Carbon sequestering is the process of capturing and storing carbon, either naturally or artificially, on a long term basis so that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can be reduced.
Such carbon storage strategies are important, as they could buy mankind precious time, as we work out the vital challenges in carbon emission reduction.
Natural carbon sequestering
The carbon sequestration process that takes place in the natural world has existed for billions of years, and is still taking place this very moment.
Trees, oceans, animals and earth act as natural carbon sink. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and store the carbon in the form of glucose, through the process of photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide gas dissolves in ocean water. Animals eat plant, and the carbon stored in the plants becomes a part of their bodies. When plants and animal die, matter containing carbon is returned to the earth.
Such carbon sequestering processes form a part of the carbon cycle that helps to maintain the balance of carbon in our land, water and air, making life possible on earth.
With the industrial revolution and widespread deforestation, the carbon cycle and the balance of carbon in its various forms have been disturbed. Over the years, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen significantly, and this increase is accompanied by increase in Earth’s temperature. Read about global warming facts.
Artificial carbon sequestering
To restore the carbon balance, scientists are exploring ways to artificially carry out carbon sequestration. These artificial processes usually seek to capture the carbon dioxide gas at the point of production and then have the gas stored in the following forms.
Ocean sequestration: Scientists are exploring the possibility of sequestering carbon into the oceans. One approach is to infuse liquidified carbon dioxide into the deep ocean. The liquid carbon dioxide is infused into a hollow or trench on the seabed, where it would stay as a submarine lake. Based on model studies, carbon dioxide injected at depths of 1500m or more, with careful site selection, could be stored up for several hundred years.
Another approach is to increase the natural oceanic uptake of CO2 via microscopic plants called phytoplankton. The theory is to increase biological productivity of these plants, enabling the phytoplankton near the sea surface to take in more CO2, as such removing the gas from the atmosphere. And in the process, oxygen could be produced. Geological carbon sequestration: In this method, the carbon dioxide from power plant exhausts is collected, compressed and pumped into underground chambers, for example old oil reservoirs, aquifers and coal seams that are no longer mined.
Mineral carbon sequestration: In this method, carbon dioxide is introduced into areas rich in Magnesium or Calcium. The carbon dioxide will react with those elements to form calcium carbonate (limestone) and magnesium carbonate (magnesite).
These artificial approaches in carbon sequestering sound good. However, there are major uncertainties and fears about the impact of these approaches on marine and land ecology and the ecological balance of sensitive deep ocean environments. Above all, there are also uncertainties regarding its effectiveness in the long-term storage of carbon dioxide.
Also, artificial carbon sequestration is costly, energy intensive, comparatively untested. At this point, research on the possible dangers of disposing carbon dioxide in such manners is inadequate.
Hence, it may be better if we work on restoring the carbon balance in natural ways, such as through reforestation, reducing our carbon footprint by conserving energy and switching to renewable sources of energy rather than relying on fossil fuels, . And we need to do so now, while there is still time.
Read about ways to stop global warming.
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