The Keeling Curve provides overwhelming evidence of the rapid and sustained increase of CO2 in the atmosphere that has been underway since the 1950s. Developed by Charles Keeling, a scientist from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the model accurately measures daily concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
New Keeling Curve data also tell us that 2020’s decrease in CO2 levels, driven by the coronavirus pandemic, was somewhat short-lived. As the global economy has picked up, so too has the root cause of global warming, with atmospheric carbon dioxide measured at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Mauna Loa Observatory reaching a monthly average of 419 parts per million in May 2021—the highest level since Charles Keeling first began collecting data in 1958.
If there’s any good news, it’s that there is no shortage of potential solutions to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, demonstrated by the finalists for the 2021 Keeling Curve Prize. Presented by the Global Warming Mitigation Project, the prize aims to locate and fund the best climate solutions the world has to offer, with the overarching goal of putting the Keeling Curve on a downward trajectory.
It awards $25,000 to a total of 10 projects annually across five separate categories: capture and utilization of heat-trapping gasses, energy decarbonization, greenhouse gas reduction and/or reversal finance, social and cultural development beyond fossil fuels, and transport and mobility.
Meet the Finalists
Among this year’s finalists in the capture and utilization category is Agora Energy Technologies, a Vancouver-based electrochemical engineering company that provides solutions for the next generation of energy technologies. It is currently developing a revolutionary metal-free, carbon-negative battery for grid-scale applications that will store renewable energy by utilizing carbon dioxide.
In the energy category, the finalists include Ignite Power, a pan-African developer and financier of solar solutions. Its projects in solar home development in Sub-Saharan Africa have caught the eye of judges. The company seeks to bridge infrastructure gaps and make basic services such as internet access, electricity, and healthcare more available to lead Africa into a more sustainable, inclusive future.
Swiss foundation BASE is among the finalists in the finance category for its CaaS finance initiative, which supports clean and efficient cooling. BASE counts projects all over the world in areas such as renewable energy and land use, as well as climate finance.
The Climate Museum is a leader in the social & cultural category. Based in New York City, it’s the first museum in the US dedicated to the climate crisis, aiming to “inspire climate action with programming across the arts and sciences that deepens understanding, builds connections, and advances just solutions.”
Italy’s MUV is among the finalists in transport and mobility, lauded for its encouragement of clean transportation through an app where participants earn points by moving sustainably—whether that means walking, cycling, using public transport, or sharing a car.
Bending the Curve
The breadth of the solutions recognized by the Keeling Prize is encouraging, though it equally underscores the complexity and scale of action needed to effectively combat the impacts of climate change and bend The Keeling Curve in the right direction.
Past Keeling Curve winners show this effort in action, including US software company EVmatch, with its innovative system for enabling charging station owners to share their chargers with electric vehicle users. The company pledged its prize money to local businesses and nonprofit organizations in Chicago to pay for charging hardware and installation services so they could make EVmatch charging stations available to the public.
California’s Opus 12 previously won the prize for its emissions-diminishing technology. It produces a device that draws on electrochemical CO2 reduction to rearrange the molecules of carbon dioxide and water to create products that have traditionally been petroleum-based.
For ESG investors, the Keeling Prize finalists may be a good place to look for investment opportunities. You can help work toward a healthier environment by supporting climate tech solutions at the seed level.