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Will African countries leverage on new scientific discovery to clean up hazardous CO2 gas?

CO2 CITY PHOTO
Morning rush-hour in big city
Written by Eridwana

Last month, February, 2018, UPI in a release reports that scientists at the University of Sheffield showed that the addition of reactive silicate rocks to agricultural soil can boost crop production while limiting the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere. Although, Science establishes that Carbon dioxide (CO2) is essential to the survival of both plants and animals, excessive concentration, however, of this gas in the atmosphere can be disastrous and capable of causing all life on Earth to die.

In a bid to prevent catastrophic global warming, strategies for taking CO2 –its ultimate cause, out of the atmosphere have been on research agenda, for long. NGOs on climate research, scientists, corporate bodies and league of volunteers, have designed and invested in campaigns and sensitization programmes to help the situation. The world, particularly well industrialized countries like China, United States, India, Russia, Japan, Germany et al, is hungry to solve this challenge –which has led to climate change, causing severe havoc and making life on mother earth no longer a safe haven.

According to reports in the journal Nature Plants, in addition to capturing CO2, the application of the silicate rock also protect crops against pests and disease while improving the soil’s structure and fertility. Hence, a beautiful way to go is perhaps adopting this practice while scientists continue with research on the matter.

“Human societies have long known that volcanic plains are fertile, ideal places for growing crops without adverse human health effects, but until now there has been little consideration for how adding further rocks to soils might capture carbon,” David Beerling, director of Sheffield’s Leverhulme Center for Climate Change Mitigation, said in a news release.

Science explains that Silicate rocks, like basalt, are rocks left over from ancient volcanic eruptions. And, when introduced to cropland, they dissolve –with the dissolution setting off a chemical reaction that helps capture and store CO2 in the soil. Unlike other CO2-capturing methods, rock additives don’t require shifts in land use and an increase in water use, which can be another challenge for most financial struggling African countries.

This development comes in response to scientists’ concern to save the world from possible damages that may result from excessive accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere. According to Stephen Long, a professor at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, the idea is to reduce the amount of energy and resources that must be expedited into the cause, identifying application of crushed limestone to capture CO2 as an old method.  

“Our proposal is that changing the type of rock, and increasing the application rate, would do the same job as applying crushed limestone to help capture CO2 from the atmosphere, storing it in soils and eventually the oceans.”

South Africa, according to research, is the 13th largest emitting country and the largest emitting country on the continent of Africa. With a domestic economy powered by coal, reports revealed that South Africa has experienced a seven-fold increase in fossil-fuel CO2 emissions since 1950, with 80-90% of emissions from coal. In 2008 alone, South Africa recorded CO2 emissions of 119 million metric tons, accumulating from coal, oil consumption, cement manufacture, natural gas and coke-oven gas consumption.

Going by the recent revolution happening around industrialization of African countries, Africa must take caution and see that checks and measures are put in place to guard the safety living. Therefore, Africa must not sit back as mere spectators but rise up to take up scientific discoveries like this as fight against climate disorder is universal. In addition to this, well thought-out policies must be written (wired) around this and these policies must be followed by implementation to build a safe Africa for all.     

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CARBON DIOXIDE

Enlisted below, as sourced, is a breakdown on how Carbon dioxide (CO2) affect the environment:

  • Greenhouse Gas

Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring greenhouse gas. Others include water vapor, methane and nitrous oxide. These gases help keep the Earth warm by absorbing the sun’s energy and by redirecting energy back to the Earth’s surface. An increase in the amount of carbon dioxide creates an overabundance of greenhouse gases that trap additional heat. This trapped heat leads to melting ice caps and rising ocean levels, which cause flooding.

  • Plants

Plants remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in a process called carbon sequestration. The carbon dioxide is stored in biomass then released by the plant. In most cases, the amount released is less than the amount consumed by the plant. Farms, grasslands and forests are considered sources or sinks of carbon dioxide, depending on the practices on these lands. For example, cows produce methane, but grass on the farm sequesters the gas.

  • Health

Carbon dioxide is essential for the survival of animals. Oxygen is carried to body tissue during breathing and carbon dioxide is released. The gas protects the pH level of blood. Too much carbon dioxide, however, can kill animals. If carbon dioxide is confined, it can decrease the amount of oxygen reaching the body. Any increase or decrease to the amount of carbon dioxide reaching the body can lead to kidney failure or coma.

  • Sources

Combustible fossil fuels such as coal, power plant gas, oil, vehicles and big industry are the largest source of carbon dioxide. The production is from various items such as iron, steel, cement, natural gas, solid waste combustion, lime, ammonia, limestone, cropland, soda ash, aluminum, petrochemical, titanium and phosphoric acid. Carbon dioxide accounts for nearly 85 percent of all emissions and is produced when natural gas, petroleum and coal are used. The major areas where these fuels are used include electricity generation, transportation, industry and in residential and commercial buildings.

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About the author

Eridwana

Ridwan Adelaja is a news reporter and content curator on Quill Kastle. He has worked as a freelance reporter for NTA Ilorin, The Nation News and MC_REPORT in the past. He is a multiple award-winning Poet with a special interest in journalism.

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