Too Much Trash in the Air: How Can We Clean It Up?

LLNL Scientist(s)
Roger Aines,
Sarah Baker
Thi Ngo
Teacher's School
Capuchino High School

The production of energy from fossil fuels over the past 150 years has led to a buildup of carbon dioxide in the air which is causing our climate to change. We can avoid the most severe impacts of climate change with two simple steps: 1) we need to stop emitting CO2, and 2) we must “clean up the air,” removing CO2 that is already in the atmosphere, because it will not go away on its own. Doing this will be hard work, but we have with solutions that exist today. We will discuss what it means in our daily lives to stop emitting CO2, and why it will require time to complete this transformation. Some technologies to remove CO2 can accelerate our path to net neutral CO2 emissions, providing benefits to our health and environment.  We will highlight the primary options available to “clean up the air,” including improving how we manage forests and soils, as well as building machines to harvest carbon from plants or directly from the air. The job of cleaning up the air requires hard work and many talents, from personal choices to education, art and communications to science and engineering-we all have a role we can play and will benefit when we clean up the trash in the air.



Roger Aines received a Ph. D. in Philosophy in Geochemistry from the California Institute of Technology and a B. A. in Chemistry from Carleton College. He is the Chief Scientist of the Energy and Homeland Security Program at LLNL and leads the Carbon Initiative, which aims to understand, develop, and implement technologies for the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere—so-called negative emissions technologies. He has been at LLNL since 1984 working on a variety of technologies for environmental remediation. 


Sarah Baker received her Ph.D. in Materials Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her B. A. in Chemistry from Grinnell College. She is the Group Leader for the Materials for Energy and Climate Group in the Physical & Life Sciences Directorate at LLNL. Her research focuses on developing advanced materials and manufacturing processes to address climate change. Her work includes carbon dioxide capture and conversion projects spanning from fundamental research to pilot scale demonstration.


Thi Ngo received a B. A. in Biological Sciences and a M. A. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of California, Davis. She teaches life sciences at Capuchino High School in San Bruno, CA. Born and raised in Stockton, CA, she continues to work with the San Joaquin County Office of Education teaching coding workshops to 4th-6th graders. In addition, she is a Faculty Scholar in the Science Education Program at LLNL where she is one of the instructors for the computational modeling TRA