Carbon sequestration; what no-one tells you

The NSW fires, illustrating a fundamental flaw in sequestration

The fires across NSW are horrible, without a doubt. The images now in the news are the types of images I think about whenever I hear ambitious sequestration targets.

After all, the reason why we have more carbon in the atmosphere is not because we have taken it from the biosphere, but because we dug it up.

Fossil “fuel” is the true locked carbon and our activity adds it back to the system.

Sequestration only displaces atmospheric carbon into biomass. Biomass degrades, releasing that carbon to the system again.

Sometimes we are provided a powerful example of this process, such as bushfires.

Without returning it to a similar state to that it was found, that is, fossil carbon, or invent some other way to lock it in other carbon-rich compounds (that is, avoid natural sequestration and do it ourselves via other chemical processes), it remains with us cycling between the biosphere, atmosphere and ocean. Climate change is slowed, not stopped.

Which begs the question; why dig it up when we would need to spend as much energy to store it again? Nothing comes for free after all.

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4 thoughts on “Carbon sequestration; what no-one tells you

    1. Why isn’t this done then? I’m always wary when someone states an easy solution… without scientific evidence or case studies to boot.

      Weathering is another word for erosion. I’d suggest it couldn’t have applied to capture the gigatonnes of carbon released each year without significant environmental impact, which in turn defeats the purpose.

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  1. I misremembered the usual term: it is usually called enhanced weathering, not accelerated.

    You would suggest the environmental effects of enhanced weathering are such as to defeat the purpose, that they are as bad or almost as bad as that of the excess atmospheric CO2? What might make you suggest this, if you were to go ahead and do so?

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    1. That’s a slippery response. changing the term and presenting it as a false dichotomy does nothing to stregthen your argument.

      We are already locked into further warming due to an imbalance, so we would need to make up for previous years.. previous decades to get the atmospheric CO2 to around 350ppm. To achieve this, gigatonnes per year will not be enough and we will be spending huge chunks of energy dedicated on this process.

      Whatever you want to call it, it requires dissolving CO2 with various rocks. As statrd above, while we might have enough material for this, we are talking about gigatonnes of CO2 each year that we need to catch up with plus that being released now.

      If you want to erode landscapes, good luck selling that to people and even if you did, making up for the ecological damage done would need further energy and expense.

      If you mined it, even more environmental impact and energy / cost.

      Presenting it as the only contrast to climate change is a false dichotomy and asking me to find a better solution instead of addressing the points I raised isn’t helpful.

      Sequestration is not tue silver bullet advocates pretend it is nor is nuclear reactors as those advocates state. Both will play a role, but we need a mixed approach, not wishful thinking

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