How To Remove CO2 From the Atmosphere: Water Volcanic, Calcium & Magnesium Desertic Tropical Ranges. Contemplate Indonesia!


In the last 500 million years, three-quarters of the time or so, the planet enjoyed a hot, Jurassic style climate. It was not the case during the evolution of the genus Homo, one characteristic of which is the ability to endure cold and even subpolar climate. Enormous glaciations then rolled in, one after the other. What happened? Well, the mystery has now been unveiled.

This is not just a curiosity. Indeed, said discovery provides us with a solution to the CO2 catastrophe: just water dry tropical volcanic ranges and similar areas with plenty of calcium and magnesium, and the CO2 will be removed, stabilizing the atmosphere. Watering those particular mineral areas provides with a believable mechanism to decrease CO2 when enormous amounts of cheap clean energy is available… in a generation or two. (This is the first plausible mechanism ever suggested to do so!)


Sacred mountain of Zoroastrianism, the major historical religion of civilization, Mount Damavand is the highest point in Iran higher than the Alps or even the Caucasus. It is an active volcano in full sight of gigantic Teheran. The gas and fumaroles on top was a problem when I circled the crater. This is the northern side, facing the Caspian sea, a lush area. Other sides are extremely dry, and I propose to water them. That of course would require gigantic, power-hungry engineering beyond the capability of present civilization.

Global climate change around 3–4 Million years ago influenced the evolution of hominids, via the aridification of Africa, and what happened next, the Pleistocene glaciation about 2.75 Myr ago… thereafter the Earth’s climate suffered rolling glaciations… while human species evolved ever faster.

Most explanations of these climatic events used to involve changes in circulation of the North Atlantic Ocean due to the closing of the Isthmus of Panama. The idea is that a strong current of warm water was going north from the Pacific, joining, and augmenting the Gulf Stream, thus preventing any ice to form in the Arctic. With no ice in the Arctic, the albedo of Earth was significantly lower, thus all these infrared, instead of being sent back to space by reflecting snows, were trapped in the Arctic. A warm Arctic brought temperatures up, overall.

However, the closure of the Indonesian seaway 3–4 Myr ago could also be responsible for these climate changes: it acts similarly to the contemporaneous Panama closing (but as we will see, Indonesia does more than Panama). Closing the Indonesian seaway brought the aridification of Eastern Africa. The simplest theory and results from ocean circulation modelling show that the displacement of mighty New Guinea, about 5 Myr ago, at 100 kilometers per million years, going north, and west, closed the seaway. (But not just that, as we will see.)

That would have switched the source of flow through Indonesia—from warm South Pacific to relatively cold North Pacific waters (all waters below 100 meters are now blocked by narrow, shallow straights inside the Indonesian archipelago). This blockage would have decreased sea surface temperatures in the Indian Ocean, leading to reduced rainfall over Eastern Africa. Changes in the equatorial Western Pacific, by making heat stagnate there, probably reduced atmospheric heat transport from the tropics to higher latitudes, stimulating global cooling around the poles, and the eventual growth of ice sheets., which, in turn, cooled the planet further!

All of a sudden, shallow waters all over! The right side, the gigantic island of New Guinea, moved north, but also west, at 100 kilometers per million years, strangling the Indonesian seaway, starting 5 millions years ago (coincident with the same in Mesoamerica) This blocked the Earth’s warmest waters to enter the Indian ocean.

But there is another way in which Indonesia enters the climatic picture: CO2 removal by chemical reaction with basaltic rocks. This happened because the tectonic collisions caused the rise of high mountains, hence intense weathering.


Basalt Make CO2 Into Rock:

Basalt generally has a composition of 45–55 % SiO2, 2–6 wt% total alkalis, 0.5–2.0% TiO2, 5–14 wt% FeO and 14% or more Al2O3. Contents of CaO are commonly near 10%, those of MgO commonly in the range 5 to 12%.

Limestone is a sedimentary rock which is often composed of the skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral, foraminifera and molluscs. Its major materials are the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate (CaCO3).

Immediate conclusion: if one adds CO2 to basalt, one should be able to make limestone. Indeed:

When CO2 is in presence of water, it reacts and makes carbonic acid. Putting lots of CO2 into water makes a Seltzer water which is acidic enough to destroy basalt. The low pH water (3.2) worked to dissolve the calcium and magnesium ions in the basalts, which then reacted with the carbon dioxide to make calcium and magnesium carbonates (which are whitish). Cores drilled into experimental sites in basalt showed rock with the tell-tale white carbonates occupying the pore spaces. Roughly it seems that 100 kilograms of basalt turned 50 kilograms of CO2 into rock. So far so good… One could locate power plants on top of basalt flows? Probably not: the process costs of the order of $17 a ton… That would augment the cost of burning oil by 20% (back of envelope computation in my head)… One has to understand the cheapest energy is already photovoltaic energy… In 2018…

Researchers tagged the CO2 they injected in basalt, 600 meters down, with carbon-14, a radioactive form of carbon. None of the injected CO2 was leaking back to the surface or finding its way out through a distant watercourse, as no radioactivity came out: the capture of CO2 by basalt is highly efficient.


Indonesia is sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere:

Many mountains in Indonesia and New Guinea consist of ancient volcanic rocks from belching volcanoes caused by subduction of various tectonic plates. When ocean floors were caught in a colossal tectonic collision between a chain of island volcanoes and a continent, those volcanic  rocks were thrust high. Lashed by warm tropical, acidic, corrosive, penetrating rains, these basaltic rocks react with CO2 sequestering the product inside the basalt. That is why, with only 2% of the world’s land area, Indonesia accounts for 10% of its long-term CO2 absorption. Its mountains could explain why massive ice sheets have persisted, waxing and waning, for several million years: evidence shows that the normal state of the planet in the last half a billion years, is a hothouse, with crocodiles all the way to the north of Greenland…

Researchers claim to have found that such tropical mountain-building collisions in wet areas coincide with nearly all of the half-dozen or so significant glacial periods in the past 500 million years. “These types of environments, through time, are what sets the global climate,” said Francis Macdonald, a geologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Washington, D.C. (December 2018). If Earth’s CO2 has a machine producing it, the rise of mountains like Indonesia’s could be it.

Long-term changes in the planet’s temperature are governed by shifts in CO2 atmospheric density. Plate tectonics refurbishes continually the planet’s surface. For decades, scientists have debated what turned the CO2 on, to the dramatic extent it did. Volcanoes were long prime suspects. Volcanoes erupt where plates dive beneath one another. By spewing carbon from Earth’s interior, they could turn up the thermostat. That was the idea. But it’s a bit stupid: CO2 was in atmosphere, gets captured by rocks, sediments, gets buried, and then belched out: it sounds like a rather quick (on a geological scale) zero sum game: what comes in comes right out…

Rock weathering of massive mountain ranges, seems a smarter approach: it depends on mountain building driven by plate tectonics. Indeed, sometimes there are giant mountain ranges, as big, or bigger than the present Himalayas. Sometimes, most often, not: as observed, the planet is a hot-house ¾ of the time, just as there are no massive wet tropical ranges, most of the time.

The Hercynian range, which spans the Appalachians, Scotland, and countless ranges in Europe, is still here for all to see (started 480 millions ago, it became Himalayan like when Africa collided with North America as part of the construction of Pangea).

When tropical mountains contain seafloor rocks rich in calcium and magnesium, they react with CO2 dissolved in rainwater to form limestone, which is eventually buried on the ocean floor. Both processes matter in removing CO2 from the atmosphere, This also explains why there were gigantic amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere in the Carboniferous era, and they mysteriously vanished: they are in all these rocks, such as all these limestone ranges….

Having the right rocks to drive the CO2-chewing reaction is not sufficient. Climate matters, as I said. For example, the Siberian Traps, a region that saw devastating volcanic eruptions 252 million years ago, are rich in such rocks but absorb little CO2: it’s too damn cold, the chemistry doesn’t happen much because of the cold (details aren’t clear yet).

More clearly, in Arabia, one finds plenty of heat and volcanic rocks, but the solvent, water, is absent: CO2 rains down as carbonic acid after reacting with water… But only then. So… If could make it rain in Arabia, we could eliminate massive amounts of CO2. @,lacks another ingredient. “It’s hotter than Hades but it doesn’t rain.” Indonesia’s location in the rainy tropics is just right. “That is probably what’s keeping us centered in an ice age,” Kent adds.


The Preceding Suggests THE Viable, Sustainable and Definitive Remedy to the CO2 catastrophe:

Lots of cockmaniacal plans have been proposed to mitigate the CO2 catastrophe (Harvard, the Pluto university, is going to try to throw a veil on the atmosphere… although that won’t solve the CO2 problem, but trust the nasty to come up with nastier…)

Some of mitigation of CO2 will happen naturally: as, and if, the Siberian Traps become tropical, and if it rains there much, CO2 will be removed from the atmosphere. More generally, as the entire planet warms, it moistens up, and all volcanic zones of the planet become CO2 absorbing: this is a natural way to prevent CO2 from raising so much the planet boils.

Practically, if one finally masters thermonuclear power, and, or, photovoltaic energy becomes super cheap, one could make it rain artificially (or massively water) dry tropical volcanic rock areas (such as Arabia, Iran). Thus one would remove enormous quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere. That will have to be done by 2100, just to stabilize the climate in the standard hothouse, the Jurassic mode ( what Trump calls a “super climate”), with sea level ten meters higher and crocodiles in Newfoundland…

Over the past few years, academic Macdonald and his collaborators have searched for other times when tectonics and climate could have conspired to open an Indonesia-size CO2 sink. They found that glacial conditions 90 million and 50 million years ago lined up neatly with the collisions of a chain of island volcanoes in the now-vanished equatorial Neo-Tethys Ocean with the African and Asian continents. A similar collision some 460 million years ago started to form the Appalachians, but it was thought to have taken place in the subtropics, where a drier climate (from trade winds) does not favor weathering. By reanalyzing ancient magnetic fields in rocks formed in the collision, Macdonald’s team found the mountains actually rose deep in the tropics. And their uplift matched a 2-million-year-long glaciation. “They’re developing a pretty compelling story that this was a climate driver in Earth’s past,” says Lee Kump, a paleoclimatologist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park.

Those cases are not exceptions. Indeed, the team compiled a database of every tectonic “suture”—the linear features left by tectonic collisions—known to contain ophiolites, characteristic pieces of sea floor, and pillow lavas and the like, volcanic sea floor, over the past half-billion years. Based on magnetism in each suture’s rocks and a model of continental drift, they mapped their ancient latitudes to see which formed in the warm and rainy tropics, and when. “We were surprised that this is not as complicated as we thought,” Macdonald said.

The team compared the results to records of past glaciations and found a strong correlation. They also looked for declines in volcanism, which might have cooled the climate (from lessening of CO2 emissions). But their influence was much weaker, Macdonald said.

A recent study challenges the mountain CO2 weathering-thermostat notion with evidence for the importance of volcanoes (as I said, it has to be rather a zero sum, when considering volcanoes from subduction, because what goes in comes pretty fast out!) The study used ages from thousands of zircons, durable crystals that can indicate volcanic activity, to show that upticks in volcanic emissions were the dominant force driving the planet’s warm periods. But there are two types of volcanisms: what I call “core volcanism” (“Traps”, Large Igneous Provinces, LIPs) brings in massive amounts of fresh CO2 from way down inside the mantle… It’s likely both streams of ideas have at least one hand on the truth.

The beauty of absorption by volcanic rocks of CO2 is that it explains not just why glaciations start, but also why they stop.

A hothouse Earth appears to be the planet’s default state, prevailing for three-fourths of the past 500 million years. We will have it again by 2100: the dice are thrown, it’s in the air.

An Indonesia-style collision may push the global climate into a glacial period, but only for a while. Mountains erode and continents drift. And the planet warms again.

Science doesn’t just bring understanding, it brings also the means to act on the universe. Now we have the trick to reduce CO2… (And I am, by the way, the first to propose it: massive watering of the desiccated zones!) To give us the means, we have to keep on deploying photovoltaic energy and thermonuclear reactors (I say “deploying”, because there is plenty of evidence that a massive thermonuclear reactor could work: the bigger, the more efficient, it’s a matter of mass against surface).

The alternative to the solution to the CO2 catastrophe by weathering and geological chemistry is a CO2 driven holocaust. Developing science and technology is not just profitable, pleasant, and human. It is also the moral thing to do. And the only moral solution to CO2 there is.

Patrice Ayme



P/S: By public request, a partial list of references supporting the research above:

References: Closing of the Indonesian seaway as a precursor to east African aridification around 3–4 million years ago
Mark A. Cane & Peter Molnar
Nature volume 411, pages 157–162 (10 May 2001)

Swanson-Hysell, N.L. and Macdonald, F.A., 2017. Tropical weathering of the Taconic orogeny as a driver for Ordovician cooling, Geology, G38985. 1.

(That was 440 million years ago, and the continents looked nothing like now; only Siberia is recognizable… It was a free floating continent…)

Tropical uplift may set Earth’s thermostat
Paul Voosen
Science 04 Jan 2019:

For scary, or when Antarctica partially melted under similar conditions to what we are going to get within a decade:

Antarctic ice melt 125,000 years ago offers warning
Paul Voosen
Science 21 Dec 2018:


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8 Responses to “How To Remove CO2 From the Atmosphere: Water Volcanic, Calcium & Magnesium Desertic Tropical Ranges. Contemplate Indonesia!”

  1. Paul Handover Says:

    Wow! I have read this through carefully but just the once. It needs repeating. Not only to be sure I understood it the first time round but also to absorb fully the messages, in particular how long we, as in humanity, has and just as important how long we have for a scientific consensus to arise that this is the future. A remarkable essay on your part, Patrice!


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Thanks Paul. I think there is scientific consensus. I also think the solution I presented (water the appropriate deserts!) is the first one I come across that is viable. I am deeply happy to have thought about it. I am confident it will become the obvious solution some day….


  2. G Max Says:

    Quite remarkable, yes, as Paul says. Need to read it again too. So you solved the climate change problem?
    BTW, you forgot to provide links to the scientific articles subjacent to your research, something you reproached Einstein oF doing if I remember well… 🙂


  3. ianmillerblog Says:

    How well silicates work depend on their nature. Around Oman apparently there is a huge amount of peridotite, so your scheme would work, although it has been proposed before, sorry. Straight magnesium silicate, like forsterite, will only weather very slowly because the water can’t get into it easily. There have been trial experiments in the US with crushed suitable basalt (rich in olivine type silicates – the pyroxenes, by and large, are much slower to weather) to be added to farmland as a soil conditioner, and it takes up a good swag of CO2, and then acts like lime (because effectively it is) to control the soil acidity. The problem is the cost of the energy needed to crush the rock. If you do not do that, the surface area, perforce, is relatively low, and the reaction proceeds by eroding the surface.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Thank for the cogent comment, Ian. Right. One of the reasons I said it will take lots of energy…

      However, notice these areas have no rain whatsoever. So if we drenched all the volcanic areas of Arabia, and Iran, that’s a huge area, we may get huge effects. Also soils with magnesium and calcium, lots of it, can be extremely porous, and water on them would have great effect. I am a climber, and often, I should say, GENERALLY, prospecting for climbable volcanic rock in the desert, I found abysmally poor, porous and chewed up rock, on which acidic rain would have great effect.

      And once embarked on that scheme, it may be possible to find tricks to augment the CO2 density from the air…


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