23 November 2022

Another new technology that promises to help reduce carbon emissions

Not that many people realize that about 8% of civilization's carbon emissions come from the limestone (Calcium Carbonate) used to make concrete. This is another form of fossil carbon.... the atmosphere of the Earth has been saturated with oxygen for well over a billion years, creating a carbon cycle that incorporates what would otherwise be a crushing greenhouse load of atmospheric carbon dioxide in rocks. Venus, an otherwise somewhat similar planet to Earth, did not go this route, and lacks oxidated rocks and has all that carbon in the atmosphere as CO2. Which is why the temperature on the surface is hot enough to melt lead... not because it's closer to the Sun, but mainly because of greenhouse gas. 

So, back to concrete. What can be done? Turns out it is possible to manufacture high quality concrete without releasing the CO2 from fossilized carbon in rocks. The process is still in its infancy, but just as microorganisms such as foraminifera and radiolarians were involved in the creation of carbonate rocks in the first place, it is possible to utilize microorganisms to process carbon from CO2 to produce carbonate, then utilize that as the cement in the manufacture of concrete. It would be energy intensive, but it's at least theoretically possible to make carbon neutral concrete. 

As with many technologies, such as biofuels, it all comes down to energy input. Civilization requires enormous amounts of energy, more per capita by at least an order of magnitude than we use now, to be truly carbon neutral. Solar and wind will never be enough. We will have to develop nuclear fusion or other advanced energy technology to make this work. But, somehow, I have to believe the human race is clever enough to do that. The question is more: are we smart enough to avoid killing ourselves off before we get there? 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. 

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