldly in favor of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “As engineers, we have a distinct and special opportunity to use our voices to address one of the most critical matters of our age.”
Coal-fired power plants hit a milestone in reduced operation
"It's pretty clear that the decline in coal use is sustained, it's big and it's real, and it's coming mostly from the big drop in natural gas prices we've seen in the last decade," said Catie Hausman, a U-M professor whose research focuses on energy and climate policy.
Why removing CO2 from the air won’t be enough
Pulling carbon dioxide out of the air using a technology called “direct air capture,” or DAC, will not be the silver bullet for curbing climate change that some hoped it would be, according to new research from U-M.
Teach-in on auto efficiency
U-M Energy Institute’s John DeCicco hosted a panel of experts for a teach-in on Automobile Efficiency: Challenges and Opportunities for Addressing a Major Part of CO2 Emissions.