But “if you’re really concerned about coral reefs, biodiversity [and] food production in very poor regions, we’re going to have to deploy negative emission technology at scale,” said Bill Hare of Climate Analytics, a science and policy institute. “I don’t think we can have confidence that anything else can do this,” the Berlin-based chief executive told a London climate change conference.
These methods will be faster to scale then complicated and industrial intensive carbon capture at coal and natural gas plants and factories and creating massive national and global pipelines to move the captured gas into underground storage.
Expand Commercial Kelp Growth by 100 times
There is a proposal to use about 9% of the oceans surface for massive kelp farms. The Ocean surface area is about 36 billion hectares. This would offset all CO2 production and provide 0.5 kg of fish and sea vegetables per person per day for 10 billion people as an “incidental” by-product. Nine percent of the world’s oceans would be equivalent to about four and a half times the area of Australia.
In 2016, seaweed farms produce more than 25 million metric tonnes annually. The global value of the crop, US$6.4 billion (2014), exceeds that of the world’s lemons and limes.
A 2016 report from the World Bank estimates that the annual global seaweed production could reach 500 million dry tons by 2050 if the market is able to increase its harvest 14% per year. Hitting that 500 million mark would boost the world’s food supply by 10% from the current level, create 50 million direct jobs in the process and, as a biofuel, replace about 1.5% of the fossil fuels used to run vehicles. The Ocean forest plan would be to accelerate growth of seaweed farming to 25-50% per year growth and reach about 20-60 billion tons per year of production. The world currently produces about 4 billion tons per year of agricultural product.
Ocean Afforestation (aka Ocean Macroalgal Afforestation (OMA)), has the potential to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations through expanding natural populations of macroalgae, which absorb carbon dioxide, then are harvested to produce biomethane and biocarbon dioxide via anaerobic digestion. The plant nutrients remaining after digestion are recycled to expand the algal forest and increase fish populations. A mass balance has been calculated from known data and applied to produce a life cycle assessment and economic analysis. This analysis shows the potential of Ocean Afforestation to produce 12 billion tons per year of biomethane while storing 19 billion tons of CO2 per year directly from biogas production, plus up to 34 billion tons per year from carbon capture of the biomethane combustion exhaust. These rates are based on macro-algae forests covering 9% of the world’s ocean surface, which could produce sufficient biomethane to replace all of today’s needs in fossil fuel energy, while removing 53 billion tons of CO2 per year from the atmosphere, restoring pre-industrial levels. This amount of biomass could also increase sustainable fish production to potentially provide 200 kg/yr/person for 10 billion people. Additional benefits are reduction in ocean acidification and increased ocean primary productivity and biodiversity.
Iron sulphate in the ocean to make large algae blooms is restoring processes that used to exist with more Whales
The number of salmon caught in the northeast Pacific more than quadrupled, going from 50 million to 226 million. In the Fraser River, which only once before in history had a salmon run greater than 25 million fish (about 45 million in 2010), the number of salmon increased to 72 million.
Iron sulphate dumping returned over 100 times the value in fish in one year versus the cost of the dumping
Iron sulphate dumping returned about 1000 times the weight in increased fish versus the amount of dumped iron sulphate
Millions of tons of plastic and junk are dumped into the oceans and rivers every year. Iron Sulphate dumping could restore or even increase fish catches beyond historical levels
David Brin points out that ocean-fertilization is the inverse of irrigation. You are adding “land” to water in the form of nutrients.
Hundreds of years ago there were more whales and humans killed the whales. Large whales pooping in the ocean had the same effect as dumping iron sulphate.
Preliminary results in a greenhouse study showed that low-volatility [biochar] supplemented with fertilizer outperformed fertilizer alone by 60%.
Because the heat and chemical energy released during pyrolysis could replace energy derived from fossil fuels, the IBI calculates the total benefit would be equivalent to removing about 1.2 billion metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year.
Ten other ways to reduce emissions that are not geoengineering
The following are my list of top ten other technologies that would have a big effect on reducing emissions. Some are not low tech but they have dual usage in that they may help build cities in a cleaner way. They are actions that are mostly economically justified for other purposes. These will reduce the unintentional effects on the environment and climate but are not classified as geoengineering. Although current emissions from cars, buildings, agriculture and industry all apparently effect the climate.
1. China Broad Group making “Can be built” factory mass produced high rises and skyscrapers. Deployment of 5 times improved energy efficiency by 2020 with many partners (30% of new construction) would save 400 million tons of CO2 per year
2. Black Carbon free cookers for 700 million households would save 18% of black carbon soot. Equal to about 10% (3 billion tons) of today’s CO2 in warming effect. Current target is 100 million households by 2020 for the equivalent of about 400 million tons of CO2 per year in warming reduction.
3. Diesel particulate filters for cars and trucks and other diesel engines can reduce the 14% of black carbon from transportation. Majority of vehicles are existing older cars and trucks already on the road and would need retrofits
4. Massive amounts of electrification of vehicles could reduce carbon dioxide and other emissions. There are 150 million electric bikes and scooters (mostly in China). This could increase to 500 million electric bikes and scooters by 2020. This will reduce the usage of 2 billion regular cars and vehicles. There will at best by 20 million electric or hybrid cars without massive change.
5. A variety of DOE and other approaches to retrofitting existing buildings for efficiency could increase energy efficiency by about 20%. Perhaps 1 billion tons of CO2 per year worldwide by 2020.
6. Reducing carbon dioxide emissions from concrete. 5% of world total. There is green cement which can absorb carbon dioxide. Green cement is unlikely to be deployed on a wide scale by 2020 because of the need for long term studies to prove develop and prove the safety of the new materials. Also, the new material have to be scaled up.
7. Scaling up of regular nuclear power and hydro power. The world will add about 1000 TWh of hydropower and about 1200 TWh of nuclear power before 2030
8. Nuclear fission technology advances –
* Annular fuel (MIT invented, being commercialized in South Korea (can boost existing and future reactors by 20-50%)
* factory mass produced pebble bed reactors (China under 210 MWe being built, first 2016-2018)
* factory mass produced breeder reactors Russia, first in 2018-2025
Should be big impact from 2018-2030
9. Johannes Lehmann of Cornell University estimates that by switching to slash-and-char from slash-and-burn agriculture, which turns biomass into ash using open fires that release black carbon and GHGs, 12% of anthropogenic carbon emissions caused by land use change could be reduced annually, which is approximately 660 million tons of CO2-eq. per year, or 2% of all annual global CO2-eq emissions.
10. Lighter roads and roofs too
Lighter colored roofs and roads would offset the equivalent of 130 to 150 billion tons of CO2.
From now until 2040, if you want to have a 0.75 degree celsius increase instead of a possible 1.25 degree celsius temperature increase then soot mitigation should be targeted. Measure against CO2 would have an effect by around 2070.
Soot makes the ice darker and melt faster and increases the amount of heat that is absorbed instead of reflected.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.