WADI ABDAH, Oman — Deep in the jagged red mountains of Oman, geologists are drilling in search of the holy grail of reversing climate change: an efficient and cheap way to remove carbon dioxide from the air and oceans.
They are coring samples from one of the world’s only exposed sections of the Earth’s mantle to uncover how a spontaneous natural process millions of years ago transformed CO2 into limestone and marble.
As the world mobilizes to confront climate change, the main focus has been on reducing emissions through fuel efficient cars and cleaner power plants. But some researchers are also testing ways to remove or recycle carbon already in the seas and sky.
The Hellisheidi geothermal plant in Iceland injects carbon into volcanic rock. At the massive Sinopec fertilizer plant in China, CO2 is filtered and reused as fuel. In all, 16 industrial projects currently capture and store around 27 million tons of CO2, according to the International Energy Agency. That’s less than 0.1 percent of global emissions – but the technology has shown promise.
“Any one technique is not guaranteed to succeed,” said Stuart Haszeldine, a geology professor at the University of Edinburgh who serves on a U.N. climate body studying how to reduce atmospheric carbon.
“If we’re interested as a species, we’ve got to try a lot harder and do a lot more and a lot of different actions,” he said.