Posts Tagged 'geoengineering'

Geoengineering impact of open ocean dissolution of olivine on atmospheric CO2, surface ocean pH and marine biology

Ongoing global warming induced by anthropogenic emissions has opened the debate as to whether geoengineering is a ‘quick fix’ option. Here we analyse the intended and unintended effects of one specific geoengineering approach, which is enhanced weathering via the open ocean dissolution of the silicate-containing mineral olivine. This approach would not only reduce atmospheric CO2 and oppose surface ocean acidification, but would also impact on marine biology. If dissolved in the surface ocean, olivine sequesters 0.28 g carbon per g of olivine dissolved, similar to land-based enhanced weathering. Silicic acid input, a byproduct of the olivine dissolution, alters marine biology because silicate is in certain areas the limiting nutrient for diatoms. As a consequence, our model predicts a shift in phytoplankton species composition towards diatoms, altering the biological carbon pumps. Enhanced olivine dissolution, both on land and in the ocean, therefore needs to be considered as ocean fertilization. From dissolution kinetics we calculate that only olivine particles with a grain size of the order of 1 μm sink slowly enough to enable a nearly complete dissolution. The energy consumption for grinding to this small size might reduce the carbon sequestration efficiency by ~30%.

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Ocean acidification in a geoengineering context

Fundamental changes to marine chemistry are occurring because of increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. Ocean acidity (H+ concentration) and bicarbonate ion concentrations are increasing, whereas carbonate ion concentrations are decreasing. There has already been an average pH decrease of 0.1 in the upper ocean, and continued unconstrained carbon emissions would further reduce average upper ocean pH by approximately 0.3 by 2100. Laboratory experiments, observations and projections indicate that such ocean acidification may have ecological and biogeochemical impacts that last for many thousands of years. The future magnitude of such effects will be very closely linked to atmospheric CO2; they will, therefore, depend on the success of emission reduction, and could also be constrained by geoengineering based on most carbon dioxide removal (CDR) techniques. However, some ocean-based CDR approaches would (if deployed on a climatically significant scale) re-locate acidification from the upper ocean to the seafloor or elsewhere in the ocean interior. If solar radiation management were to be the main policy response to counteract global warming, ocean acidification would continue to be driven by increases in atmospheric CO2, although with additional temperature-related effects on CO2 and CaCO3 solubility and terrestrial carbon sequestration.

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