The Problem With Concrete
This video is in partnership with Bill and Melinda Gates. You can check out the Gates Annual Letter here:
Concrete is responsible for 8% of humanity’s carbon emissions because making its key ingredient – cement – chemically releases CO2, and because we burn fossil fuels to make it happen.
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To learn more, start your googling with these keywords:
Portland cement – the most common type of cement used worldwide, made with limestone
Limestone – a hard sedimentary rock, composed mainly of calcium carbonate (which is also in shells & eggs)
Cement – a powder used in construction that’s made by grinding clinker with other minerals and mixing with water to form a paste that sticks to sand, gravel or crushed stone to make concrete
Concrete – a building material made by mixing cement with water to form a paste that gains body through fillers like sand and gravel
Clinker – an intermediate marble-sized product in cement production created by sintering limestone with clay and other things
Sinter – to turn a powdery solid into a single mass by heating it without liquefaction
Mortar – another building material (used to adhere bricks or stones together) made by mixing cement with water and sand
Calcination – the process of heating a substance to a high temperature, but below its melting point, so it thermally decomposes (like limestone into lime & CO2)
Process emissions – the name for the CO2 that comes from limestone when it thermally decomposes
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Credits (and Twitter handles):
Script Writer & Narrator: Alex Reich (@alexhreich)
Video Illustrator: Adam Thompson
Video Director: David Goldenberg (@dgoldenberg)
With Contributions From: Henry Reich, Kate Yoshida, Ever Salazar, Peter Reich, Arcadi Garcia Rius
Music by: Nathaniel Schroeder:
Andrew, R. M. 2018. Global CO2 emissions from cement production. Earth System Science Data, 10(1), 195.
Benhelal, E., et al. 2013. Global strategies and potentials to curb CO2 emissions in cement industry. Journal of cleaner production, 51, 142-161.
Beyond Zero Emissions. August 2017. Zero Carbon Industry Plan: Rethinking Cement. Available for download at
Davis, S.J., et al. 2018. Net-zero emissions energy systems. Science, 360(6396), eaas9793.
Lehne, J., & Preston., F. June 2018. Making Concrete Change: Innovation in Low-carbon Cement and Concrete. Chatham House Report.
Timperley, J. September 13 2018. Q&A: Why cement emissions matter for climate change.
World Bank. 2019. World Development Indicators: Urban population.