Green chemistry and climate change


Director, American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute (GCI)

“It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.” This is how the current state of the climate was described in August’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report (1). This is the sixth climate change assessment report by the IPCC, the United Nations body that provides regular scientific assessments on climate change, along with options to mitigate and adapt to climate change.


The report addresses the imperative of limiting climate change, stating “From a physical science perspective, limiting human-induced global warming to a specific level requires limiting cumulative CO2 emissions, reaching at least net zero CO2 emissions, along with strong reductions in other greenhouse gas emissions.” Green chemistry and engineering can make important contributions to this goal by minimizing the energy needed to effect chemical transformations and separations, designing new materials needed for alternative energy sources, shifting from petroleum-based feedstocks to biobased starting materials, and converting captured CO2 int ...