Climate Change Hack Chat Transcript

A event log for Climate Change Hack Chat

Let's discuss ways that technologists can help to solve this problem!

Shulie TornelShulie Tornel 06/30/2017 at 19:571 Comment

Tito Jankowski about me: I've been a biohacker, a hardware manufacturer, a medical device designer, a patent infringer, and a sailor. Prior to launching Impossible Labs, I co-founded the BioCurious hackerspace, built an open source biotech device called OpenPCR, and wrangled startup+corporate partnerships at Runway Incubator in SF. Sc.B in Biomedical Engineering from Brown University.

Tito Jankowski about Matthew Eshed: Matthew leads Product and Operations of Impossible Labs. His mission is to support technology that enables a stronger bond between humans and nature. He has designed, piloted, and launched manufacturing systems for high-tech (consumer 3d printers, internet of things), medium-tech (roof shingles), and low-tech (artisan cookies) products, and is a strong advocate for Cradle to Cradle principles of product development.

Lutetium OpenPCR is a pretty well known project, could you give a summary of hat that was about?

Tito Jankowski @LuterFire sure! OpenPCR is copy machine for DNA. The core technology won a Nobel Prize for its creator awhile back, and when the original patents expired we built an open source version. There are thousands of these in labs and biohacker labs around the world now. Other entrepreneurs have implemented the open source code and design for their own PCR machine designs too!

Tito Jankowski About Impossible Labs: So Impossible Labs wouldn't be the same if not for the Hackaday 2015 conference -- that was where the inspiration kicked off for me

Lutetium Thanks!

Tito Jankowski The winner of "Best product" was this water-saving agriculture project Vinduino

Tito Jankowski and a whole bunch of the honorary mentions were climate related things, there was a guy with a DIY radiation scope, and also a CNC machine for planting crops. I wasn't a climate change or environmental guy at all. but it kicked off this idea of 'what if as engineers and scientists we had something to add to climate change'?

sadhana I had an entry in the 2015 hackaday prize that made finals, I had to drop out but I've been working on it ever since. I'm trying to reduce CO2 by proving its effectiveness in food production for horticulture and creating a bigger market demand for it.

Tito Jankowski so Impossible Labs extends from the key idea "what can technologists do about climate change"? We started looking around and there are a lot of innovators working in food, air, energy, and water -- people having the time of their life building crazy amazing stuff. They're not well connected together, and there's not funding for these types of projects -- so that's something we want to help with.

Lutetium Just so we're all on the same page, how is climate change defined from a scientific perspective?

Tito Jankowski Recently we've narrowed our focus onto removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, called Project 2050 (can share more on that)

sadhana I am trying to use 1500-2000 pm in a 15 cubic foot pod year round with plants.

Tito Jankowski @Lutetium A key factor of climate change as increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The reason it matters is it causes the planet to retain more heat and other side effects.

Lutetium thanks!

Lutetium @sadhana could you add your project link to the sheet?

Lutetium @Tito Jankowski can you share more about Project 2050?

sadhana Yes, I havent updated it here in a while though. I plan on doing a post soon with the last 2 years of work.

Tito Jankowski @Lutetium Project 2050 is a goal to return earth's atmosphere to 300 parts per million of carbon dioxide by 2050. Impossible Labs role is find the entrepreneurs and startups working on solutions, and connect them to support, funding, and opportunities to scale. Would love to hear from anyone working on removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Lutetium What kinds of projects/ methods have you come across?

Lutetium And... you're located in San Francisco, right? What areas of the world are people tackling this problem in?

Rebecca E. Skinner

Well, Blue Planet in Los Gatos.

Tito Jankowski yes, have lots of projects to share!

Lutetium Please do!

Tito Jankowski A frequent question about Project 2050 is --- "ok, 300 parts per million, where are we today?"

Bhavesh Kakwani I think we hit 400 recently? :(

Lutetium where are we? and what does that mean practically?

Tito Jankowski Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been measured every hour since 1975. But the data isn't super accessible. So an international group of programmers and designers launched a new project a few weeks ago, an API to connect to NOAA's carbon dioxide data and make it more accessible

Tito Jankowski it's the world's first open API for climate change:

Lutetium what data can you get from the API?

Tito Jankowski as of June 26th we're at 408.76 parts per million of carbon dioxide

Bhavesh Kakwani Holy *****! 408!

Tito Jankowski @Lutetium today the API has carbon dioxide going back to 1975, and more coming soon. Here's the api docs to query it:!/co2/list

sadhana I'm in Denver.

Jeff Mori @Tito Jankowski I'm located in Hawaii. How much does location come into play when getting CO2 readings?

Tito Jankowski @Lutetium all the work is open source on Github: it's an incredible team, lead developer Luke Murphy is in Ireland, several programmers from Germany, designer and marketer in Hawaii

Tito Jankowski @Lutetium it's a great example I think of how hackers and programmers can get on board. This data was online for over a decade. But the people who were looking at it, no one thought to build an API or nice front-end. It took this open source group to build it.

Lutetium yeah that looks good

Lutetium also is the data coming from Hawaii?

Lutetium (back to @Jeff Mori question about location)

Rebecca E. Skinner Are you using Scripps CO2 information- Mauna Loa observatory ?

Tito Jankowski @Jeff Mori@Lutetium the NOAA data used by the open climate API uses the "gold standard" location from NOAA's monitoring station on Mauna Loa, Hawaii actually. Its been used by NOAA scientists since 1975 as a stable place to monitor carbon dioxide.

Tito Jankowski @Rebecca E. Skinner yes, Mauna Loa

Lutetium Is there other accessible data in other parts of the world?

Tito Jankowski so that's useful because now we know where we're at for Project 2050

Tito Jankowski @Lutetium yes there are other datasets, including monitored by NOAA. The past 50 years of carbon dioxide monitoring proved we need to take action. This was accomplished with daily measurements drawing a trend over decades.

sadhana I think to reduce CO2 you need to use co2, there are a few things co2 is useful for

Tito Jankowski But now we need tools to judge the impact of solutions, the cause and effect. For the goals of Project 2050, we cannot wait a decade to tell if a solution is working. If the NOAA's meticulous system on Mauna Loa has a successor, it will look like the NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2. This new satellite grabs 100,000 carbon dioxide readings a day, capable of 24 readings per second. Each reading focuses on about 1 square mile which speeds up local carbon dioxide monitoring, too. So yes, location does matter @Jeff Mori

sadhana horticultural is one I highlighted. another would possible be graphene synthesis, especially if it can free oxygen in the process.

Tito Jankowski One of my favorite carbon removal companies is Climeworks:

Rebecca E. Skinner what is graphene synthesis

Lutetium Anyone waiting to have their question read from the sheet, we'll get there in a few... new questions can go on the sheet ::

Tito Jankowski Climeworks role is simple -- suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere using big fans :) They just opened their first plant in Switzerland

Lutetium where do they put it once sucked out of the atmosphere?

Rebecca E. Skinner Tito have you looked into Pacific Green Technologies in San Jose- they use large industrial scrubbers to clean flue gas. I think they're approaching it as pollutants rather than as GHG.

Tito Jankowski @Lutetium Ultimately the carbon dioxide needs to be taken out of the atmosphere permanently. In Climeworks case, they're using the carbon dioxide from the first installation for agriculture, growing vegetables. Carbon dioxide is used in greenhouses to help grow food:

Lutetium Thanks Tito! Going to start pulling questions from the sheet. Our first question is from @Andre Esteves

Lutetium see the graph

Lutetium we already have a big annual seasonal variation of co2 due to foliage fall. If we could trap it it would make a dent on the curve... if you burn in a vacuum with solar light your garbage and seasonal green matter you get coal and steam if you then bury the coal it deep you would be, effectively, reburying coal and trapping C from becoming CO2. Developing a vacuum solar oven for everyhome could bring that approach to everybody. What are your opinions on this approach?

Tito Jankowski @Lutetium another method to remove carbon is proposed by BioCarbon Engineering. They're designing a drone to plant trees, basically shooting tree pods from a quad-rotor drone --

Tito Jankowski @Lutetium ok time for sheet questions

Les Hall hi, I just added a question to the end of the list (reforestation)

Tito Jankowski @Andre Esteves that looks super cool! In our research we've come across a lot of people interested in that topic -- generally called biochar, taking plants, burning them, and either using what's left as fertilizer in the soil (where it doesn't go back into the atmosphere) or burying it

Tito Jankowski @Andre Esteves I encourage you to build a prototype to make it easy for people. Or maybe it's industrial sized? Ultimately I would like to be able to say "Biochar is the #B ranked solution, A is better, but C is worse", but I'm not there yet with my understanding. Check out Project Drawdown, they're working to rank different solutions

Tito Jankowski to stay in touch with Impossible Labs, please add your email to the signup form on

Rebecca E. Skinner How to implement the burning of the plants but avoid polluting air at same time (particulate matter causes asthma, exacerbates cardiovascular illness)

Andre Esteves Biochar is getting a bad rap as a marketing ploy. I don't defend using char as fertilizer because carbon then reenters the lifecycle. It will only work if you deeply sequester carbon.

Lutetium how do you deeply sequester carbon?

Tito Jankowski @Andre Esteves i hear ya, I haven't studied it thoroughly but my understanding is soil is a living system and can store carbon similar to how trees do

Andre Esteves old mines?

sadhana I hear a big cause of greenhouse gases is actually rotting food as well, reducing food waste and other sewage and organic waste could help.

Tito Jankowski @Lutetium bury it or put it in the ground is one idea

Tito Jankowski @Lutetium what's my next question? saw a lot go by :)

Tito Jankowski @sadhana yea i'm curious about that too!

sadhana Thats one of the goals for my farming project. keep the produce alive, instead of harvesting it

Tito Jankowski @Rebecca E. Skinner that's true! A compost-burning-prototype couldn't be smoking all over the place :)

Tito Jankowski @sadhana I met with a guy named Tom Chi, one of the co-founders of Google X. He's working with BioCarbon Engineering, Their plan is to plant 900 BILLION trees using their drones to remove carbon dioxide

Tito Jankowski @sadhana Video of Tom Chi:

Bhavesh Kakwani these numbers are mind boggling

Tito Jankowski @Bhavesh Kakwani looking ahead to your question, I think engineers and technologists like us will kick off a revolution in climate change. We're currently not really involved in the climate stuff.

mosaicmerc 900 billion,? sounds like another amazon forest.

Rebecca E. Skinner Compost burning just caused a major health crisis in Dehli during first week of November ! Sounds like the world desperately needs better cheap local methods of garbge/ compost recycling

Lutetium I'll put the next question is from @Bhavesh Kakwani :: What are the main things that need to be hacked? We have often heard that the "technology exists, it just needs to be distributed". So is it the societal aspects of climate change then that need to be hacked?

Lutetium But Tito, I guess you answered it?

sadhana I think I saw the tree planting drones

Tito Jankowski @Bhavesh Kakwani near the beginning of our journey, a hedge fund manager told us "Climate Change is the biggest financial opportunity civilization has ever seen". I like to paraphrase that as "Climate Change will create the first Trillionaire". Huge opening for entrepreneurs.

sadhana definitely a great idea. 400 PPM seems like alot but plants can use more.

Lutetium Next question is from @Brian McEvoy :: If we can stop actively damaging the world, will dangerous characteristics return to safe levels or do we need to make an effort to reverse the damage that has been done?

sadhana The catch is that they need more light for the mechanism to kick in.

Tito Jankowski @Brian McEvoy my understanding is even if we stopped all carbon dioxide emissions today, 408.76 parts per million will still cause lots of problems (

mosaicmerc The ocean is a natural carnbon sink, but as it acdifies it has its own climate change. I wonder if it would be easier to process the warter that already passes thru all these desalination plants and create a calcium carbonate sequestration of the carbonic acid

Tito Jankowski @mosaicmerc Yesterday I just heard about a water engineer who built a lab in his garage to test out new technologies for water treatment. Maybe you could build such a lab to test this idea?

Brian McEvoy @Tito Jankowski , so it's not enough to just quit making a mess, we have to clean up our mess too.

mosaicmerc Well with the infrastructure in place given all the cooling water used from the sea for many ammonia , methanol and ura plants as well as desal. it might have some merit

Tito Jankowski @Brian McEvoy yes, 300 parts per million is the goal

Lutetium Anyone who is interested in checking out @sadhana project about growing crops quickly ::

Tito Jankowski @Brian McEvoy by 2050

Rebecca E. Skinner That's what blue planet does. They did a presentation at the San Francisco Public Works department explaining their cleaning of flue gas. They have a dozen projects to create limestone as a carbon sink.


sadhana ^ this is a newer model

Tito Jankowski @Brian McEvoy I like this image from wikipedia back to 400k years ago, shows how out of wack 400+ parts per million is

sadhana Im using a rpi zero webserver controlling an arduino mega and various sensors

mosaicmerc So the process would be , sequester the carbon from the seawater used for desalination and colling (pron trillions of galls worldwide) and allow the sea to pull the co2 from the atmosphere...

Tito Jankowski @Rebecca E. Skinner Blue Planet Ltd is a cool company -- we've ordered a few pounds of the limestone created from carbon dioxide (

Lutetium Last question is from @Les Hall :: How does reforestation factor into CO2 reduction? about 8 or 10 years ago I imgined railroad shipment of agricultural waste products to giant compost piles on the edges of desserts, especially Egypt and the like where there once was forest. We could do reforestation on a grand scale and maybe put a good sized dent in the problem perhaps. Your perspective?

mosaicmerc hmm.. somebody already got a grant for this idea:

Tito Jankowski @Les Hall On a small scale reforestation certainly sounds good. I'm curious about how much it can scale though. We've got a lot of extra carbon in the atmosphere.

Les Hall sec nurse just walked in

Tito Jankowski for those interested in following our work, signup on and we'll send you all the startups and tech we find

Tito Jankowski My favorite book to recommend is Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air. Great book in print (endorsed by Cory Doctrow on BoingBoing, free pdf at

Tito Jankowski Designer Bret Victor also wrote a great article here, "What Can A Technologist Do About Climate Change?"

Rebecca E. Skinner Thank you Tito and all participants !

Lutetium Awesome to have those links

sadhan I dont think electric vehicles have been mentioned as an improvement, that mostly needs the motor/battery technology to be more easily manufactured though.

Lutetium Thank you @Tito Jankowski and Matthew Eshed!

Tito Jankowski Stay in touch from the signup on our website: If you're in San Francisco, join the Climate Change Plus Tech meetup group: And check out Manylabs for more hackers, scientists, and inventors working on climate change and open science projects:

Tito Jankowski Impossible Labs is proud to be a resident at Manylabs in SoMa, San Francisco, everyone there is cool including our Executive Director Dvorit Mausner

Les Hall back. I don't really know how well reforestation scales up, but the planet is (or should be) largely covered with vegetation of one sort or another, so i figure it's a natural (pun intended :). Also I feel that technology does have it's role, however we are always looking for tech solutions when often mother nature has the best plan. thoughts?

Tito Jankowski @Lutetium my pleasure! Thank you all! @Rebecca E. Skinner@sadhana@Les Hall@mosaicmerc@Bhavesh Kakwani@Brian McEvoy@Andre Esteves


Andrew Bolin wrote 07/02/2017 at 22:37 point

Thanks for posting the transcript @Shulie Tornel

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