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Carbon Cooperation

The University of Texas at Austin is partnering with two Caribbean universities in Trinidad and Tobago to create a new clean industry that will store greenhouse gasses underground and eliminate the country’s contribution to human-induced climate change.

The small, dual-island nation has strong incentives to mitigate climate change. The warm Caribbean Sea around the Delaware-size country is susceptible to sea level rise and tropical storms, both of which are expected to intensify as the world warms. In addition, although the oil and gas industry accounts for 40% of gross domestic product and 80% of exports, it has been declining in recent years, prompting interest in developing a new carbon storage industry to provide a source of jobs. And although the tiny country emits a relatively small amount of greenhouse gasses compared with large nations, it is in the top 10 highest in per capita emissions globally due to its industrialized economy.

“For us, we’ve been declining in [oil and gas] production so rapidly that something needs to be done quickly to protect our economy,” said David Alexander, a petroleum researcher at The University of Trinidad and Tobago. “Someone else may perceive this as a problem, but really it’s not — it’s an opportunity.”

UT is partnering with The University of Trinidad and Tobago and The University of the West Indies on the new effort.

“By setting a precedent for what’s possible in an international collaboration on climate change mitigation, we hope others will be inspired to follow our footsteps,” said Katherine Romanak, a research scientist with the UT Bureau of Economic Geology’s Gulf Coast Carbon Center.

In February and April, the universities signed two memoranda of understanding that laid out plans for organizing scientific meetings and workshops and sharing facilities, with the goal of deploying carbon capture and geologic storage technology in Trinidad and Tobago.