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Storing Carbon for Geologically Long Timescales to Engineer Climate

To re-establish global climate balance, it is necessary to remove large amounts of fossil carbon emitted by humans, which is currently located in the atmosphere and the upper ocean. Although great attention is given to technologies of capture, the ability to store immense tonnages of carbon stock for geologically long time periods, isolated from atmosphere and ocean interaction, is equally important. In this chapter, the multiple storage locations for carbon stocking on and below land, also within and below the ocean, are evaluated. The evaluation shows that carbon dioxide reduction (CDR) is useful for mitigation, but cannot balance the rate of new emissions from fossil fuel exploitation. Many CDR methods have large uncertainty in their quantity, life-cycle, global impact and engineered feasibility. Competition for biomass and land usage is inevitable. Pathways and reservoirs of carbon in the ocean are complex and interlocked. Engineered storage of carbon will also be expensive, resource intensive and cannot substitute for a greatly reduced usage of fossil carbon. Human industrial and economic activity must “move beyond hydrocarbons” to be sustainable beyond 2050.

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22 May 2014
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