Salk Institute at sunset
Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Photo courtesy Salk/Elizabeth Daniels

Oil and gas producer Hess Corp. will donate $50 million to the Salk Institute to accelerate efforts to limit climate change through carbon capture by plants and wetlands.

The gift, which will be paid over five years, will support Salk’s Harnessing Plants Initiative by establishing the new Hess Center for Plant Science.

“We are extremely grateful to the Hess Corp.,” said Salk President Rusty Gage. “This gift comes at the ideal time, as climate change is one of the most significant and urgent issues facing the health of humanity and our planet. Their forward-thinking generosity will pay dividends for future generations to come.”

The initiative is led by Salk professors Joanne Chory and Wolfgang Busch and comprises two projects aimed at mitigating climate change. The first seeks to develop plants that can capture carbon in broader and deeper roots. The second seeks to identify and restore wetland plants that retain carbon, purify water, preserve land, and thrive in challenging environments.

“By enhancing plants’ inherent capacity to capture and retain carbon, it is possible to cultivate plants that not only aid in mitigating carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere but also enhance soil quality and augment crop yields,” Chory said.

“The prospects of this approach in combatting climate change at a global scale are thrilling, and we are thankful to Hess Corp. for enabling us to escalate our efforts,” she said.

The Hess center will be one of four housed in a new 100,000 square foot building planned for the east side of the Salk campus in La Jolla.

“The Harnessing Plants Initiative is a potential game changer in tackling the global challenge of climate change,” said John Hess, chief executive officer of the company. “We believe this groundbreaking work will implement scientific breakthroughs on a global scale and can make a major contribution toward achieving the world’s ambition to reach net zero emissions.”

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.