A few years ago I stumbled upon a book called “Sunlight and Seaweed - An argument for how to feed, power and clean up the world” by Tim Flannery. The book looks at different technologies (emerging at the time, but much more common now) being developed to address growing environmental and humanitarian threats, to present a positive outlook for our future and the future of the planet. The author, Tim Flannery has written many books and is a scientist, the former Australian of the year, founder of the Australian Climate Council.. Among many other things.
Something particularly interesting discussed in the book was algae, and its massive potential in fighting climate change. So that’s what this blog will be about.. Sea algae.
I’ll keep it short and sweet this week, sharing three reasons why sea algae could help save the world.
Drawing carbon out of the atmosphere is an essential component in limiting climate change. Kelp, a fast-growing sea algae, used on a large scale has the potential to convert carbon from the air, storing it as biomass (a non-gaseous form of carbon), reducing levels of atmospheric carbon. (Note this is different to algal blooms which are detrimental to aquatic ecosystems).
83% of the global carbon cycle is circulated through the ocean. Take a look at the Blue Carbon Initiative if you are interested in learning more about the huge role seagrass, mangroves and salt marshes play in removing carbon from the atmosphere.
The raw algal biomass from these growth methods can potentially be used as a biofuel - which is a fuel derived from living matter. Dry alga has a high caloric value, which makes it great for burning to power equipment. It does not burn as well as fossil fuels, but it does release more oxygen and less carbon dioxide than fossil fuels when burned. The economic feasibility of this solution has been a challenge over the last decade, however some big players in the fuel game (as well as innovative start-ups) are still working on developing a solution.
Algae produces a vast quantity (thought to be approximately 50%) of the oxygen in the oceans, rivers, and lakes of the world. This feat is miraculously achieved at only roughly 1/10th of the biomass of the entire plant population on Earth.
And that's a wrap on sea algae!
I realise it's a bit of a niche topic this week - but I hope you find it as interesting as I did.
See you next week :)
Sunlight and Seaweed - An Argument for How to Feed, Power and Clean Up the World - Tim Flannery, 2017
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