Carbon’s Storage Problem Above Ground and Below

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


Today, MongaBay reports that sequestering carbon underground may result in increased earthquakes, releasing the carbon. According to Stanford geophysicist Mark Zoback, CO2 injected into the earth can activate faults. And although the earthquakes triggered by such injections would only be “moderate,” as someone who lives in the Bay Area, I’d love to find a non-earthquake related alternative. At any rate, as Zoback points out, there’s too much carbon to shove it all underground, even if we wanted to.

Though humans are trying to find ways to store CO2 and other greenhouse gases, they aren’t the only ones producing them. In fact, as this piece in Wired mentions, volcanoes released a huge amount of greenhouse gases 250 million years ago, a release that is suspected of causing climate changes that triggered a mass extinction. The extinction event, called the Permian-Triassic Extinction, killed 90% of all marine species and 70% of all terrestrial species and was more devastating than the one that killed the dinosaurs.

Some scientists say that due to human-related climate change, we’re on track to see another huge extinction event. Despite the discovery new species, like this adorable lemur, we’re still expected to see around a quarter of all species go extinct or close to it by 2050. And that 25% estimate is not inclusive of any releases from huge volcanic events or earthquakes. “These estimates show the importance of rapid implementation of technologies to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and strategies for carbon sequestration,” the authors of a key paper on species extinction wrote in 2004. Six years later, the US government has been leaning toward underground sequestration, slating $4 billion for carbon storage and capture and recently giving close to $600 million for capture technology research and development. But even if the US (one of the top GHG emitting countries, incidentally) does find a way to sequester a significant amount of carbon underground, with the chance of earthquakes, life-snuffing leaks, and unknown environmental effects, it’ll be a hard job convincing the people living above the proposed carbon stores that the technology’s benefits outweigh its downsides.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up to $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate