Her Family Owned an Almond Orchard in California's Central Valley. When She Learned That Carbon Removal Could Save the Planet, She Built an Entire Industry to Make It Happen.
Today, Giana Amador's organization Carbon180 helps federal agencies with policy analysis, advises companies on investing in carbon removal, and secures billions of dollars from Congress to work towards its goal of removing tens of billions tons of carbon from the atmosphere.
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Giana Amador grew up in California's Central Valley, where her family owned an almond orchard. The Central Valley is a region — and community — that produces a quarter of the U.S. food supply. To most, that's an abstract amount of food. But in 2015, as California suffered through one of its worst droughts ever, Amador saw exactly what was at stake — for her home, her family, and the nation.
By then, Amador was an undergrad at the University of California, Berkeley, studying climate change and frustrated by the slow rate of reform. While reading a lengthy, dense report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, she noticed a solution that seemed critical but was, oddly, barely mentioned: "removal of the destructive mass of carbon dioxide already in the air." As Amador and a fellow Berkeley student, Noah Deich, made inquiries to policymakers and investors, they found a haunting inertia. "No one was willing to move into the carbon removal space," Amador remembers. How was there so much investment in and commitment to curbing future emissions — via electric cars and renewable energy — but so little for removing the gasses poisoning the atmosphere right now? Scientists agreed that both were needed to avoid catastrophe. That's when Amador and Deich decided to start Carbon180, a nongovernmental organization devoted to carbon removal. But more than that, Carbon180 needed to build an entire industry.
Industries need not only private partners, but public policies, mountains of federal funding, research, development, progress tracking, and government incentives — along with endless information-gathering and explanation and advocacy. Today, Carbon180 influences all of this for carbon removal. It helps federal agencies with policy analysis and development. The organization advises both major companies like Stripe and Shopify and smaller entrepreneurs on how to invest in carbon removal projects. In 2021, it helped secure billions of dollars from Congress for carbon removal, including $3.5 billion for facilities that "vacuum" carbon dioxide from the sky and store it safely underground. That funding will increase the technology's capacity 400 times over.
To Amador, the art of influence is providing the right information, through the right stories, to the right people — with the right kind of power to do the right thing. It's also using that information to imagine a better future for those who have spent decades confronting doom: Instead of showing starving polar bears, show farmers using technology that could save their livelihoods. "It's about painting a realistic portrayal of what's possible," she says.
Amador points to models that say the world needs to remove tens of billions of tons of carbon from the atmosphere by 2050, citing that an ambitious target would be to remove one billion tons by 2035. Only then will she know the carbon-removal industry she's building is the one the world needs. "We're here for the long haul," she says.