Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Long-term effectiveness and consequences of carbon dioxide sequestration

Abstract

One proposal for the mitigation of ongoing global warming is the sequestration of carbon dioxide extracted at combustion sites or directly from the air1,2. Such sequestration could help avoid a large rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration from unchecked use of fossil fuels, and hence extreme warming in the near future3,4. However, it is not clear how effective different types of sequestration and associated leakage are in the long term, and what their consequences might be. Here I present projections over 100,000 years for five scenarios of carbon sequestration and leakage with an Earth system model5. Most of the investigated scenarios result in a large, delayed warming in the atmosphere as well as oxygen depletion, acidification and elevated CO2 concentrations in the ocean. Specifically, deep-ocean carbon storage leads to extreme acidification and CO2 concentrations in the deep ocean, together with a return to the adverse conditions of a business-as-usual projection with no sequestration over several thousand years. Geological storage may be more effective in delaying the return to the conditions of a business-as-usual projection, especially for storage in offshore sediments. However, leakage of 1% or less per thousand years from an underground stored reservoir, or continuous resequestration far into the future, would be required to maintain conditions close to those of a low-emission projection with no sequestration.

Your institute does not have access to this article

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Carbon dioxide emission and sequestration scenarios.
Figure 2: Long-term Earth system projections for different CO2 emission and storage scenarios.

References

  1. IPCC, Metz, B., Davidson, O., de Coninck, H., Loos, M. & Meyer, L. (eds) in Special Report on Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage 431 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2005).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Hazeldine, R. S. Carbon capture and storage: How green can black be? Science 325, 1647–1652 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Kheshgi, H. S. & Archer, D. A nonlinear convolution model for the evasion of CO2 injected into the deep ocean. J. Geophys. Res. 109, C02007 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Haugan, P. & Joos, F. Metrics to assess the mitigation of global warming by carbon capture and storage in the ocean and in geological reservoirs. Geophys. Res. Lett. 31, L18202 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Shaffer, G., Olsen, S. M. & Pedersen, J. O. P. Presentation, calibration and validation of the low-order, DCESS Earth System model. Geosci. Model Dev. 1, 17–51 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Keller, K., McInerney, D. & Bradford, D. F. Carbon dioxide sequestration: How much and when? Clim. Change 88, 267–291 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Keith, D. W. Why capture CO2 from the atmosphere? Science 325, 1654–1655 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Rochelle, G. T. Amine scrubbing for CO2 capture. Science 325, 1652–1654 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Caldeira, K. & Wickett, M. E. Ocean model predictions of chemistry changes from carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere and ocean. J. Geophys. Res. 110, C09S04 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Meinshausen, M. et al. Greenhouse-gas emission targets for limiting global warming to 2 °C. Nature 458, 1158–1162 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Shaffer, G., Olsen, S. M. & Pedersen, J. O. P. Long-term ocean oxygen depletion in response to carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels. Nature Geosci. 2, 105–109 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Dowsett, H. et al. Joint investigations of the Middle Pliocene climate I: PRISM paleoclimate reconstructions. Glob. Planet. Change 9, 169–195 (1994).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Archer, D., Buffett, B. & Brovkin, V. Ocean methane hydrates as a slow tipping point in the global carbon cycle. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. 106, 20596–20601 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Jones, N. Sucking it up. Nature 458, 1094–1097 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Orr, F. M. Jr Onshore geologic storage of CO2 . Science 325, 1656–1658 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Grübler, A., Nakicenovic, N. & Victor, D. G. Dynamics of energy technologies and global change. Energy Policy 27, 247–280 (1999).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Pörtner, H. O., Langenbuch, M. & Michaelidis, B. Effects of CO2 on marine animals: Interactions with temperature and hypoxia regimes. J. Geophys. Res. 110, C09S10 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Brewer, P. G. & Peltzer, E. T. Limits to marine life. Science 324, 347–348 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. House, K. Z., Schrag, D. P., Harvey, C. F. & Lackner, K. S. Permanent carbon dioxide storage in deep-sea sediments. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci 103, 12291–12295 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Schrag, D. P. Storage of carbon dioxide in offshore sediments. Science 325, 1658–1659 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Archer, D. & Brovkin, V. The millennial atmospheric lifetime of anthropogenic CO2 . Clim. Change 90, 283–297 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Marland, G., Boden, T. A. & Andres, R. J. Trends: A Compendium of Data on Global Change (Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, US Department of Energy, 2007).

    Google Scholar 

  23. Houghton, R. A. Magnitude, distribution and causes of terrestrial carbon sinks and some implications for policy. Clim. Policy 2, 71–88 (2002).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. IPCC, Solomon, S. D. et al. (eds) in Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007).

    Google Scholar 

  25. Stern, D. I. & Kaufmann, R. K. Trends: A Compendium of Data on Global Change (Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, US Department of Energy, 1998).

    Google Scholar 

  26. Crowley, T. J. Causes of climate change over the past 1,000 years. Science 289, 270–277 (2000).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Nakicenovic, N. & Swart, R. (eds) A Special Report of Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000).

  28. Loutre, M. F. & Berger, A. Future climatic changes: Are we entering an exceptionally long interglacial? Clim. Change 46, 61–90 (2000).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

I thank P. Brewer, R. Garreaud, S. M. Olsen and J. O. P. Pedersen for comments. Part of this research was carried out at the Department of Geophysics, University of Chile, Santiago.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Gary Shaffer.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The author declares no competing financial interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Shaffer, G. Long-term effectiveness and consequences of carbon dioxide sequestration. Nature Geosci 3, 464–467 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo896

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo896

Further reading

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing