Photo by Alex Iby
Trees, sand and seaweed play a crucial role in the global carbon cycle. Plants, trees, seaweed and other sealife take up CO2 as they grow using photosynthesis. The rock weathering cycle is less well known but perhaps the oldest of all processes taking down carbon. Specifically olivine rock has a tremendous potential to draw down carbon, as about half of the earth’s crust consists of these green rocks. The image below shows the carbon cycle’s main flows.
The global carbon cycle and the role of fossil fuels, trees, plants, seaweed and rock weathering.
To reverse climate change, two things must be done: stop emissions and remove CO2 – close the tap and mop it up. For us CO2 removal is not a problem, but a solution. Our own bodies consist for almost 20% of carbon. Working with nature we provide not only the means to remove the excess carbon, but also the resources for the bio-based circular economy. We love carbon, as we realise that it is the basic building block of everything that lives.
To reverse climate change we need to close the tap and mop.
The amount of CO2 that needs to be removed is enormous. Science learns us: about 1500 gigatons this century (Rockström et al (2017), National Academies (2015)). One gigaton is about the weight of an ice cube one kilometer in size. Take 1500 of them. We only work with methods that have the potential to scale up substantially and fit within the doughnut. Multipotent solutions that have positive side effects.
Our CO2 removal challenge for this century.
Plants are actually great at capturing carbon. Trees grow themselves mainly from carbon they take right out of the air. Seaweeds and other algae are among the fastest growing plants on the planet. As rocks weather they store CO2 , and when we grind rocks into sand this works much faster. And there is more. But again, we have to look at scalable methods. And we have to decide where we store the captured CO2 .
Sinking off seaweed is a simple form of storing carbon. More general, carbon sinks is the term used in climate science to describe a place where CO2 is fixed. This can be for example in wood or in peatland. Some sinks keep the carbon longer than others. This is why we develop value chains that store carbon preferably in solid structures. Wooden buildings can do the job, land and soil can store a lot of carbon, but we can also turn CO2 into plastics and recycle this into building blocks or roads. This way everything we create becomes a carbon storage.
Mapping of one of our emerging value chains.
This chart shows the relative potential of natural climate solutions. The original dataset was created by Griscom et al (2017), and supplemented by our own research. The main source for data on seaweed potential is N’Yeurt et al (2012), for rock weathering Taylor et at (2015). Visualisation by Andy Dockett, Climate Cleanup Foundation.
Take part in our plan to draw 1500 gigaton CO2 out of the atmosphere this century and restore the global carbon balance. Please contact us if you can help to improve on our plan. Join or invest in Climate Cleanup business ecosystems, donate to support the foundation, and stay tuned.