Four Incredible Benefits of Enhanced Rock Weathering

Climate change impacts every natural system on Earth, whether it’s the health of our oceans, the resilience of crops, global food security or air quality. The IPCC says that we must be actively removing 10 billion tonnes of CO₂ from the atmosphere annually by the year 2050 (at the latest) to keep global temperature rises below 1.5°C and start reversing the environmental damage that’s exacerbating these issues. It’s a daunting figure. The good news? We already have what we need to remove huge amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, quickly and at scale, with enhanced rock weathering technology.

Enhanced rock weathering mimics a natural geological process, only at a speed that cuts the timeframe from millions of years to just decades. At UNDO, we work with existing products and machinery, meaning our operations are already quickly scaling up to make carbon removal accessible to all. Enhanced rock weathering also offers much more permanence than other methods of carbon removal, meaning we can all rest assured that the carbon we capture and store in the ground will stay there forever.

Another crucial factor that sets enhanced weathering apart? Its holistic approach delivers a host of environmental advantages, meaning the devastating impacts of climate change can all be improved as part of our mission. These advantages, commonly referred to as ‘co-benefits’, aren’t just happy side-effects; they’re also officially recognised in the Paris Agreement as an important aspect of climate change mitigation plans.

Here’s a breakdown of four co-benefits of enhanced rock weathering that combine to keep our planet fit for future generations.

1. It boosts soil health

Healthy soil is key to maintaining Earth’s biodiversity, ensuring strong crop growth with increased resilience against pests and diseases. It’s also one of the planet’s most important carbon sinks. Modern agricultural practices such as cultivation, intensive grazing and land-clearing can all lead to a degradation in soil health, affecting its ability to retain carbon and leading to CO₂ being released back into the atmosphere. 

When our crushed basalt is spread on farmland, this mineral-rich volcanic rock begins to release vital nutrients like potassium, calcium and magnesium into the soil. During the weathering process, there is a slow release of alkalinity that can help with the management of soil acidity by keeping the soil pH closer to optimum for longer. The result? Greater availability of the nutrients and micronutrients that lead to healthy crop growth and less reliance on additions of lime to maintain soil pH.

The evidence of enhanced rock weathering’s positive impact on crop growth is already promising: trials in collaboration with Newcastle University show a significant yield increase for spring oats after crushed basalt rock application. Trials are still ongoing, but what this seems to show is that basalt boosts nutrient availability in the soil, influencing the crop’s nutrition levels early in development. This not only boosts yield but also the quality of the crops produced, resulting in nutritious food to feed the global population.

2. It deacidifies our oceans

Our reliance on fossil fuels has released vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, resulting in far more atmospheric CO₂ than Earth’s ecosystems can handle. This has caused the planet’s oceans to become far too acidic, leading to environmental challenges such as bleached coral reefs and the poor health of fish populations and other marine wildlife.

Just like it stabilises the pH of soil, enhanced rock weathering raises the ocean’s pH, assisting in the deacidification process. When basalt rock weathers, bicarbonate ions are created and washed out to sea, where they are used in the formation of shells and skeletons for many marine creatures. Once these creatures die and fall to the ocean floor, the bicarbonate ions enter the carbon cycle again, forming carbonate rocks that store carbon for millions of years.

3. It supports greener communities

Climate justice begins with empowering local communities to build sustainable futures. As a nature-based carbon removal solution, enhanced rock weathering enables local people to get involved in carbon removal by integrating existing machinery, talent and resources. 

Basalt is an existing product of the aggregate industries, which means it’s already in abundance at many local quarries. By utilising it, we’re supporting quarries in being more efficient. There’s also no need for further technology or machinery to be used to process the rock, which in turn avoids additional emissions.

UNDO spreads basalt on agricultural land near its partner quarries, working with local farmers and haulers and their existing machinery. Keeping things local helps to reduce our transport emissions and keeps green jobs in the community, all while promoting climate action that benefits everyone. This circular approach means our operations generate emissions amounting to just 5% of total carbon captured, ensuring 95% efficiency.

4. It reduces costs for farmers

From the impact of extreme weather conditions such as droughts and floods to the increased pressure to adapt to the shared net-zero journey, farmers are at the forefront of climate change and are feeling its effects in myriad ways.

Our partnership with farmers offers economic benefits for all. It allows us to remove carbon at a lower cost, all while driving profits back into agricultural communities. Basalt can be spread on any type of farmland. As well as boosting soil health, reducing the reliance on expensive and often damaging chemical fertilisers, there’s also a reduction in the need to spread lime to improve the soil’s pH. We estimate that by spreading basalt rock every three to five years, soil will maintain a healthy pH and farmers can save money on liming. 

We’re also proud to have had our basalt certified as an organic soil enhancer, making it suitable for use on organic farms and perfect for helping farmers rely less on costly artificial fertilisers.

Climate change has introduced countless challenges into our lives, but by removing atmospheric CO₂ through holistic, sustainable action, we have a chance to build a healthier, greener world, together. Improving soil health, safeguarding oceans and empowering farmers and rural communities are at the heart of what we do. We’d love you to join us.

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