Environmental and health impacts of atmospheric CO2 removal by enhanced rock weathering depend on nations’ energy mix

Enhanced Rock Weathering is a proposed Carbon Dioxide Removal technology involving the application of crushed silicate rocks, such as basalt, to agricultural soils with potential cobenefits for crops and soils, and mitigation of ocean acidification. Here we address the requirement of diverse stakeholders for informative studies quantifying possible environmental and health risks of Enhanced Rock Weathering. Using life-cycle assessment modelling of potential supply chain impacts for twelve nations undertaking Enhanced Rock Weathering deployment to deliver up to net 2 Gt CO2 yr−1 CDR, we find that rock grinding rather than mining exerts the dominant influence on environmental impacts. This finding holds under both a business-as-usual and clean energy mix scenario to 2050 but transitioning to undertaking Enhanced Rock Weathering in the future with low carbon energy systems improves the sustainability of the Enhanced Rock Weathering supply chain. We find that Enhanced Rock Weathering is competitive with other large-scale Carbon Dioxide Removal strategies in terms of energy and water demands.

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