By Ben Houlton
Why has Earth’s climate remained so stable over geological time? The answer just might rock you.
Rocks, particularly the types created by volcanic activity, play a critical role in keeping Earth’s long-term climate stable and cycling carbon dioxide between land, oceans and the atmosphere.
Scientists have known for decades that rock weathering – the chemical breakdown of minerals in mountains and soils – removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and transforms it into stable minerals on the planet’s surface and in ocean sediments. But because this process operates over millions of years, it is too weak to offset modern global warming from human activities.
Now, however, emerging science – including at the California Collaborative for Climate Change Solutions’ (C4) Working Lands Innovation Center – shows that it is possible to accelerate rock weathering rates. Enhanced rock weathering could both slow global warming and improve soil health, making it possible to grow crops more efficiently and bolster food security.