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Powdering the Equator With Mineral Dust Could Fight Climate Change


Scattering the dust of a common, semiprecious metal across equatorial soils may sponge carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and slow the pace of climate change.

The essence of the process is familiar: When water, CO2 and silica-containing rocks mix, the resulting chemical reactions produce minerals that contain carbon, known as carbonates. These are found in groundwater, responsible in part for making it “hard” and clogging pipes with residue.

When water drains to the sea, carbonates are carried along and buried in its depths, along with the carbon they carry. And since olivine, a silicate, is among the world’s most common minerals, some researchers have wondered whether it may be put to carbon-sucking use.

“We know this is already happening. The question is, how much can we dissolve without disturbing the natural environment?” said geochemist Jens Hartmann of Germany’s University of Hamburg, lead author of the study published Nov. 9 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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