Kelp Is Weirdly Great at Sucking Carbon Out of the Sky

By Robinson Meyer : theatlantic – excerpt

The start-up Running Tide wants to use kelp buoys to fight climate change. The plan might not work, but it’s still a preview of our climate future.

Last month, somewhere off the coast of Maine, a small group of researchers and engineers released a series of tiny, floating objects into the water. The team called them “buoys,” but they looked more like a packet of uncooked ramen noodles glued to a green party streamer than anything of the navigational or weather-observing variety. These odd jellyfish had one role in life: to go away and never be seen again. With any luck, their successors would soon be released into the open ocean, where they would float away, absorb a small amount of carbon from the atmosphere, then sink to the bottom of the seafloor, where their residue would remain for thousands of years.

That is not only the goal. That is also the business model. The team worked for Running Tide, a Portland, Maine–based start-up that claims it can remove carbon dioxide from the ocean and atmosphere through the magic of kelp. Running Tide is one of a series of carbon-removal companies that have burst onto the market over the past few years with the hope of whisking heat-trapping pollution out of the atmosphere and locking it away for centuries. The most famous companies, such as Switzerland’s Climeworks or Canada’s Carbon Engineering, perform direct air capture, using common industrial processes to chemically clean carbon from the air. But this is not the only approach: Some firms have tried to store carbon in stone or concrete; others have tried to accelerate the rock-weathering process that normally takes thousands of years…(more)

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