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Carbon Sink

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Carbon Sequestration and Carbon Sink

More than 40 percent of CO2emissions in the US are due to electric power generation. Carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and sequestration (CCS) technology could reduce these emissions from power plants by 80 to 90 percent. For example, if CCS technology was applied to a 500 MW coal-fired power plant, emitting 3 million tons of C02 per year, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions avoided is equal to:
• Planting more than 62 million trees, and waiting at least 10 years for them to grow
• Avoiding annual electricity-related emissions from more than 300,000 homes
CCS technology would also significantly reduce emissions from other industrial processes such as gas operations and cement facilities (EPA, 20xx).
The world has lost 50 to 70 percent of its original carbon stock. This translates into a huge amount of soil carbon released into the atmosphere. Not long ago, in the 19th century, the US was home to vast tracts of prairie grass with rich, fertile soils. Today only three percent of those prairies are in existence. Current studies on carbon sinks center on soil carbon, how it escaped from the earth and how this process can be reversed. To take the research further, investigators are interested in how this knowledge can be used to slow rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is a known cause global warming. There is hope that carbon can be placed back into the soil in places like the North China Plain, the interior of Australia and the North American prairie (Schwartz, 2014). Without important microbes and carbon, soil can deteriorate into dirt and this process of soil turning into dirt is happening worldwide. Certain agricultural processes can revive the carbon content while reducing atmospheric CO2. These same processes can protect delicate ecosystems from floods and drought while increasing soil productivity. Agroforestry and planting fields year round are viable techniques.
Carbon capture and sequestration complement traditional methods of reducing emissions. The US relies on fossil fuels for more than eighty-five percent of its energy with trillions of dollars spent on maintaining the energy infrastructure. Reducing CO2 emissions is a reasonable option as it allows the current energy system to stay in place so there can be a slow transitioning away from it. CO2 can be removed from the atmosphere by enhancing the uptake in soil and vegetation (afforestation) or in the ocean (iron fertilization). Another option is enhancing natural sinks; however this comes with possible political and social ramifications (international treaties). Emissions avoidance tends to rely on sequestration from large stationary sources and the process usually does not require international climate agreements.
CCS “is currently occurring at over 120 facilities in the United States … and the CO2 is used for a wide range of end uses. End uses of CO2 include enhanced oil recovery (EOR), food and beverage manufacturing, pulp and paper manufacturing, and metal fabrication (Carbon capture, 2016).”
In regards to carbon capture, researchers believe there is a need for a shift in the conversation around global warming, which traditionally has been focused on reducing emissions. Instead, the discussion should include a look at the role of soil carbon and carbon sinks. While reducing emissions is an important piece of the puzzle, soil carbon sequestration is another piece that deserves recognition. Placing carbon back into soils is a solution to the fossil fuel problem and has the added benefit of providing nutrient rich soil, vital in feeding global populations.

Bibliography
Biello, D. (2014, September 8). Can Carbon Capture Technology Be Part of the Climate
Solution? Retrieved from http://e360.yale.edu/feature/can_carbon_capture_technology_be_part_of_the_climate_solution/2800/ Carbon dioxide capture and sequestration. (2016, February 23). Retrieved April 24, 2016, from http://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/ccs/ Schwartz, J. D. (2014, March 4). Soil as carbon storehouse: New weapon in climate fight?…...

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