BY JEFF JENNINGS
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) has just released a report finding that even if anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide are immediately and fully stopped, irreversible climatic effects will continue for 1,000 years (1). Given such data, it becomes apparent that global climate change must not only be slowed, but actually reversed. The leading proposal for this is currently carbon sequestration.
Carbon sequestration technologies have the potential to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store this greenhouse gas in natural geologic formations, terrestrial ecosystems, and deep-ocean sediments. These technologies are still being developed, yet one technique holds immense potential. Mineral sequestration of carbon, primarily in the form of magnesium carbonate, can store vast amounts of carbon in a considerably small space. While this type of sequestration is one of the least researched and most underfunded, a magnesium carbonate mineral storage system could hold the equivalent of 25 million metric tons of carbon in an area only ten kilometers by ten kilometers by 150 meters (2). In 2001, global carbon emissions were approximately 23.9 million metric tons, meaning that an area of magnesium carbonate 6.2 X 6.2 X.09 miles could hold an entire year’s worth of global carbon emissions(3).
In addition to the ability to hold vast amounts of carbon in such a small area, this mineral sequestration method also poses no risk of leakage of the carbon over time, and the necessary magnesium is significantly abundant in the natural world (4). If policy can be constructed to shift emphasis toward research and development of such promising technologies, the impacts of anthropogenic climate change can be minimized to combat widespread irreversible damage.