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Renewable energy is cheaper than previously thought, says a new report – and could be a gamechanger in the climate change battle.

Renewable energy is cheaper than previously thought, says a new report – and could be a gamechanger in the climate change battle.

By Newsfeed


"-Renewable energy prices have fallen far more quickly than the industry anticipated,
-They are fast becoming cheaper than fossil fuels.
-A rapid transition to emissions-free ‘green’ energy could save many trillions of dollars in energy costs – and help combat climate change.

The global energy sector has an impressive record of scaling-up renewables like wind and solar – but it is not so good at predicting future price changes of the clean energy these renewables produce, according to a new report.

Researchers at the University of Oxford’s Institute of New Economic Thinking suggest early pricing prediction models have consistently underestimated both how far the costs of renewable energy sources might fall, and the benefits of an accelerated switch to clean energy.

Solar power is a good example of renewable energy. As the chart above shows, price forecasts in the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Outlook reports consistently underestimate the real-world fall in solar energy prices.

Early renewable energy price forecasts failed to account for the substantial infrastructure cost improvements of technologies like solar photovoltaic installations and wind turbines, the report notes. Annual solar energy prices were forecast to fall 2.6% on average in the decade following 2010, for example, with all forecasts predicting a less than 6% price reduction.

But solar prices fell 15% – more than five times the predicted annual rate – during this period, which could have serious implications for investment and policy decisions based on these misleading predictions.

The findings show that compared to continuing with today’s carbon-intensive, fossil-fuel-based system, a rapid transition to emissions-free ‘green’ energy could produce overall net savings of many trillions of dollars. And that’s without considering the impact of climate damage or the positive co-benefits of climate policy.

In 2010, the price of one megawatt hour (MWh) – a weighted average cost of electricity – of solar electricity was $378, which fell to $68/MWh in 2019 – a more than five-fold decrease in the cost of solar energy. Offshore and onshore wind also saw dramatic price reductions.

Despite being the world’s largest source of electricity, over the same period, the global price of power from new coal fell from $111 to just $109.

While the price of solar fell 89% and wind power fell 70%, the cost of electricity from coal saw a comparatively slight 2% reduction.

“Today, renewables are the cheapest source of power,” said IRENA’s Director-General Francesco La Camera. “Renewables present countries tied to coal with an economically attractive phase-out agenda that ensures they meet growing energy demand, while saving costs, adding jobs, boosting growth and meeting climate ambition.”

Link

Renewable energy is cheaper than previously thought, says a new report - and could be a gamechanger ...
Technological innovation has led to dramatic price reductions of wind and solar energy and helped to boost demand. But will prices continue to fall?
13 battery gigafactories coming to the US by 2025 – ushering new era of US battery production

13 battery gigafactories coming to the US by 2025 – ushering new era of US battery production

By Newsfeed


"There are 13 new battery cell gigafactories coming online in the US by 2025, according to the Department of Energy.

These factories are ushering in a new era of battery production in the US.

Aside from Tesla and Panasonic’s Gigafactory Nevada, which supplies battery cells for the production of Tesla Model 3 and Model Y vehicles, there has been limited battery cell production in the US.

Asia – especially China, Japan, and South Korea – is where most battery cells for electric vehicles are coming from.

With more electric vehicle production coming to the US, it’s important that battery cell production also comes to the country, and several companies have made announcements to address the situation.

Now the Department of Energy has issued a report listing all the battery factory projects in the US:

“In addition to electric vehicle battery plants that are already in operation in the United States, 13 additional plants have been announced and are expected to be operational within the next 5 years. Of the 13 plants that are planned, eight are joint ventures between automakers and battery manufacturers. Many of these new plants will be located in the Southeast or Midwest.”

This is going to be a massive wave of battery cell production coming to the US that is essential to the new electric and battery-powered economy taking over several industries.

It’s also bringing a lot of good manufacturing jobs to the US, directly and indirectly.

With those factories, there are a number of associated needs, such as a supply chain of minerals necessary for the batteries.

It’s tough to quantify the impact of those 13+ new battery factories coming to the US in the next four years, but I think it’s going to be massive."

Link

13 battery gigafactories coming to the US by 2025 – ushering new era of US battery production
There are 13 new battery cell gigafactories coming online in the US by 2025, according to the Department of Energy. These factories are ushering in a new era of battery production in the US. Aside ...
Build Back Better is crucial to boost climate action without leaving coal miners behind

Build Back Better is crucial to boost climate action without leaving coal miners behind

By Newsfeed


"Last weekend, Sen. Joe Manchin threw a wrench into discussions of the Build Back Better (BBB) Act by indicating he does not currently support its passage – imperiling the bill's future and delaying the urgent funding it would provide to support families reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and take crucial climate action.

In response, the United Mine Workers of America (which represents, among others, West Virginia's coal miners) issued a statement noting BBB would provide critical support for workers as the inevitable decline of coal industry jobs continues, as well as create new opportunities for jobs in the clean energy-based economy, to which the world must transition quickly to prevent the worst impacts from climate change.

The U.S. coal industry has been declining for years; over the last decade, market forces such as low natural gas prices and rapidly expanding solar and wind energy (as well as the expanding use of automation in coal production) have turned coal mining into a shadow of what it once was. At the end of 2020, there were only 43,180 coal miners remaining in the United States, and communities from West Virginia to Montana to Kentucky are feeling the economic pain of coal's decline (as well as its lingering pollution). As these workers – many of whose families have spent years or even generations in this industry – look toward the future, they deserve assurance that they won't be abandoned by their employers and left with no economic opportunities.

But a transition that supports fossil workers and communities is not going to happen on its own. We need intentional policies that invest in these workers and communities.

The hundreds of billions of dollars of investment in clean energy and climate actions included in the BBB bill will be a net win for the economy and American jobs; the Economic Policy Institute projects that it will support 3.2 million jobs over the 10-year budgeting period. The BBB act would ensure that federal investments go to communities that disproportionately bear the burden of pollution and those that are dependent on the fossil fuel sectors that are in decline. "

We are already seeing what the collapse of the coal industry looks like when there are no protections in place – but it doesn't have to be this way. Among its massive other benefits, passing the BBB act will help manage this essential economic transition to create a zero-carbon world – without leaving coal miners and other workers behind.

Link

Build Back Better is crucial to boost climate action without leaving coal miners behind
The United Mine Workers of America highlighted how BBB would provide critical support for coal workers as the industry declines.
Rare ‘thunder bird’ fossil gives researchers clue to demise of Australian species of megafauna

Rare ‘thunder bird’ fossil gives researchers clue to demise of Australian species of megafauna

By Newsfeed


"Flinders University researchers may have discovered what ultimately led to the extinction of the last of Australia’s massive thunder birds, Genyornis newtoni.

The clue came with the discovery of a rare fossil. The find, by researchers at Flinders University, unveiled severe bone infections in several dromornithid remains mired in the 160 sq km beds of Lake Callabonna fossil reserve, 600km northeast of Adelaide.

At 230kg Genyornis weighed around five or six times as much as an emu and stood about two metres tall, but becoming stuck in the treacherous mud of the lake wasn’t the only concern facing the giant birds.

It appears some also had a painful disease, which lead researcher Phoebe McInerney says would have hampered their mobility and foraging.

“The fossils with signs of infection are associated with the chest, legs and feet of four individuals,” the PhD candidate said. “They would have been increasingly weakened, suffering from pain, making it difficult to find water and food.

“It’s a rare thing in the fossil record to find one, let alone several, well-preserved fossils with signs of infection. We now have a much greater idea of the life challenges of these birds.”

The study found about 11% of the birds were suffering from osteomyelitis.

Study co-author associate prof Lee Arnold dated the salt lake sediments in which genyornis was found, linking them with a period of severe drought beginning about 48,000 years ago.

At the time, the thunder birds and other megafauna, including ancient relatives of wombats and kangaroos, were facing major environmental challenges.

As the continent dried, large inland lakes and forests began to disappear and central Australia became flat desert.

With conditions worsening, associate prof Trevor Worthy believes food resources would have been reduced, placing considerable stress on the animals.

“From studies on living birds, we know that challenging environmental conditions can have negative physiological effects,” he said. “So we infer that the Lake Callabonna population of genyornis would have been struggling through such conditions.”

It now appears the effects of severe drought phases included high rates of bone infection, with weakened individuals more likely to become mired in the deep mud and die.

With no conclusive evidence to suggest Genyornis newtoni survived much past this time, it’s likely protracted drought and high disease rates contributed to its eventual extinction."

Link

Rare ‘thunder bird’ fossil gives researchers clue to demise of Australian species of megafauna
At 230kg Genyornis newtoni weighed around five or six times as much as an emu and stood about two metres tall
Puerto Rico’s shattered power grid could become a ‘big experiment’ for Biden

Puerto Rico’s shattered power grid could become a ‘big experiment’ for Biden

By Newsfeed


“A pair of hurricanes and an earthquake left Puerto Rico’s power system in tatters.

But now residents and clean-energy advocates see hope in the island’s effort to rebuild the electric grid — saying it could offer the rest of the nation a model for achieving President Joe Biden’s ambitions for a reliable power network free of greenhouse gas pollution.

First, though, the U.S. territory has to get past a pitched fight over the privatization of its power grid, as well as a debate on how to leverage billions in recovery dollars from the federal government.

The electricity network that serves 3 million people in Puerto Rico has long suffered from outages that experts blame on poor management and under-investment. And its transition to a cleaner, more reliable power system is off to a rough start.

Just six months into a 15-year contract to run Puerto Rico’s electricity transmission and distribution network, LUMA Energy is facing protests from residents who say blackouts have worsened, criticism from greens that it is moving too slowly to add renewable power and growing scrutiny from the territory’s legislature. That last dynamic reached a peak in November when lawmakers sought the arrest of the company’s top executive.

LUMA, owned by Canada’s ATCO group and U.S.-based Quanta Services, has also become the target of an activist campaign seeking to revoke its contract, an effort that has drawn the attention of the House Natural Resources Committee, which is looking into whether the company is living up to its promises.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has $9.4 billion — the largest amount awarded in the agency’s history — allocated to restore and protect Puerto Rico’s power network from the type of disasters that have plagued it.

Renewable energy and consumer advocates say that money is best spent on putting solar panels on the roofs of every home on the sunny island, with the aim of creating a decentralized source of power generation. This could minimize the widespread blackouts that have occurred when storms damage the miles of power lines that run across rugged terrain from the oil-fired power plants that provide most of the island’s electricity.

Those plants are still owned by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, the local government-owned utility being privatized that turned the grid over to LUMA and which most experts blame for years of poor management. Besides being plagued by blackouts, the grid is expensive: Residents on the island paid an average of 19.24 cents per kilowatt hour in 2020, nearly 50 percent higher than the average U.S. home.

A new coalition of clean energy, union and other organizations, Queremos Sol, is lobbying federal officials to intervene in the rebuilding to sharply expand the amount of solar energy on the island. It says such an initiative aligns with Biden’s plan to achieve 100 percent carbon pollution-free electricity nationwide by 2035, as well as his goals of transitioning away from fossil fuel infrastructure that has been primarily sited in low-income areas and communities of color.

“Puerto Rico is a very big test,”

Link

Puerto Rico’s shattered power grid could become a ‘big experiment’ for Biden
The crumbling electricity network that serves the island's 3 million people is at the center of a debate on renewable energy vs. fossil fuels — with billions of federal dollars at stake.
Fleeing global warming? ‘Climate havens’ aren’t ready for you yet.

Fleeing global warming? ‘Climate havens’ aren’t ready for you yet.

By Newsfeed


"Long-simmering speculations about where to hide from climate change picked up in February 2019 when the mayor of Buffalo, New York, declared that the city on Lake Erie’s eastern edge would one day become a “climate refuge.” Two months later, a New York Times article made the case that Duluth, Minnesota, on the western corner of Lake Superior, could be an attractive new home for Texans and Floridians looking to escape blistering temperatures.

“In this century, climate migration will be larger, and is already by some measures larger, than political or economic migration”

Link

Fleeing global warming? ‘Climate havens’ aren’t ready for you yet.
Climate migration is already underway. Here's how cities can prepare.
U.S. can get to 100% clean energy with wind, water, solar and zero nuclear, Stanford professor says

U.S. can get to 100% clean energy with wind, water, solar and zero nuclear, Stanford professor says

By Newsfeed


“A prominent Stanford University professor has outlined a roadmap for the United States to meet its total energy needs using 100% wind, water and solar by 2050.

The Achilles’ heel of a completely renewable grid, many argue, is that it is not stable enough to be reliable. Blackouts have become a particular concern, notably in Texas this year and during the summer of 2020 in California.

That’s where four-hour batteries come in as a way to generate grid stability. “I discovered this all just because I have batteries in my own home,” Jacobson told CNBC. “And I figured, oh, my God, this is so basic. So obvious. I can’t believe nobody has figured this out.”

Planning, of course, is also key to keeping the grid stable. “Wind is variable, solar is variable,” Jacobson said. “But it turns out, first of all, when you interconnect wind and solar over large areas, which is currently done, you smooth out the supply quite a bit. So it’s because, you know, when the wind is not blowing in one place, it’s usually blowing somewhere else. So over a large region, you have a smoother supply of energy.”

Similarly, wind and solar power are complimentary. And hydropower “is perfect backup, because you can turn it on and off instantaneously,” he said.

Direct link to PDF paper: https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/21-USStates-PDFs/21-USStatesPaper.pdf

Link

“Don’t Look Up” is Cinematic Catharsis for the Climate-Concerned

“Don’t Look Up” is Cinematic Catharsis for the Climate-Concerned

By Newsfeed


“A big part of this movie’s brilliance lies in its indirect metaphor—a giant comet that no one on Earth, no matter how rich or mobile, can avoid. The Earth-destroying threat will arrive in six months. The comet becomes a wonderful vehicle for maligning the toxic political economy and mediascape that prevails today. In the world of Don’t Look Up—an only slightly more farcical version of the sphere we occupy—anyone who hopes to be listened to has to be media-friendly, bad news must be made light and digestible, and hard truths are immediately levied as ammunition for the partisan culture wars.

What I found most effective—and, in the wake of Joe Machin’s attempt to torpedo Build Back Better, cathartic—was McKay’s deft demonstration of how solutions to problems get deferred in favor of corporate profits. Enter Don’t Look Up’s true villain—a Musk/Branson mashup of a technocrat billionaire (played by Mark Rylance). A huge donor to the scandal-mired president, he’s able to dismiss government plans to launch missiles at the comet and instead push a private-sector effort to send a fleet of space drones that will “mine the comet for rare minerals and return them to Earth,” claiming that doing so will put an end to world hunger, nuclear threats, and somehow, biodiversity loss. (Yes, he and his wealthy investors stand to profit greatly from this risky venture.) Could this be a stand-in for carbon-capture, geo-engineering, and other glittery techno-fixes that stand to get rich guys richer? And without spoiling the ending, this film’s got spot-on allegories to climate bunkers and “Planet B,” too.

The movie does not offer solutions to anything it highlights. Rather, it ultimately lands like an extended riff on Chicken Little that attempts to show perhaps too many ways in which we as a species are hopelessly myopic when it comes to our capacity for collective action. Don’t Look Up is a different kind of disaster movie—the threat that’s really being highlighted isn’t something still to come, but rather the state of affairs as they now stand.”

Link

“Don’t Look Up” is Cinematic Catharsis for the Climate-Concerned
Inside the funniest and most deeply un-fun film you’ll watch this holiday
Notes from the Carbon Removal XPRIZE Launch Interview With Elon Musk and Peter Diamandis

Notes from the Carbon Removal XPRIZE Launch Interview With Elon Musk and Peter Diamandis

By Carbon Resequestration No Comments

The Carbon Removal X Prize was launched with a livestreamed interview between Elon Musk and Peter Diamandis. This post is based on my extemporaneous/shorthand notes while watching it, which I then went back over and filled in with links to specific points in the video where the topics are discussed. I ultimately ended up adding in some direct quotes, time markers, and some commentary where I thought relevant. The rules have now been released (though still in draft form), but this discussion still remains very relevant as to the thinking behind the crafting of the rules. We will do an analysis of the final rules once are released later in the summer.

This is a really fun interview, as Peter Diamandis and Elon are good friends, so even if you are not interested in CDR, I highly suggest you watch the “tangents” I link below. Elon shares some interesting tidbits throughout, and sometimes they struggle to stay on topic (but I’m sure you will love when they go off topic. And definitely don’t miss Elon’s answer to the last question, where Elon goes pretty deep on the meaning of life and why we are here.

I am mostly going to use this post to transcribe what they said about the contest and will do an analysis later. So this is Part I and I will follow up with a Part II where I will will go over the written rules and share my thoughts (very positive so far on the prize and rules), and also share some thoughts on possible techniques for the competition (and maybe give away some free ideas for untapped CDR methods).

elon musk explaining the carbon removal xprize to peter diamandis

 

Watch the full Interview between Elon Musk and Peter Diamandis on the Carbon Removal XPRIZE:

Notes from Interview with Elon Musk and Peter Diamandis on the Carbon Removal XPRIZE:

  • On framing their discussion:
    • What things are going to move the needle?
    • How much can these technologies move the needle.
    • If removing 10s, or 100s of billions, in what form will that carbon be
    • What is it going to cost humanity? What will be most affordable and scalable?
  • Diamandis goes direct on rules:
    • To win:
      • Build something that works
      • Demonstrate something that can extract 1000 tonnes per year (kilotonne of carbon)
    • Musk we are open to adjusting, if not working, fundamental goal is to have spent money have spent well and usefully)
      • Wants what comes out of it to matter to the future
  • The total prize is currently $100 million, (Musk said he would not be surprised if the prize ended up costing $120 million or more)
  • If you think should be different, feel free to tell them.
  • Musk: Goal is for it to be a useful exercise
    • Not be an academic exercise that never amount to anything
    • Everything works on powerpoints…
  •  To win:
    • At minimum show 1000/tonnes of carbon removal per year (calculated, so can maybe can run for 1 month, i.e. like 100 tonnes per month)
    • Not looking for theory, looking for real:
      •  Part of doing it is about calculating cost, not looking for theory, looking for practice
      • Musk: Hard to make something real
      • “Prototypes are trivial, production is hard.”
    •  Calculate fully considered cost of pulling out the CO2
      • Musk: “what is the lowest net cost”
        • If can generate revenue, that counts too
        • Rocks that are useful, sand, useful for construction
        • Has to be net negative of 1000/tonnes
        • Cure can’t be worse than the disease
    • How long sequester debate:
      • rate of sequestering has to far exceed the rate at which it is potentially re-entering the atmosphere.
      • Sequester for at least 100 years
      • Demonstrate that methodology will contain the CO2 for 100 years
        • doesn’t’ need to be 100% for 100 years, but like 90% for 100 years
        • “just needs to be something that if we scaled it up would it work”
        • pass common sense test
    • Winning team has to prove to the judges that it can scale to the giggatonne level:
      • Musk: “Can’t be inherently niche”
      • Scaling is hard, “something generally useful for the world”
      • Pragmatic solutions
      • Doesn’t need to be perfect
      • Fundamentally, if we scaled it up, would it work
  • Prizes
  • 4 Categories
    • Direct Air Capture – pull it out of the air
      • Musk:
        • Lots of ways to get carbon out of the air
    • Oceans, algae, kelp plankton
      • a lot of co2 in the oceans, people don’t realise
    • Land
      • trees (Beninoff, trillions trees),
        • Musk: Where are they going to be planted?
    • Rocks (they actually missed saying this one up because of Elon’s interesting tangent discussion with Diamandis on population dynamics brought up in discussion of Land+Tree), etc, and they ran out of time.
    • In early stages around 15 teams (plus money for student teams) will get $1m after a year
  • Contest will last 4 years (want to make sure rules work the entire time).
    • (In my previous participation on a team in the SpaceX Hyperloop competition, the rules were updated frequently between rounds as more was learned, etc)

Video Interlude (WARNING: volume is loud):

    •  100 Second Video on Carbon Removal
  • Marcus Extavour, Vice President of Energy and Climate, looks to be in charge at XPRIZE from what I’ve seen:
  • Got to reduce missions and get to net zero, not enough, must go carbon negative
  • CO2 in air and oceans, removing it, and storing for a long long time.
  • Do you know how to remove CO2 using the land, oceans, rocks, or CO2 directly out of air.
  • Plants and trees can do this, and have been doing it for a long time, do you know how to help plants and trees sequester that CO2 in the vegetation and soils, in a way that is durable and can last for centuries
  • how do we use the oceans to sequester vast amount of CO2
    • kelp and seagrasses are great at this
    • 1/3 of emissions already in oceans
    • do you know how to remove it and sequester it safely?
  • Rocks, what bout rocks?
    • many rocks naturally do this, but process takes 1000s of years on its own
    • many rocks can do this naturally, but many rocks can do this on their own
    • do you know how to dramatically speed that up?
  • You might already have an amazing idea in:
    • DAC, soil seq, tree planting, farming, kelp farming, seagrass, OAE, geological seq, mineralization, EW, or technique no one has heard of before.
  • 100M answer looks like any other crazy idea, it just has to work 😉

Question and Answer:

  • Should competing teams prioritize scalability over costs?
    • Musk: “Unless the cost is affordable, its not scaleable”
      • 1-2% of GDP is possible / $200/tonne prob upper limit
      • Its not scalable unless the cost is low, if not, the cost at scale is low
      • Need to solve the problem, so cost and scale need to be addressed
      • Can we afford it as a civilization
      • Not creating some new environmental issue
      • Cure must be much better than the disease (3rd or 4th time used this saying)
        • take some medication, slight side effects, but generally want med to be much better than the disease
      • Can see a path to this working at scale (has to have some chance of that)
  • Who do you think should be paying?
    • Market system works well when price is accurate. Price right now of CO2 in the atmosphere, is not accurately being priced.
    • “Market system will work well if not pricing error.” We have a pricing error that we are not paying for as an “unpriced externality.”
    • “not paying for our garbage removal”
    • vast majority of economists would agree, to put a tax on carbon, then find ways with tax rebates (makes sure not regressive)
    • “If you correctly price something, the market system works. Prices are just information. We have the wrong information…”
  • Do you expect the tech coming out of this competition being helpful on Mars?
    • Writers note: love this question, as this was my original thinking on why Musk would want to CDR competition (for DAC) for rocket fuel.
    • His answer goes into the vast reserves of water on Mars (I did not know that, 40% of planet could have ocean, and up to a mile deep).
    • You can use the Sabatier reaction process to turn H20+cO2 over catalyst, you get methane (CH4) and O2 (oxygen), which is why they designed rocket  the Starship to use methane+oxygen, b/c can create on mars sustainably….
  • Why don’t you implement existing technologies (tree planting) more widely?
    • I think there should be more trees
    • Diamandis: currently does not exist tech that can scale to the gigatonne level at a reasonable cost and that is the reason for this competition
    • More on Musk and trees:
      • where trees can generally grow, they do grow.
      • “I’m pro-tree” (writers note: I also say this often… think Elon should have mentioned his Treelon Musk donation))
  • When recruiting how to recruit that first team?
    • Note: his question is off the topic of my summary, but you should click to go to that time because Musk gives really great autobiographical background on how he kind of got to where he is etc.
    • 3 major things for motivation
      • got to look forward to going to work in the morning
      • enjoying the work intrinsically, right work environment. rewards, financially compensation, natural rewards are good
      • best people in the world want to know if what they are doing is going to matter
  • XPrize just released $20m, what is diff with this contest?
    • co2 out of smokestack and coal plant and turning into product
    • more profitable than cost of extraction
    • Now working on global level
  • Can a 17 year old register?
    • no age limit, student teams important
  • Generally chatting with Musk towards end:
  • Who and what inspires you and drives you to be productive at a superhuman level?
    • Musk: I was crazy kid, I was just very curious about the world
      • how did we come to be here? What is the meaning of life, etc?
      • I had a really intense desire to understand things and learn
      • “Yeah I mean, I had a sort of an existential crisis, I guess, when I was 11 or 12 or something, just trying to figure out what it is all about…and ultimately came to the conclusion that, we don’t really know the answer, but, if we increase the scope and scale of civilization, then we have a much better chance of understanding the meaning of life and, ‘why are are we here?’, or even, ‘what are the right questions to ask?’ So, therefore, we should strive to expand the scope and scale of consciousness to better understand the questions to ask about the answer that is the universe.”

I had a sort of an existential crisis, I guess, when I was 11 or 12 or something, just trying to figure out what it is all about…and ultimately came to the conclusion that, we don’t really know the answer, but, if we increase the scope and scale of civilization, then we have a much better chance of understanding the meaning of life and, ‘why are are we here?’, or even, ‘what are the right questions to ask?’ So therefore, we should strive to expand the scope and scale of consciousness to better understand the questions to ask about the answer that is the universe.

-Elon Musk

Olivine can reverse climate change and ocean acidificaiton

Olivine can reverse climate change and ocean acidificaiton

By Olivine No Comments

It is rare to come across a solution to lowering the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere that is simple, yet plausible, and which can be started right away with no new science. Not only is this process possible, it is actually already underway as you read this and has been underway since the formation of Earth.

The process is called weathering and it is the natural chemical breakdown of rock that occurs when it is exposed to atmospheric gases. In this case, we are looking specifically at the rock olivine when it comes in contact with ocean water and the CO2 dissolved in it. What results is a chemical reaction that pulls carbon from the CO2 in the ocean and binds it in a solution that eventually settles into rock on the sea floor. Not only does the olivine remove CO2 from the atmosphere, but the resulting solution is alkaline and has a deacidifying effect on the ocean.

Sound too good to be true? It’s not. The only real question is “why haven’t we started this sooner?” When you look at the facts, it becomes even more obvious that this solution is not only viable, but is one of the few tried and true methods we have to plausibly sequester carbon, as rock already sequesters 99.9% of world’s total carbon.

Carbon in the atmosphere makes up only .004% of the world’s total! As can be seen in the chart below, limestones contain 46.6% of the world’s carbon, dolomites contain 33.3% and sediments contain another 20% of the world’s carbon. Recoverable fossil fuels only make up a tiny sliver of carbon on earth, at just .005% of the world’s total.[1]Dunsmore, H.E. (1992) A geological perspective on global warming and the possibility of carbon dioxide removal as calcium carbonate mineral. Energy Conversion and Management/33, p.565-572

So when we look at the problem through this new lens, the solution becomes obvious. We need to take that extra carbon out of the atmosphere and put it back into its majority state: rock. The plan is to expose large amounts of the abundant and cheap rock, olivine, to the atmosphere and ocean. We know this works because there were times, such as the rising of the Tibet plateau and the Himalayas that exposed so much rock to weathering that it kicked off global ice ages (including the glaciation period we are in now).[2]Raymo, M.E & Ruddiman, W.F., (1992) Tectonic forcing of late Cenozoic climate Nature, 359, Issue 6391, 117-121 and [3]Saltzman, M.R. and Young, S.A (2005) Long-lived glaciation in the late Ordovician. Isotopic and sequence-stratigraphic evidence from western Laurentia. Geology, 33, 109-112.

The idea of accelerated weathering of olivine has been championed by the Dutch geologist R.D. Schuiling for over a decade. He has worked with a diverse group of scientists to run experiments and calculate the rate of weathering and volume of olivine needed to make a net impact on decreasing atmospheric CO2 levels. Everything has been calculated to minimize the CO2 output in acquiring the olivine and minimizing the CO2 output in distributing it. An impressive part of their process was to come up with the idea of utilizing the free energy of wave power on the world’s 2% most tidally active beaches to mill the rocks down and accelerate their weathering. In the picture below, olivine rocks (left) were tumbled for three days in an experiment to simulate the accelerated weathering they would experience on a beach, and the rocks came out significantly rounded and polished (right).

To offset all of humanity’s current CO2 for a year, we would need to release 7 km^3 of grains across the beaches of the world. It is not an impossible task, because countries could work together to offset their region’s CO2 emissions. For example, there is an area near the English channel, by the coasts of the UK, France, and Netherlands, called the Southern Bight, that has 35,000 km of adequate beaches that are accessible by road. If those countries worked together to spread a one-centimeter thick layer of a volume of 0.35 km^3 of olivine grains on those beaches, it would offset 5% of a year’s global CO2 emissions. This 5% of emissions exceeds the combined annual CO2 emissions of the UK, France, Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland, which together are responsible for about 4% of the world’s CO2 emissions. Our plan is to start with a single beach and go from there.

To our knowledge, there is not yet a man-made olivine beach, however, there are examples of natural olivine beaches created from volcanic action, such as such as Papakōlea beach in Hawaii pictured below (and at the top of the page). We are in the initial stages of creating a beach to put the science to the test and to hopefully inspire and catalyze the world to action. We do not have to be passive in reducing CO2 in the atmosphere and we do not have to convince every polluter and country in the world to stop putting CO2 out, frankly, we can’t afford to wait. We must take action to remove that CO2 now, and this project is a step in that direction.

Based on our evaluation of geoengineering technologies and concepts, we have come to the conclusion that creating an olivine beach and proving that this concept works is the most impactful thing Climitigaton can do, and so will focus exclusively on this project. We are in the early planning phases right now, building a team and working on logistics. We are looking to connect with interested parties to who want to work to help make this a reality. If you would like to join the project, please reach out to us 🙂

We are currently scouting a beach in the tropics because hot, humid weather increases the rate of weathering. Ideally there would also be a nearby supply of olivine to minimizing transportation costs (and emissions). Ideal sources of olivine are those with their emissions already sunk, such as mining operation waste or abandoned mines. We are also looking for scientists and organizations with experience monitoring beaches and ocean ecosystems. Due to the pressing issue of coral bleaching from ocean acidification, we might target a beach near an affected reef so we can put the deacidifying effects to the test locally.

These are some of the things we are thinking about and would love to have input from anyone who is an expert in these areas, has leads for us, or can help point us in the right direction. We hope for this to be a community project that helps turn the tide in the fight to stave off CO2 induced climate change.

If you want to learn more in-depth about the science behind this concept, please check out these papers or send us a note:

Rolling stones - fast weather of olivine
Olivine against climate change and ocean acidification

 

 

 

References

References
1 Dunsmore, H.E. (1992) A geological perspective on global warming and the possibility of carbon dioxide removal as calcium carbonate mineral. Energy Conversion and Management/33, p.565-572
2 Raymo, M.E & Ruddiman, W.F., (1992) Tectonic forcing of late Cenozoic climate Nature, 359, Issue 6391, 117-121
3 Saltzman, M.R. and Young, S.A (2005) Long-lived glaciation in the late Ordovician. Isotopic and sequence-stratigraphic evidence from western Laurentia. Geology, 33, 109-112.