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The Conversation

Writing for The Conversation, John Reilly, co-director emeritus of the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, outlines a roadmap for how the U.S. can meet the Biden administration’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions 50% by 2030 below 2005 levels. “By exploiting declining costs of zero- and low-carbon energy sources in a more aggressive and focused way, the U.S. can meet its target within eight years,” writes Reilly, “all while substantially reducing its dependence on fossil fuels, including high-priced gasoline, and cutting back the air pollution, climate and health impacts resulting from their combustion.”

Scientific American

In a recent case study, Steven Gonzalez Monserrate PhD ’22 makes the case that the environmental cost of computer science, specifically computer cloud storage and data centers, are huge and will only continue to rise, reports Naomi Oreskes for Scientific American. “The cloud, he [Monserrate] contends, is a ‘carbonivore’: a single data center can use the same amount of electricity as 50,000 homes,” writes Oreskes. “The entire cloud has a greater carbon footprint than the entire airline industry.”

AccuWeather

Prof. Desiree Plata speaks with AccuWeather senior on-air meteorologist Geoff Cornish about her research in using zeolite clay to control and remove methane emissions from the air.  “So, the really interesting thing about zeolite is it has these cool pore spaces so when you drop copper into those pore spaces it can grab onto a methane molecule and attach an oxygen atom to it and that helps convert that methane into carbon dioxide which is a much less potent greenhouse gas and so the net benefit to the climate can be quite dramatic,” explains Plata.

Popular Mechanics

Researchers from MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) and Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) are working on making commercial nuclear fusion a reality, reports Juandre for Popular Mechanics. “CFS will build [the tokamak] SPARC and develop a commercial fusion product, while MIT PSFC will focus on its core mission of cutting-edge research and education,” says Prof. Dennis G. Whyte, director of the PSFC. 

Radio Boston (WBUR)

Associate Provost Richard Lester and Prof. Noelle Selin speak with Tiziana Dearing, host of Radio Boston, about MIT’s Climate Grand Challenges. “To me, the Climate Grand Challenges effort really represents that we’re kind of at a frameshift when thinking about the climate problem. It’s not just a problem that some people can work on,” says Selin. “A climate challenge is a whole of society challenge, and therefore it really has to be a whole of MIT challenge.” Lester adds he hopes the challenges will “inspire a new generation of students to roll up their sleeves, put their shoulders to the wheel and help us solve this problem.”

Radio Boston (WBUR)

Professor Kristala Prather speaks with Radio Boston host Tiziana Dearing about her work using synthetic biology to develop new materials that function like plastic, but don’t rely on fossil fuels and biodegrade when no longer in use. Prather also explores how the Kendall Square innovation ecosystem has helped fuel her work. “Our end goal is to try to still give us those materials, those plastics that are plasticy when we need them, but to pre design them such that at their end of life they are much more environmentally responsible,” explains Prather.

TechCrunch

TechCrunch reporters Kyle Wiggers and Devin Coldewey spotlight how MIT researchers developed a new technique for simulating an overall system of independent agents: self-driving cars. “The idea is that if you have a good amount of cars on the road, you can have them work together not just to avoid collisions but to prevent idling and unnecessary stops at lights,” write Wiggers and Coldewey.

Forbes

Prof. Jessika Trancik speaks with Forbes contributor Peter Cohan about the carbon emissions associated with gas, hybrid and electric vehicles, and the site she and her research group developed to allow consumers to compare personal vehicles against climate change mitigation targets. “In most locations, compared to [gas-powered vehicles], EVs produce emissions savings greater than 30%,” says Trancik. "Most savings are greater depending on the geographic location, the electricity supply, and the vehicle model.”

Gizmodo

MIT researchers have found that zeolite, a material used to soak up odors in kitty litter, can be used to grab methane out of the air, reports Angely Mercado for Gizmodo.  “Zeolite has tiny pores that act like sponge, and the clay is pretty multifunctional: It can help improve water retention in soil, and it’s found in natural kitty litter,” explains Mercado.

WBUR

WBUR reporter Bruce Gellerman spotlights a new report by MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) researchers that emphasizes the importance of developing and deploying new ways to store renewable energy in order to transition to clean energy. “There are a variety of technologies and if we can develop [them] and drive those costs down, it could make getting to net-zero or zero in the electricity sector more affordable,” says Prof. Robert Armstrong, MITEI director.

The Boston Globe

A new report by researchers from MIT’s Energy Initiative (MITEI) underscores the feasibility of using energy storage systems to almost completely eliminate the need for fossil fuels to operate regional power grids, reports David Abel for The Boston Globe. “Our study finds that energy storage can help [renewable energy]-dominated electricity systems balance electricity supply and demand while maintaining reliability in a cost-effective manner,” says Prof. Robert Armstrong, director of MITEI.

The Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal reporter Ryan Dezember visited Prof. Desiree Plata’s lab to learn more about her group’s work developing a new tool to help address climate change. Plata and her colleagues “soaked an odor-eating clay used in cat boxes in a copper solution to create a compound that they say snatches methane from passing air and turns it into carbon dioxide, a much less harmful greenhouse gas.” The new technique has the “potential to greatly reduce the amount of methane in the atmosphere and slow warming temperatures on the planet.”

Gizmodo

Researchers at MIT have built a highly efficient thermophotovoltaic cell that converts incoming photons to electricity, reports Kevin Hurler for Gizmodo. “We developed this technology—thermal batteries—because storing energy as heat rather than storing it electrochemically is 10 to 100 times cheaper," explains Prof. Asegun Henry. 

State House News

MIT President L. Rafael Reif and Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry discussed the urgency of addressing climate change during the Climate Grand Challenges Showcase event, reports Chris Lisinski for the State House News Service. “Climate change has been called a ‘super wicked’ problem. In Boston, that might sound like a local way of saying ‘really hard,’ but this phrase is actually a technical term,” Reif said. “It describes any enormously complex societal problem that has no single right answer and no clear finish line as well as multiple stakeholders with conflicting priorities and no central authority empowered to solve it.”

Bloomberg News

Bloomberg News reporter Janet Wu speaks with President L. Rafael Reif and Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry during the Institute’s Climate Grand Challenges showcase event. “If you can capture the emissions -- literally, genuinely -- then you’re reducing the problem,” said Kerry of the importance of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions.