Carbon Sequestration and Protection of Environment

By Muhammad Haider Ali

Carbon Sequestration and Protection of Environment

Carbon sequestration, I think a new word for more people and old for some. Carbon sequestration means to decrease the amount of carbon and technically defined as “the process by which atmospheric carbon (in form of carbon dioxide and may be some as carbon mono oxide) can be fixed into soil such that it will hold in the soil relatively permanent manner for a longer period of time. Simply you can say that carbon sequestration means storage of carbon for a longer duration. Carbon exists in nature in different forms and changes its forms in different ways and complete natural cycles just like nitrogen cycle. It categorized as inorganic carbon cycle (ICC) and organic carbon cycle (OCC). Carbon exists in pure forms as diamond, graphite and balky balls and carbonates bicarbonates and different ionic forms as inorganic carbon. The inorganic carbon cycle is very slow and negligible. The main topic is organic carbon cycle which we concern in detail.

All the living organisms have a significant amount of carbon in their bodies in the form of carbohydrates, proteins, acids and other macro molecules. Carbon play role as a central tetravalent element in the formation of organic macro molecules. It also presents in the form of CO2 gas in the living bodies. There are four major pools of carbon mentioned in the table and their detail is below the table.

Table:

Sr. No:

Name of reservoir

Amount of carbon present

1.

Atmosphere

760Pg*

2.

Plants

560Pg*

3.

Soil

1550Pg*

4.

Oceans

38400Pg*

Key: Pg*         1Pg=1015 g =1GT of carbon

The atmospheric carbon (present in the form of CO2) is fixed by plants/trees mainly forest trees with the help of natural process known as photosynthesis. Plants fix 120Pg of atmospheric carbon into organic carbon per annum out of which half amount means 60Pg goes again into the atmosphere by the reverse process of photosynthesis known as respiration. Respiration is the process by which plants and animal break down the organic molecules to get the energy required for their functions of life. Respiration process generates carbon dioxide as by product. There is another process of deforestation (cutting of trees and forests for human purposes) which looses 1.6Pg of carbon per year from plants. The 60Pg of carbon goes to soil from plants as plant litter and rhizodeposition which includes roots biomass and root secretions. This same amount releases to the atmosphere by soil as soil respiration which includes roots respiration and microbial respiration. Microorganisms break down the organic matter and release a significant amount of carbon dioxide. Soil also looses carbon in the form of soil erosion (water erosion and wind erosion mainly) which either accumulate at a different place in the soil or goes to oceans. Oceans uptake 92.3Pg of carbon directly from the atmosphere and release 90Pg net exchange is 2.3Pg from the atmosphere to oceans. There is another factor of fossils fuels burning which releases 7Pg of carbon to the atmosphere directly. This was short conversions of carbon from one pool to other pool.

Now we talk about its importance, each and every person is talking about global warming. In recent years even in days, you may notice an increase in local as well as in global temperature and now scientifically it is known as global warming. It causes changes in global climate which result in several problems like floods, sea level increase, wind storms, glaciers melting, storms, uneven rains distribution and much more. We skip them because there is a long list of them. The increase in temperature is caused by green house effect resulted from increased amount of different gases in the atmosphere from which carbon dioxide (CO2) is leading one. These gases trap the long wave radiations reradiate from the earth and act just like glass to warm up the environment. It is not a bad phenomenon but natural phenomenon to control the temperature of the earth. Without it, earth’s temperature will -18oC but it maintains it at 14oC. But as a famous quote “excess of everything is bad”   increase in this effect causes global warming and this time it is too much increased due to increased levels of green house gases. Carbon dioxide gas contributed 84% towards green house effect due to its high level present in atmosphere followed by methane, nitrous oxides and water vapors. Each and living organisms release carbon dioxide gas in the process of respiration but that is balanced by photosynthesis by plants. As the world progressing day by day, almost all developmental projects cause an increase in the release of CO2which in turn increase green house effect and global warming. All power stations, industrial processes, transportation fuel burning, agricultural byproducts, fossil fuels processing, distribution, land use changes, biomass burning, waste disposal and treatment releases carbon dioxide and other green house gases. Their many other processes but majorly as mentioned above. As these processes directly depend upon the development of the country and its economy so the development of country increases CO2 release in direct proportion. All developed countries release larger amounts of carbon and obviously face environmental problems.

Solution:

            The simple and easy solution is tree plantation, increase forests for carbon sequestration as the only source of trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Secondly, decrease the levels of release by using modern technologies for development. For example, power generation sector is the main source of CO2 release if we shift it on solar and hydro power generation it will control the level of CO2 release and pollution. It is only one example there are a number of other technologies which can be helpful e.g. energy efficient machines etc. So turn towards them and save the environment not only for yourself but also for the whole world.

Leave a comment