14 Dec 2015:
Accelerating Rock Weathering
Could Help Reduce Atmospheric CO2 Levels
Weathered limestone cliffs in Yorkshire, England
Speeding up the naturally occurring process of weathering rocks to draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere could help to stabilize the climate and avert ocean acidification caused by greenhouse gas emissions, according to
research published in the journal Nature Climate Change
. As rainwater and other environmental conditions naturally break down rocks on the earth's surface, carbon dioxide is drawn from the atmosphere. The process converts CO2 to bicarbonate, a mineral that chemically binds CO2 and is washed away through rivers to the oceans. By modeling the large-scale effects of weathering — which is driven largely by precipitation, vegetation, and soil microbes — the researchers found methods for accelerating this CO2-removal system. Such a strategy could significantly counteract anthropogenic fossil fuel emissions, they say, slowing ocean acidification and protecting delicate ocean ecosystems such as coral reefs. Professor David Beerling of the University of Sheffield, lead author of the study, said the findings are important because "deploying strategies for removing CO2 from the atmosphere are strongly embedded in climate stabilization policies but don't yet exist."
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