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Algae might be a secret weapon to combatting climate change

3 16 0
01.10.2019

As fires rage in the Amazon, people have latched onto the phrase that the Amazon is the “lungs of the earth.” President Emmanuel Macron of France warned that “our house is burning.” Celebrities from Leonardo DiCaprio to Vanessa Hudgens raised funds to support the Amazon, and the hashtag #PrayforAmazonia went viral.

Our hearts collectively burst for the Amazon for two reasons: One was for the environmental and ancestral tragedy of watching an icon location burn, and the other for the fact that this 6 to 8 million square kilometers of forest plays a vital role in removing world-heating carbon dioxide out of the air. The longer the fires burn, the less natural air filtration the Earth will have.

But while the Amazon plays a vital role in global carbon absorption (and we should continue to try and save it), between 1994 and 2007, our oceans absorbed 34 gigatons of the world’s carbon through algae, vegetation, and coral. In other words, the trees might not save us—but the oceans could.

Solutions in the natural world will help right the warming wrongs of the human-made world. According to a new analysis by ecologist Thomas Crowther and colleagues at ETH Zurich, a Swiss university, there is enough room in the world’s existing parks, forests, and abandoned land to plant 1.2 trillion additional trees. These forests would have the CO2 storage capacity to cancel out a decade of carbon-dioxide emissions.

But other scientists aren’t as hopeful. They believe it could take hundreds of years before these new plants could scale back carbon-dioxide levels to the level the study suggests. The optimal time to plant trees to address our current climate crisis was decades ago.

Other challenges with forestation as a climate-change solution include the displacement of land used for farming, scientific and technological difficulties in measurement and monitoring, and limited public funding for carbon-beneficial land management, according to a World Research Institute (WRI) working paper. Planting as many trees as possible as quickly as possible could reduce nine gigatons of carbon a year—but it would also increase food prices by 80% by 2050.

Trees alone will therefore not save us from the current crisis. We must look to our oceans for solutions that are more effective and scalable. Say hello to algae sequestration.

Algae can be utilized in a number of ways to reduce carbon in the atmosphere. Other than it being the most efficient solution for storing carbon dioxide, it can be easily........

© Quartz