Possible solution to global warming: bury the carbon dioxide
December 9, 2003 9:05 AM   Subscribe

Relevant Wired article.
posted by Dr_Octavius at 9:27 AM on December 9, 2003

where is the leadership on the the most inexpensive option to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide we are putting in the atmosphere and cooking ourselves? CONSERVATION.

i mean lets face it.
posted by specialk420 at 9:38 AM on December 9, 2003

Maybe I'm in a bad mood but this seems to be a pretty low quality news article about a possible environmental solution that's been around for a while.
posted by biffa at 9:46 AM on December 9, 2003

Excellent. Soon the deepwells will start pumping soda water, and the volcanoes will boil over with fizzy <dr. evil>"mag-ma"</dr. evil>.
posted by brownpau at 10:06 AM on December 9, 2003

Recently, a rather simple but startling realization was made about basic plant biology. (axioms: the great majority of plant mass is supplied from the air, not the soil; and plants uptake CO2 through their pores.)

The discovery: plant pores open in direct proportion to the available CO2. In a low-CO2 atmosphere, the pores open wide, which also lets a lot of water out. In a high-CO2 environment, plants would uptake far less replacement water, leaving it in the soil. More water in the soil means that more plants can grow there.

Will an excess of CO2 reach a threshold point, above which large tracts of land become densely-foliated jungle?
posted by kablam at 10:23 AM on December 9, 2003

kablam: My guess is yes. We actually talked about this in class yesterday, and our prof was telling us there is a threshold due to factors such as Nitrogen and Phorphorous. Without higher concentrations of important plant nutrients, the plants would be unable to sustain massive growth (though, the increase in CO2 should indeed cause some extra growth).
One thing: How does more water left in the soil due to not uptaking it lead to more growth? Water is still required by plants to undergo their own energy cycle where water and CO2 is split.
posted by jmd82 at 11:01 AM on December 9, 2003

For some reason this seems like a bad idea. The emissions from a power plant are CO2 *plus* other dirty stuff... The article was unclear if there is a specific stage to seperate the CO2 from the other emissions. If you pump it all underground, won't that other bad stuff leach into the ground?.. and from there enter the environment from other means?
posted by LoopSouth at 11:24 AM on December 9, 2003

Isn't there some clever way we could build a chimney to space? It just seems like waste should go outward, not inward.
posted by DenOfSizer at 11:27 AM on December 9, 2003

Permian extinction here we come!
posted by Ptrin at 12:14 PM on December 9, 2003

Ptrin - there there, it's not so bad. You'll merely have to shift your evolutionary strategy. Pursue flexibility, my friend, and take your lessons from the lungfish or the humble but crafty mudskipper.

DenOfSizer - That might be tough, but perhaps we could trap the CO2, bind it and compress it into blocks, and hoist those into space with a Skyhook.

Then again, we could just make less CO2.
posted by troutfishing at 12:22 PM on December 9, 2003

So the Bush administration is actually admitting that too much CO2 in the atmosphere is a bad thing? Wow.
posted by Soliloquy at 12:28 PM on December 9, 2003

Troutfishing: I imagine something similar to the Decepticons energy blocks.
posted by Dr_Octavius at 12:34 PM on December 9, 2003

money would be better spent inventing a new type of fire that burns CO2 to release O2. In other words this magic bullet fix is a ridiculous waste of money.
posted by Nauip at 12:46 PM on December 9, 2003

The CO2 debate. Did you know your tv emits it. So your computer screen must too...here is the carbon dioxide calculator.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:52 PM on December 9, 2003

I'm with Ptrin
posted by lerrup at 3:32 PM on December 9, 2003

A big part of the problem we're having is that we're taking carbon out of the ground.

Back in the misty mists of time, while the dinosaurs roamed the earth, the atmosphere was likely very high in CO2. It was fixed out of the air and into plant and animal bodies. When those plants and animals were buried, the carbon was removed from the ecosystem.

A few million years later and we start digging up all this carbon and burning it in our factories, cars, furnaces, etcetera.

Basically we're recreating the dinosaur-age atmosphere by hauling out the dinosaurs and burning them. If we don't want a dinosaur-climate, it's a pretty stupid thing to do.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:40 PM on December 9, 2003

jmd82: the excess water in the soil is for new (different) plant growth. Adult plants will just uptake what they need to maintain their metabolism, but young plants need an increase in their consumption until adulthood.
In normally wet places, there could be the potential for a major flora shift, from dry soil plants to wet soil plants, if the plants no longer uptake enough moisture to dry the soil.

However, your point about the *other* nutrients is a very good one (and would probably make a very good research project). In other words, across the nutrient spectrum, what is the minimum requirement for a sudden flora explosion? Variables are atmospheric carbon, ground nitrogen and phosphorus, and possibly even trace elements, as billionaire Daniel Ludwig learned with his South American pulp project.
posted by kablam at 6:35 PM on December 9, 2003

smells like a scam to me - the key point being, pumping CO2 into the ground would be *expensive*. And god knows what new horror would be the inevitable unintended results. I guess it's good that folks are at least admitting there's a problem. But this is just somebody's attempt to sell some snake oil methinks.

What we need is some kind of technology to *take carbon out of the atmosphere* - this will require a lot of energy so we'll need a cheap source. And of course we'll have to deploy it quickly and cheaply all over the world. Hmm, a solar-powered, self-replicating, chemical engine which removes carbon from the atmosphere - I think I'll call it a "plant" - race ya to the USPTO!
posted by dinsdale at 12:17 AM on December 10, 2003

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