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Global Warming Stopped By Adding Lime To Sea 899

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the but-then-nobody-can-have-a-good-gin-and-tonic dept.
Antiglobalism writes "Scientists say they have found a workable way of reducing CO2 levels in the atmosphere by adding lime to seawater. And they think it has the potential to dramatically reverse CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere, reports Cath O'Driscoll in SCI's Chemistry & Industry magazine published today."
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Global Warming Stopped By Adding Lime To Sea

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  • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@gmaPA ... m minus language> on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:02PM (#24275439) Journal

    A solution to nasty-tasting seawater! Lemonade oceans FTW!

  • by xpuppykickerx (1290760) on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:02PM (#24275449)
    "Look at all the limes in this god damn thing! This fuckin' thing is tropical! Look at the limes, how they float. That's good news. Next time I'm on a boat and it capsizes, I will reach for a lime. Like I'll be water-skiing without a life preserver, people will say "What the hell?" and I'll pull out a lime. I'm saved by the buoyancy of citrus."
    • by Cow Jones (615566) on Monday July 21, 2008 @01:08PM (#24276897)

      Careful with the lime please!
      If you put a lot of lime into the ocean, in places where coconuts might fall into the water, you'll end up poisoning the whole area.
      This is a dangerous game.

      To wit:

      Brother bought a coconut, he bought it for a dime
      His sister had another one, she paid it for the lime

      She put the lime in the coconut, she drank 'em both up
      She put the lime in the coconut, she drank 'em both up
      She put the lime in the coconut, she drank 'em both up
      Put the lime in the coconut, she called the doctor, woke him up, and said

      Doctor, ain't there nothin' I can take, I said
      Doctor, to relieve this bellyache, I said
      Doctor, ain't there nothin' I can take, I said
      Doctor, to relieve this bellyache

      Now let me get this straight
      Put the lime in the coconut, you drank 'em both up
      Put the lime in the coconut, you drank 'em both up
      Put the lime in the coconut, you drank 'em both up
      Put the lime in the coconut...

      (repeat until you're out of CO2)

  • Sure... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Deathdonut (604275) on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:03PM (#24275457)

    This couldn't possibly have any additional side-effects, right?

    Next they'll want to add tequila and filter the salt to the coasts.

    • Re:Sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Trails (629752) on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:16PM (#24275773)
      In deed this strikes me as the climatological equivalent to the following song: I know an old lady who swallowed a cow, I wonder how she swallowed a cow?! She swallowed the cow to catch the goat, She swallowed the goat to catch the dog, She swallowed the dog to catch the cat, She swallowed the cat to catch the bird, She swallowed the bird to catch the spider, That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her, She swallowed the spider to catch the fly, I don't know why she swallowed the fly, I guess she'll die.
      • Re:Sure... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by timster (32400) on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:38PM (#24276285)

        Well, I guess, but we've really swallowed the cow already. Our best available science predicts dire consequences from current and future CO2 levels, so it's reasonable to look for potential fixes that may have other consequences that will need to be studied carefully.

        It's certainly good to address the problem at its cause, by releasing less CO2 in the first place, but there are practical limits to reductions and many methods used to reduce CO2 will have their own side effects. Even wind/solar would have SOME negative effects, some of which would likely be unanticipated.

      • by apparently (756613) on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:43PM (#24276405)
        In deed this strikes me as the climatological equivalent to the following song: I know an old lady who swallowed a cow, I wonder how she swallowed a cow?! She swallowed the cow to catch the goat, She swallowed the goat to catch the dog, She swallowed the dog to catch the cat, She swallowed the cat to catch the bird, She swallowed the bird to catch the spider, That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her, She swallowed the spider to catch the fly, I don't know why she swallowed the fly, I guess she'll die.

        I dunno what the hell you're trying to babble about. The proper reference for /. readers goes like this:

        Skinner: Ahh, but as it turns out the lizards were a godsend since they've eaten all the pigeons.
        Lisa: Isn't that a little short-sighted? What happens when we're up to our ears with lizards?
        Skinner: Ah, well we shall simply release wave after wave of Chinese needlesnakes.
        Lisa: Then what about the snakes?
        Skinner: We simply import gorillas who will eat all the snakes.
        Lisa: Well what happens when we're up to our ears in gorillas?!
        Skinner: Ah that's the beauty of the thing, come winter the gorillas will freeze to death.

      • Re:Sure... (Score:5, Funny)

        by couchslug (175151) on Monday July 21, 2008 @07:02PM (#24281735)

        At least she swallows.

    • Re:Sure... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mcvos (645701) on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:51PM (#24276549)

      This couldn't possibly have any additional side-effects, right?

      It remind me of another idea: to add iron particles to the ocean in order to stimulate algae growth, which absorbs quite a lot of CO2.

      But what happens then? Do the oceans get clogged with algae? Do fish eat them so we get to make the fishing industry happy at the same time? Do the algae release the CO2 when they die? Or does it sink to the bottom of the ocean, taking the carbon with it?

      Lots of possibilities for side effects, lots of things to research.

    • Re:Sure... (Score:5, Informative)

      by hardburn (141468) <hardburn@ w u m pus-cave.net> on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:59PM (#24276719)

      It's a way of hardening the water, which in turn increases its ability to absorb CO2 without increasing the acidity of the water. The basic chemistry is used by aquarium hobbyists to keep their acidity stable.

      Many fish keepers go to great lengths to keep their water in a tight range to mimic their fish's natural environment as close as possible, but empirical evidence suggests that fish can tolerate a wide range of hardness and acidity provided that changes are made slowly. Additionally, it should increase the growth rate of coral.

      However, many types of fish may only breed within a given hardness range, so this may end up being a big problem.

  • uh oh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ILuvRamen (1026668) on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:03PM (#24275469)
    There goes my giant vacuum cleaner idea. But seriously, maybe I'm remembering it wrong but doesn't lime burn people's skin? So wouldn't it kill sea creatures?
  • by suso (153703) * on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:04PM (#24275477) Homepage Journal

    Here in Bloomington, Indiana, we have a huge number of limestone blocks that were left over from building larger blocks.

  • by minasoko (710100) on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:04PM (#24275483)
    ...thus solving the problem forever. FOREVER!
  • by jnaujok (804613) on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:05PM (#24275491) Homepage Journal
    Adding ten million square kilometers of lime from Australia's outback to sea water...

    ...yeah, no chance for any unintended consequences here.
  • Well... (Score:5, Funny)

    by snl2587 (1177409) on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:05PM (#24275515)
    As long as they don't start putting the lime in coconuts and mixing it together, we haven't entirely lost our sanity.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:06PM (#24275523)

    You know...

    Based on the success of introducing the cane toad, tamarisk, the bark beetle, the banana slug, the mongoose, or the brown tree snake!

    Any time humans screw something up, the best bet is for humans to go double-or-nothing.

    Sure beats efficiency, responsible building practices, responsible reproduction rates, or simply riding a bike to work! Surely, changing the pH, salinity, disolved o2, and turbidity of the oceans will have no unwanted effect.

    • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:29PM (#24276037)

      My favorite is the coral reef some geniuses made out of... used tires.

      Its now considered an ecological disaster.

      http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/02/18/news/tires.php [iht.com]

    • by jamrock (863246) on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:34PM (#24276185)

      You're absolutely correct. There's no end to the number of environmental "solutions" that led to far greater problems down the road. And the sad thing is that they were not unforeseen problems. The people who thought up the solutions figured it was easier to let subsequent generations deal with the mess; they were more interested in a quick fix for political expediency.

      Anyone else of a certain age remember the animated bit from The Electric Company [wikipedia.org] (then-unknown Morgan Freeman was one of the cast members) wherein the wife is freaking out about a mouse in the house? To cut a long story short, as the problems cascade, the husband gets a cat, then a dog, then a tiger, then finally an elephant to scare away the tiger. When the wife complains about the elephant, the husband says "Everyone knows elephants are afraid of mice" reintroducing the original problem and losing an entire wall of the house in the process as the panicked elephant stampedes through it. The punch line is the battered husband lying on the ground saying to himself, "You know...maybe I should have just gotten a trap...". I think that little cartoon is one of the great cautionary tales of environmental engineering.

  • by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:07PM (#24275537) Journal

    You'd think it'd be obvious, but at slashdot, you actually do need to point that out to people.

  • by bobdotorg (598873) on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:10PM (#24275617)

    On a chemical level, how does this differ from growing coral?

    A coral bred / genetically modified to grow in a wider variety of climates could also scrub CO2 from the air. Though the 'whatcouldpossiblygowrong' crowd might be concerned with over scrubbing by the GM coral.

    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:25PM (#24275953) Journal

      On a chemical level, how does this differ from growing coral?

      Well, coral (and shellfish) can sequester carbon, but this only works as long as the water is sufficiently non-acidic. The problem is that as atmospheric CO2 is absorbed into the oceans, some of it becomes carbonic acid -- and the acidification of the water means that corals, and shellfish shells, dissolve.

      One nice effect of adding lime is that it lowers the acidity of the water, thereby allowing coral and shellfish to continue sequestering carbon.

  • Whoa there... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kenrod (188428) on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:10PM (#24275631)

    It's more sensible and cost effective for mankind to use technology to adapt to climate change rather than to try to change the climate. After all, some climate change isn't caused by man and can't be stopped. Witness the last little ice age, and the last ice age before that that glaciated much of the northern hemisphere.

    Eventually some idiotic scheme like dumping X in the oceans is going to cause a truly great disaster. We need to stop screwing around with the Earth. Climate science is still in its infancy.

  • by radiashun (220050) on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:10PM (#24275637)

    But what happens when one nation decides this is a great idea while another fervently disagrees? Water doesn't obey boundaries.

  • I Am A Chemist (Score:5, Informative)

    by PatrickThomson (712694) on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:13PM (#24275701)

    And this appears to work. I'm sure some not-rtfa'ing people above me will have got in with a quick "making lime generates carbon dioxide hur hur" but the process already takes this into account. By increasing the pH of the seawater, they claim that it will absorb two moles of CO2 for every mole released in the manufacture of lime. I'm not an environmental chemist so I can't comment on the adsorption gradient of seawater, but if they think it'll work then it'll work.

    Carbon dioxide dissolves in water:

    CO2 + H2O H(+) + HCO3(-)

    As does Calcium Oxide (lime)

    CaO + H2O Ca(2+) + 2 * OH(-)

    Hydroxide and protons naturally combine to form water - it's another equilibrium but the constant is something like 10**-7 (that 7 is the pH of water)

    H(+) + OH(-) H2O

    i.e. at pH 7, there will be ten million times as much water as either of the other two.

    I'd imagine that various equilibrium constants shift around to prove that there's a net increase in the absorption of carbon dioxide from air. It's pretty elementary science - so elementary, I've forgotten how to do it. by simply ascribing a token amount of competence to the scientific background of the people in TFA, it can be shown that they probably know what the hell they're talking about.

    Also, there's no doomsday scenario where a drop of lime juice makes the ocean boil pure CO2 and kill us all. As far as I can see.

    • Re:I Am A Chemist (Score:4, Insightful)

      by magus_melchior (262681) on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:44PM (#24276417) Journal

      Slashdot seems to have eaten the arrows in your equations, so here's a try using HTML entities:

      CO2 + H2O -> H(+) + HCO3(-)

      CaO + H2O -> Ca(2+) + 2 * OH(-)

      H(+) + OH(-) -> H2O

      Seems Slashdot has something against implementing some form of Unicode (and HTML 4 entity codes), so putting in &rarr; (right arrow) or pasting the equivalent character don't work. You'd think they would pass it onto the browser rather than simply deleting them...

    • Re:I Am A Chemist (Score:5, Informative)

      by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Monday July 21, 2008 @01:47PM (#24277591)

      I'm a chemist too, and read the article, but there were no technical details upon which to judge it. However, I'm pretty leery of screwing with the pH of the ocean, since ecosystems need a pretty stable pH range to thrive. The problems I'd see involve ocean current circulation - namely, how fast can you put the CaO in locally such that it disperses worldwide and generates pH advantages without screwing the pH locally such that it creates ecosystem problems?

      I still have this niggling fear that they're just setting up a feedback loop, because they're not looking at the whole picture. They're making CaO by sticking CO2 into the atmosphere, putting CaO into the ocean, which drops the pH and sucks up some CO2. My thinking is that they've probably used the existing amount of CO2 in the air to determine the rate of CO2 absorption (which they can't do), and that the pH decrease in the rainwater will balance the pH increase of the ocean - which works only until it rains and they re-mix. In other words, when this reaction cycle completes, the pH of the ocean is ultimately the same.

      My intuition is that this won't work, since in the end every mole of CaO they create will ultimately recombine and be re-sequestered as CaCO3 in the ocean. The question is where we want the sequestered CaCO3 - on land or in water? It seems to me if the CaCO3 is in an arid environment as it currently is, that's better than in the ocean where it could actually retard further carbon sequestration through reverse-reaction with acid.

      I give them points for trying, and I don't have enough details to prove it won't work, but I think this is an example best illustrated in the Simpsons, where Homer makes his money by selling grease...that he gets from bacon he cooks...that Marge buys at a higher price.

  • Chemical Description (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LeafOnTheWind (1066228) on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:21PM (#24275875)

    In case anyone was wondering:

    Lime = CaO

    CaO + H_2O Ca(OH)_2 + 63.7kJ/mol of CaO

    Ca(OH)_2 (aq) + CO_2 (g) -> CaCO_3 (s) + H_2O (l)

    CaCO3(s) + CO2(g) + H2O(l) -> Ca(HCO3)2(aq)

    Some of these compounds are strong bases that may be dangerous for both human consumption and wildlife contact. If this were done in segregated water areas, however, it may be possible to utilize the properties of the first reaction to produce energy via a heat engine.

  • by CopaceticOpus (965603) on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:42PM (#24276367)

    There are two forces in this world keeping the pirates in check: ninjas and scurvy. If the seas were suddenly full of lime, scurvy would be vanquished. The balance of power would be horribly altered, and no one's booty would be safe.

    Please, everybody, write your congressman about this!

  • by boyfaceddog (788041) on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:47PM (#24276471) Journal

    Based on the speed at which the we are progressing through the Kubler-Ross model of grief, the world governments should hit "acceptance" sometime around 2025. Then maybe we'll start hearing some sense out of people.

  • by jsimon12 (207119) <{tzzhc4} {at} {yahoo.com}> on Monday July 21, 2008 @01:56PM (#24277709) Homepage

    Oddly enough this has been done in the Reef hobby world for decades. You add what is called "Kalkwasser" which is nothing more then a solution of water and lime. Course I would think to have similar effect on the ocean you are going to need to add MASSIVE amounts.

  • by lena_10326 (1100441) on Monday July 21, 2008 @02:02PM (#24277803) Homepage
    We're going to fix a weather problem, which may be cyclical, that we don't understand that may not be a problem because there may be solar interactions we don't fully understand as well as Earth core changes we don't fully understand by dumping lime into the ocean?
  • This is insanity (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cdn-programmer (468978) <terr@terralo[ ].net ['gic' in gap]> on Monday July 21, 2008 @02:36PM (#24278307)

    Its takes energy to make lime (CaO). You need to start with limestone (CaCO3) and drive off the CO2. Eventually the CaO added to the water will become limestone and precipitate out. There is no magic here.

    So where will this energy come from? Ans: Presumably the great new oil finds that Shell has been announcing on a regular basis for the last 30 years. Folks - oil prices might be down a little bit now but they won't stay down. And if you actually check the numbers you'll find that Shell has NOT been making much progress in replacing the oil we burn. So how about Natural Gas? More insanity.

    Methane is a chemical source of hydrogen. Alkanes are C(n)H(2n+2) and for octane n=8. For methane n=1. The issue is that our liquid fuels have n>=7 so they are much closer to a 2:1 ratio of hydrogen to carbon. Now consider that coal is C(0.6n)H(n) so coal is hydrogen poor. Bitumin is about C(n)H(n). Its actually a little hydrogen rich but the issue is that if we want to produce liquid fuels via coal->liquids or via bitumin->liquids or for that matter from oil shales then we are desperately short of hydrogen and without it we leave about 1/2 the carbon we mine sitting around in piles which we call COKE. And the only other option is if we try to get energy from it and create copious amounts of CO2.

    This would have to be the most INSANE use of our non-renewable natural resources that I can possibly imagine. It will result in more carbon in the atmosphere and not less.

    Its a very good thing that CO2 is not responsible for global warming. It hasn't been responsible in the geological record other than back in the precambrian when CO2 concentrations reached 130,000 PPM. The levels are now about 370-380 PPM which is a rise of about 100 PPM over the last 100 years or so. Meanwhile water vapour is anywhere from under 1% (10,000 PPM) to over 10% (100,000 PPM). The issue is that water vapour acts closer to the surface of the planet and that its a stronger green house gas than CO2 and we have no idea if there has been a net positive change or a net negative change in average water vapour levels over the planet in the last say 100 years. We don't know the sign and we certainly don't know the magnitude but a 100 PPM change gets swallowed up very quickly when one considers the uncertainties involved here.

    Read this: http://www.sciencebits.com/CO2orSolar [sciencebits.com]

    There is a high correlation between climate and sun spot activities. CERN is undertaking experiments soon to confirm this linkage. We are fortunate that solar cycle #24 is looking to be about 2 years late and if so will probably be very weak and this will provide us with the opportunity to actually do some measurement.

    Rather than go berzerk with crazy ideas it will probably make more sense to see what influence solar cycle #24 has.

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