While the battle to combat carbon dioxide emissions continues, even if we win it, there’s still 12 billion tons of carbon to deal with. This number grows every year and even if we stop it, there’s already too much carbon in the air. Global warming has already started.
The solution is simple, remove the carbon that is already in the atmosphere, but it’s much easier said than done. Even if we can do it for the existing carbon and other heat-trapping gases, can we do it every year?
What Options Do We Have
Like most things, there are options to choose from. The first you probably think of is a large machine that can filter the air. Makes perfect sense, but it has been deemed far too expensive in the past, although that has recently changed. Carbon Engineering is a Canadian company that is backed by Bill Gates and they claim they can capture carbon for under $100 a ton.
Of course, you might be looking for a more natural solution. Trees and other plants absorb CO2 from the air. By planting new trees we can capture lots of CO2, but there is a problem. If the tree dies, or there are large forest fires, it will be released again.
Another approach would be to fertilize the oceans instead of the forests. Plankton can be just as effective, but they don’t catch on fire at the bottom of the sea. However, there are other issues with trapping large amounts of CO2 under the water.
The last option we will look at is another natural one, rocks. Yes, rocks can save the environment. Rocks can be broken down through a chemical reaction and draw carbon from the air. This process occurs naturally and resulted in the removal of a large amount of CO2 400 million years ago.
How Exactly Can We Use Rocks to Save the Environment
While it may seem ridiculous, it is actually really simple. Take a volcanic rock basalt, grind it up, and then use it as a fertilizer for crops. The ground-up rock will act as a fertilizer and improve the crop yield, as well as, absorb four times as much carbon.
That’s a lot of benefits. For starters, this can replace high carbon fertilizers, which will help the environment by itself. On top of that, it actually absorbs carbon and increases the farm yield.
This would be extremely effective and efficient for countries with a large agriculture sector like the United States.
How Would We Acquire Enough Rock
The big question is where would the rock come from. Obviously, digging up rocks around the world would probably do more damage than what it stops. However, we have already done this during the industrial age. The rocks are already mined and we literally have billions of tonnes of rock available.
Not only are there rocks, but a substance known as “slag” can also be used. It is a by-product of creating metals like iron and steel. This makes rocks capturing carbon a very realistic expectation in the future.
How Long Until We Can Use It
Unfortunately, there is still a significant amount of testing and research required before rock fertilization becomes a reality. However, assuming it does, the technology could be used in one or two decades.
Sadly, while we wait for this to be ready, climate change is becoming a reality. Carbon emissions are increasing and we need to act fast. As President Obama said, “We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it.”