Questions for ‘A bold plan to save the planet turns carbon dioxide into stone’

a large orange drill is in center of the picture. there are workers around the drilling site and mountains in the distance at the horizon.

Workers drill into the ground in Wadi Lawayni, a remote valley in Oman. Millions of years ago, unusual rocks were pushed to surface here through a rare geologic upheaval. Now in contact with the air, they are reacting with carbon dioxide, locking the greenhouse gas into solid minerals.

Juerg Matter/Univ. of Southampton

To accompany A bold plan to save the planet turns carbon dioxide into stone


Before Reading:

  1. What is a greenhouse gas? Why are climate scientists so concerned about them?
  2. Why is there such a global focus on limiting emissions of the gas carbon dioxide, or CO2? What are major sources of its release into the environment?  

During Reading:

  1. Where are the Al Hajar mountains and what is so unusual about them?
  2. How did the white carbonate veins in their rock form? How might understanding their formation point to a potential coping strategy for today’s growing releases of CO2?
  3. According to the story, how much CO2 might certain rock formations across the planet be able to remove and tie up each year? How does that compare to the amount of CO2 that human activities now release each year?
  4. What are the “negative emissions” mentioned in the story?
  5. Some companies have begun pumping CO2 into the ground for storage as a gas. What is a concern about this strategy, as described by Gregory Nemet?
  6. What is basalt and where does it come from? Why might pumping CO2 into basalt deposits be preferable to storing CO2 underground as a gas?
  7. What project did Juerg Matter and David Goldberg undertake in 2004? Why does Matter say other people thought they were “crazy, and even stupid” for trying this?
  8. In what ways was that research like what Sandra Snæbjörnsdóttir and her colleagues conducted in 2012? Where did her team do its work and what did their Carbfix project find? What is the status of that project now?
  9. What were Matter and Peter Kelemen looking for in cores of rock drilled out of the ground at Wadi Lawayni? What did they find about the potential of these rocks to lock up CO2? What are they doing at that site now?
  10. If turning CO2 to stone proves doable, what other challenges await using this technology, based on what you read?

After Reading:

  1. Based on the reporting in this story, how likely do you think it is that this technology will one day make an impact on slowing climate change? Explain why you think that.
  2. There is an often-quoted phrase: “There is no free lunch.” It means that you never get something good without having to pay for it in some way. If the CO2-to-stone technology were to become a major global strategy for tackling greenhouse gases, what would its costs likely be? (Consider not just the money needed to fund this technology, but also what it might do to the environment.)