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Potential CO2 removal from enhanced weathering by ecosystem responses to powdered rock

Abstract

Negative emission technologies underpin socioeconomic scenarios consistent with the Paris Agreement. Afforestation and bioenergy coupled with carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and storage are the main land negative emission technologies proposed, but the range of nature-based solutions is wider. Here we explore soil amendment with powdered basalt in natural ecosystems. Basalt is an abundant rock resource, which reacts with CO2 and removes it from the atmosphere. Besides, basalt improves soil fertility and thereby potentially enhances ecosystem carbon storage, rendering a global CO2 removal of basalt substantially larger than previously suggested. As this is a fully developed technology that can be co-deployed in existing land systems, it is suited for rapid upscaling. Achieving sufficiently high net CO2 removal will require upscaling of basalt mining, deploying systems in remote areas with a low carbon footprint and using energy from low-carbon sources. We argue that basalt soil amendment should be considered a prominent option when assessing land management options for mitigating climate change, but yet unknown side-effects, as well as limited data on field-scale deployment, need to be addressed first.

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Fig. 1: CDR over the five decades after a one-time application of BD to global hinterland.
Fig. 2: Spatial pattern of total CDR, and the biotic contribution, of BD application to global hinterland.
Fig. 3: Cost of CDR over the five decades after a one-time application of BD to global hinterland.

Data availability

The simulation data (https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3963784, https://doi.org/10.14768/20200407002.1) are freely available. The dataset on airfield location is available at https://openflights.org/data.html (accessed 18 January 2020).

Code availability

The source code of the land surface model ORCHIDEE-CNP is freely available (https://doi.org/10.14768/20200407002.1). The corresponding author will make the Python codes developed for this study available upon reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

D.S.G., P.C., J.P., M.O., I.J. and S.V. acknowledge financial support from the European Research Council Synergy grant ERC‐SyG‐2013‐610028 IMBALANCE‐P. J.P. acknowledges financial support from the Spanish Government grant PID2019-110521GB-I00, the Fundación Areces grant ELEMENTAL-CLIMATE and the Catalan Government grant SGR 2017‐1005. D.S.G. and P.C. benefited from support from the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) grant ANR‐16‐CONV‐0003 (CLAND). T.A. and J.H. benefited from financial support from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) priority programme on ‘Climate Engineering–Risks, Challenges and Opportunities?’, specifically the CEMICS2 project, and under Germany’s Excellence Strategy – EXC 2037 ‘Climate, Climatic Change, and Society’ – project number 390683824, contribution to the Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability (CEN) of Universität Hamburg. K.T. benefited from State assistance managed by the National Research Agency in France under the ‘Programme d’Investissements d’Avenir’ under the reference ANR-19-MPGA-0008.

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Contributions

D.S.G., P.C. and T.A. designed the study. D.S.G. and J.C. undertook model development and coding, with input from W.L. and T.A. T.A. provided data on rock chemistry. D.S.G. undertook the data analysis and synthesis. D.S.G. wrote the manuscript with input on sections and addition of appropriate references specific to their area of expertise from all authors.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Daniel S. Goll.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information Nature Geoscience thanks the anonymous reviewers for their contribution to the peer review of this work. Primary Handling Editor: Xujia Jiang.

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Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) and dissolution of basalt dust (BD) over the course of the experiment.

The accumulated CDR is given for one-time basalt dust additions of 1, 3 and 5 kg m-2 and varying P contents ranging between 0.036 and 0.286 %-weight (shaded areas). Remaining BD mass is shown in red.

Extended Data Fig. 2 The trajectories of carbon dioxide removed (CDR) as a function of the amount of dissolved basalt dust.

Shown is CDR for different amounts of basalt dust addition of 1, 3, and 5 kg m-2 (color) and varying P contents ranging between 0.036 and 0.286 %-weight (shaded areas). Abiotic CDR is shown in black.

Extended Data Fig. 3 Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the distribution of basalt dust.

Shown are emissions for a selection of existing transport technologies (airplane [red], road [grey], railroad [green], river [blue] & pipeline [yellow]) as a function of transportation distance. The shaded areas represent the variation in GHG emission within a transport type. The dotted line shows the median CDR potential of basalt application to hinterlands.

Extended Data Fig. 4 Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the production of basalt dust.

Shown are median GHG emissions for selected energy production systems: wind, nuclear, concentrated solar power, coal power coupled to carbon capture and storage (ccs), biomass burning (dedicated), gas (combined cycle), and coal (pulverized). The bars indicate maximum and minimum values.

Extended Data Fig. 5 The fate of basalt derived phosphorus.

Shown are the fractions of phosphorus released from basal dust which remains in terrestrial ecosystems (top) or is lost to aquatic systems (bottom) 50 years after application of 5 kg m-2 basalt dust of intermediate P content (0.161 %-weight).

Extended Data Fig. 6 Increase in phosphorus concentration in surface runoff due to basalt dust application.

Shown is the increase in phosphorus concentration averaged for the 50 years after application of 5 kg m-2 basalt dust of intermediate P content (0.161 %-weight).

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Note, Figs. 1–8 and Tables 1–9.

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Goll, D.S., Ciais, P., Amann, T. et al. Potential CO2 removal from enhanced weathering by ecosystem responses to powdered rock. Nat. Geosci. 14, 545–549 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-021-00798-x

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