The role of enhanced rock weathering deployment with agriculture in limiting future warming and protecting coral reefs
Abstract: Meeting the net-zero carbon emissions commitments of major economies by mid-century requires large-scale deployment of negative emission technologies (NETs). Terrestrial enhanced rock weathering on croplands (ERW) is a NET with co-benefits for agriculture, soils and ocean acidification that creates opportunities for generating income unaffected by diminishing carbon taxes as emissions approach net-zero. Here we show that ERW deployment with croplands to deliver net 2 Gt CO2 yr−1 removal approximately doubles the probability of meeting the Paris 1.5 °C target at 2100 from 23% to 42% in a high mitigation Representative Concentration Pathway 2.6 baseline climate. Carbon removal via carbon capture and storage (CCS) at the same rate had an equivalent effect. Co-deployment of ERW and CCS tripled the chances of meeting a 1.5 °C target (from 23% to 67%), and may be sufficient to reverse about one third of the surface ocean acidification effect caused by increases in atmospheric CO2 over the past 200 years. ERW increased the percentage of coral reefs above an aragonite saturation threshold of 3.5 from 16% to 39% at 2100, higher than CCS, highlighting a co-benefit for marine calcifying ecosystems. However, the degree of ocean state recovery in our simulations is highly uncertain and ERW deployment cannot substitute for near-term rapid CO2 emissions reductions.