Scientists state that asbestos ‘giant, untapped opportunity that could remove enormous amounts of CO2’

A new report from scientists claim that asbestos could be a key factor in battling global warming, through the reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2).

The new article from Technology Review covers that work at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, analyzing the “most common form of asbestos, chrysotile, a serpentine mineral laced throughout the mountain (serpentine is California’s state rock). The reaction with carbon dioxide mainly produces magnesium carbonate minerals like magnesite, a stable material that could lock away the greenhouse gas for millennia.”

Scientists are studying a way for “using mining waste to fight climate change.”

“Decarbonizing mines in the next decade is just helping us to build confidence and know-how to actually mine for the purpose of negative emissions,” says Gregory Dipple, a professor at the University of British Columbia and one of the leading researchers in this emerging field.

Under a heading “Accelerating the Slow Cycle,” the article notes “The UN’s climate panel found that any scenario that doesn’t warm the planet by more than 1.5 ˚C will require nearly eliminating emissions by midcentury, as well as removing 100 billion to 1 trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the air this century. Keeping warming below 2˚ C could necessitate sucking out 10 billion tons a year by 2050 and 20 billion annually by 2100, a study by the National Academies found.”

“This is the giant, untapped opportunity that could remove enormous amounts of CO2,” says Roger Aines, head of the Carbon Initiative at Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

“If we can come up with a recipe on all these different tailings, the opportunities could explode,” Jennifer Wilcox, a carbon removal researcher says.

Other research groups and nonprofits are already looking at ways to put additional minerals to work once they’re extracted, including: spreading ground-down olivine along beaches or sprinkling basalt dust onto farmland to absorb carbon dioxide and help fertilize crops.

photo/ Pete Linforth

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