Technological Solutions to Warming

The talk surrounding global warming has mostly been about regulation: carbon taxes, cap-and-trade schemes, or – worse – outright mandates. But technology can offer solutions that obviate the need for such restrictions on carbon output. Compared to new sources of energy and efficiency improvements, carbon sequestration has not gotten much press.

But new technologies may make it possible to prevent warming without economically-devastating carbon-reduction laws.

Iron fertilization is one big idea to pursue. The idea is to dump iron into the ocean, thus encouraging the rapid growth of phytoplankton. The phytoplankton function in the ocean like plants do on land, eating carbon, returning oxygen, and increasing biomass (some of which provides food for larger creatures like fish that provide food for us).

Today, Ars reports on another avenue for sequestration: burying carbon in the vast empty spaces under the ocean floor left by volcanic activity. An article published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Science suggests this novel idea. Ars notes that “there is around 780km3 of available space to store CO2 off the coast of northern California and Oregon. This works out to the ability to store 200-250Gt of carbon. Considering that the entire US releases around 1.7Gt of carbon per year, that would provide over 100 years of carbon storage.”

Sequestration, helped by new technology, may greatly reduce the need for economically-damaging policies of carbon output limitation. We just have to make sure that the economy, and the tech sector in particular, is free enough to grow and innovate.