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Carbon Capture: Can Rocks Do the Job?

Here is an inspiring approach to removing carbon from the atmosphere: Pulverize volcanic rock, and then spread it over fields and farmland instead of fertilizer. The technique is called “enhanced rock weathering”. The Leverhulme Centre for Climate Change Mitigation is investigating if this technique can be used to safely remove carbon from the atmosphere to cool our planet.

In a blogpost, Prof David Beerling, director of the Leverhulme Centre for Climate Change Mitigation, explains how it works:

In nature, rain erodes rock over millions of years, breaking it down into small pieces. The rock grains react with carbon from the air. They pull carbon from the air into soils and eventually into the ocean, where it’s stored.

Pulverized rock sequesters carbon and is washed into the ocean
Pulverized volcanic rock captures carbon from the air and stores it in the ocean

His project is speeding this million year process up by using pulverized rock. By spreading it over fields, it pulls carbon into the soil and eventually into the sea.

Even though the project is a very early research project and estimates are still uncertain, here are some mind boggling numbers: Applying basalt powder to the corn belt of North America might sequester as much as 1.1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide – equivalent to 13% of the global annual emissions from agriculture.

What an inspiring project, I can’t wait to hear more about it as their research progresses!