Lab-Made Mineral Could Help Combat Climate Change – But There's A Huge Catch

Early days: the mineral (not pictured) forms naturally and locks in carbon dioxide as it is. klikkipetra/Shutterstock

Robin Andrews 16 Aug 2018, 15:45

It's worth stressing that one unit of magnesite removes half a unit of carbon dioxide. That means you’d need to manufacture billions of tons of it per year in order to trap and ideally bury a lot of CO2 to make a significant difference.

“We’re still working to better understand the fundamental science, and do not currently have plans to ‘scale up’,” Power said.

Scaling up would push this experimental process under the umbrella of carbon capture and storage (CCS). As it happens, this entire field of research is still taking baby steps, let alone magnesite production.

It’s pretty clear that in order to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement we’ll need to not just stop carbon dioxide escaping into the air, but we’ll have to build CCS machines that’ll actively draw down carbon dioxide already present up there. Proof-of-concept carbon scrubbers that’ll do just that exist, but plenty of uncertainties remain.

Who will fund the production and proliferation of these machines? Evidence is mounting that it’s an increasingly affordable tech, and that gases can be trapped long-term underground, but can the tech be scaled up effectively? Will we need to use biomass to help absorb more CO2?

These technologies, including this latest addition to our repertoire, aren’t silver bullets against climate change, no matter how effective they may ultimately prove to be. This existential crisis still requires a fundamental reorganization of the way our economies work, and a rapid switch from fossil fuels to low-carbon sources of energy.

“My sense is that there will need to be numerous solutions for addressing greenhouse gas emissions,” Power added. Magnesite could help, but “green energy, greater efficiency, reduction of waste,” as well as “carbon management and sequestration technologies” is the way forward here.

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