The last-hope solution to global warming?
Updated: Aug 23, 2020
I am the first to admit that the ideas I am presenting in this blog go, in some areas, way beyond what I can claim to be my field of expertise. I have however done a search of existing scientific research in this area, and found nothing. So someone has to start the discussion.
By now, it should be obvious to any independently-minded person that the human race as it is structured today, geographically, financially and politically, is completely incapable of coming together to agree on, and put into place, country-by-country strategies that will prevent global warming taking the planet into irreversible, non-survivable territory for most of the world within 50 years at most.
So, we need an endgame that might just work, and only need a few big players to implement.
The target areas are the oceans of the world. Collectively, they occupy 79% of the surface of the planet. They already contain - I think - 5 times more carbon dioxide than the whole of the atmosphere. They have already absorbed 40% of the CO2 mandkind has discharged since the start of our oil and coal-burning binge 200 years ago.
But can they (a) sequester more atmospheric CO2, and (b) if so, what can we do to enable this, in sufficient quantities to save the human race?. The answer to (a) is a resounding yes.
The answer to (b), I believe, is all about stopping the increasing acidiification of the oceans. This is being brought about principally by increasing discharge of acidifying agents like manufactured fertiliser into the oceans. By the time the world unites against this, it will be too late. So we have to treat the oceans directly. Adding lime - which is actually calcium carbonate, and contains one calcium cation to every carbonate anion - does actually lead to sequestration of more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but slowly.
So my background in using phosphate rocks for direct application - especially those classified as reactive phosphate rocks or RPRs - has got me thinking. RPRs were essentially formed by the the reconstitution - on the sea floor - of calcium carbonate from sea shells with calcium phosphate skeletal remains from fish, helped along by dissolved phosphate in seawater. The formation of these deposits has sequestered enormous amounts of carbon dioxide (and soluble phosphate) in the past. RPRs have 20% or more of the phosphate replaced by carbonate.
The productivity of many oceanic areas are currently very much limited by phosphate. Adding phosphate rock (plus maybe 10% of soluble P) to these areas will enormously increase fish production; a huge economic plus in itself. The surplus phosphate - plus that in the remains of the great majority of fish who die naturally or in the oceanic foodchain - will sink to the sea floor and gradually form new deposits of carbono-apatite. I think that this approach has a lot more merit than simply adding lime to seawater.
The important thing is that this process will not just stop the current acidification of the oceans - which is greatly reducing their ability to sequester CO2 from the atmosphere - but gradually increase their alkalinity, greatly increasing their sequestration of carbon dioxide in the process. A great deal of mathematical and chemical calculation needs to be done, but by my guestimate - and it is only that - we could fix the global warming problem in 10-20 years.