Could Enhanced Rock Weathering help save us? Find out in Episode 2 of This is CDR, with Dr. Garrett Boudinot!
This is CDR is an ongoing series of online events to explore the range of carbon dioxide removal solutions that are currently being developed. This week, we talk to Dr. Garrett Boudinot of Cornell University about an exciting possibility, Enhanced Rock Weathering–using rock dust to remove atmospheric CO2. This process is already happening in nature: as CO2-bearing rain reacts with rocks, it breaks them down into tiny grains of CO2-bearing bicarbonate. Over time, that bicarbonate works its way into the ocean, where it can remain for hundreds of thousands of years, keeping its payload of CO2 safely contained beneath the waves. As Dr. Boudinot explains, we can accelerate this natural process by fertilizing cropland with rock dust, increasing the rate of carbon removal.
If you’re like us, you may be wondering about the literal downstream effects of this idea: how will it affect the crops? How will it affect the oceans? Much more research needs to be done, but the good news is, so far, the effects on both seem to be positive. In fact, crops fertilized with rock dust may not only be more nutritious and hardier, but may also emit less nitrous oxide, itself a greenhouse gas we really want to get out of the atmosphere. And since ocean acidification is a major problem caused primarily by burning fossil fuels, you’ll be tickled to hear that alkaline rock dust precipitating into the ocean could actually help out on that front too.
Honorable science guy that he is, Dr. Boudinot is wary of overhyping ERW, and there’s still a ton to figure out about safety, efficiency, side effects, and best practices. Nevertheless, it’s a fascinating possibility, and something to get excited about is always welcome in these times. We hope you really enjoy this episode, and please check back soon for Episode 3.