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Carbon Sequestration: Everything you need to know

Carbon is present in all living things on the planet. PHOTO/AfDB

Key Facts

  • Forestsgrasslandsand farms have traditionally captured about 25% of carbon emissions.
  • Grasslands store about 12% of Earth’s terrestrial carbon.
  • Each year, the planet’s peatlands store 307 megatons of carbon, more than the total carbon storage of all types of vegetation on Earth.
  • The surface layer of the ocean has absorbed up to 30% of the carbon dioxide released by humans burning fossil fuels.
  • Our planet’s forests, soilsand oceans are its biggest carbon sinks.
  • Most carbon on Earth is stored in sediments and rocks.
  • Carbon is present in all living things on the planet.
  • Humansare made up of about 18.5 percent carbon.


What Is ‘Carbon Sequestration’?

Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing atmospheric carbon dioxide — the most commonly produced greenhouse gas — and storing it in the Earth. Most of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is formed by the combustion of fossil fuels, primarily coal and petroleum.

The amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased by 30% over the past 150 years. It is the general consensus of most scientists that there is a direct correlation between rising global temperatures and increasing carbon dioxide levels.

The purpose of carbon sequestration is to reduce the amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, in order to reduce global heating and climate change.

According to EcoWatch, there are three types of carbon sequestration: biological, geological and technological. Biological carbon sequestration is the storage of carbon dioxide in vegetation found in the oceans, soils, forests and grasslands.

Geological carbon sequestration is the process of storing carbon in underground geologic formations, like rocks. Technological carbon sequestration is a range of methods scientists are exploring to remove and sequester carbon using new technological innovations, as well as the investigation of innovative ways to use the carbon as a resource.

What Is the Carbon Cycle and Why Is It Important?

Carbon is a chemical element that is necessary for the formation of the DNA and proteins that make up all living things on Earth. Arthropods like insects, crustaceans and spiders are made up of about 50 percent carbon; on average mammals — both marine and terrestrial — are composed of about 8.35 percent carbon, and about 35 to 65 percent of the dry weight of biomass on Earth consists of carbon.

Earth’s carbon cycle keeps carbon — the amount of which never changes — continuously moving from the atmosphere back down to Earth where it is used, stored and released back into the atmosphere.

Carbon is found in the form of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere and helps to regulate our planet’s temperature. Without carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, our planet would be frozen, like Uranus and Neptune. With an excess of greenhouse gases, it would be too hot, like Venus. The carbon cycle keeps carbon moving to where it is needed on Earth, making sure our planet avoids these extremes.

Most of the carbon on Earth is stored in sediments and rocks, while the remainder is contained in the atmosphere, ocean and living things. These, along with environments like tropical rainforestspeatlands, grasslands, swamps, northern boreal forests, soils and coral reefs, are called carbon sinks — natural environments that have the ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it, sometimes for millennia. Carbon sinks absorb more carbon than they release, which means they lower the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, helping to keep global warming in check.

Carbon can be rereleased into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels — made up of prehistoric plants and animals that died and over time were embedded in layers of rock — the burning of biomass, the eruption of volcanoes and the death and decomposition of plant and animal matter and other processes.

The excess carbon dioxide that occurs when fossil fuels are burned by humans changes the planet’s climate, resulting in increased temperatures that lead to ocean acidification and disruptions to Earth’s delicately balanced ecosystems.

Read the detailed story from EcoWatch here.


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