Natural carbon sequestration is a process that has been occurring for much of the Earth’s history. It is the process that nature uses to keep carbon dioxide in balance in the Earth’s atmosphere in a way that optimally supports life. Natural sources of carbon dioxide include the respiration of animals and plants (at night), the burning of forests during forest fires, and volcanic eruptions.
As part of the global carbon cycle, all of the carbon dioxide that was being produced was naturally kept in balance by carbon sinks that sequestered it in the form of trees and plants, the oceans, the soil, and stored in the bodies of animals. Because all of the life on our planet is made of carbon, when plants and animals die, the carbon goes back into the ground and is recycled for future use by nature.
This natural carbon cycle efficiently kept all of the carbon dioxide in balance until humanity started the Industrial Revolution, whereby we began to burn large amounts of fossil fuels and produced an overabundance of carbon emissions at a much faster rate than the global natural carbon sinks could absorb. The continuation of this process is causing the temperature of the planet to warm up and change the global climate because carbon dioxide gas is very efficient at trapping heat from the sun.
In addition, we have destroyed many of the world’s natural ecosystems and their capacity to store carbon effectively. For instance, many of the world’s forests, which are one of the Earth’s primary carbon sinks, have now been deforested or are currently being deforested at a very fast rate.
What about artificial carbon sequestration?
If our Earth’s natural capacity to sequester carbon dioxide is currently being overwhelmed, what about man-made ways to sequester this excess carbon dioxide?
One human idea to deal with the excessive carbon dioxide levels include capturing the carbon emissions at the point of where they are produced and then bury the carbon dioxide deep underground. Other ideas include injecting carbon dioxide deep into the ocean, where it would form lakes of carbon dioxide, and theoretically remain there due to the pressures that exist in the deep ocean.
However, what if these artificial forms of carbon sequestration go terribly wrong? What if the carbon dioxide leaks and escapes in large amounts into the atmosphere, despite all of our good intentions that it would stay where we put it?
This idea of artificial carbon sequestration could also give us license in our own minds to simply keep producing carbon dioxide emissions and maintain our consumptive lifestyles because we just have a way of storing it elsewhere. And, with such artificial methods, we essentially ignore the need to work with the natural limits of our planet, which can have many other consequences, such as a lack of clean water and food for many around the world today.
Now is the time to re-examine our relationship with our world and make a better one for future generations and for all life on our planet. We have the solutions and the knowledge right now to transition the world to a 100% clean energy future that produces no carbon emissions. We just need the political will and humanity as a whole to come together to solve one of the greatest challenges to our Earth and for our own survival.