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Adding basalt rock to agricultural land may lead to drastic CO2 emissions reduction – study

Basalt rock formations. (Reference image by Sergejf, Wikimedia Commons).

New research by scientists at the University of Sheffield found that adding basalt rock dust to the UK agricultural soils could absorb up to 45% of the atmospheric carbon dioxide needed to reach net zero.

According to the researchers, enhanced weathering has a removal potential of 6–30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually by 2050. This represents up to 45% of the atmospheric carbon removal required in the United Kingdom to meet net-zero greenhouse gas emissions alongside emissions reductions.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience, the group behind the findings explains that the deployment of such a technology could be straightforward because the approach uses existing infrastructure and has costs of carbon removal lower than other carbon dioxide removal (CDR) strategies.

The technique is also considered effective in lowering emissions of nitrous oxide, reversing soil acidification that limits yields and reducing demands for imported fertilizers.

The approach, however, would require societal acceptance as there would be mining operations involved.

“It will need to be done in ways which are both fair and respectful of local community concerns,” the scientists said in a media statement.

“By quantifying the carbon removal potential and co-benefits of amending crops with crushed rock in the UK, we provide a blueprint for deploying enhanced rock weathering on a national level, adding to the toolbox of solutions for carbon-neutral economies.”