Multiple timescales for neutralization of fossil fuel CO2



The long term abiological sinks for anthropogenic CO2 will be dissolution in the oceans and chemical neutralization by reaction with carbonates and basic igneous rocks. We use a detailed ocean/sediment carbon cycle model to simulate the response of the carbonate cycle in the ocean to a range of anthropogenic CO2 release scenarios. CaCO3 will play only a secondary role in buffering the CO2 concentration of the atmosphere because CaCO3 reaction uptake capacity and kinetics are limited by the dynamics of the ocean carbon cycle. Dissolution into ocean water sequesters 70–80% of the CO2 release on a time scale of several hundred years. Chemical neutralization of CO2 by reaction with CaCO3 on the sea floor accounts for another 9–15% decrease in the atmospheric concentration on a time scale of 5.5–6.8 kyr. Reaction with CaCO3 on land accounts for another 3–8%, with a time scale of 8.2 kyr. The final equilibrium with CaCO3 leaves 7.5–8% of the CO2 release remaining in the atmosphere. The carbonate chemistry of the oceans in contact with CaCO3 will act to buffer atmospheric CO2 at this higher concentration until the entire fossil fuel CO2 release is consumed by weathering of basic igneous rocks on a time scale of 200 kyr.