Vesta aims to reverse global warming, improve the health of marine ecosystems, and help ocean-based communities become more resilient through a process called Coastal Carbon Capture.
Billions of people worldwide—especially the world’s poorest—rely on the ocean for their livelihoods and food. Ocean industries directly employ 40 million people and more than 350 million jobs can be tied to its waters. Food from the ocean is a significant source of protein for more than three billion people. But as climate change causes ocean conditions to change, storms to intensify, and shorelines to erode it also threatens the ocean as a source of income and food.
Vesta seeks to protect coastlines and restore ocean climates with a carbon-removing sand.
Oceans naturally absorb about a third of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). This process balances sea acidity levels and provides carbon needed to build healthy coral reefs and mollusk shells. However, the burning of fossil fuels and other human activity has vastly increased atmospheric CO2. This has caused oceans to absorb 30 percent more carbon as compared to two centuries ago and made surface waters far more acidic. Ocean acidification then creates unsustainable environments for many of the marine organisms upon which fishers depend. As these ocean ecosystems deteriorate, coral reefs are damaged, mollusk populations dwindle, and more people are pulled into extreme poverty.
Vesta’s researchers have developed a way to draw carbon out of the air and into the ocean while reversing acidification. The process involves milling an abundant and inexpensive volcanic mineral called olivine down to beach-compatible sand and adding it to coastlines that are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. As the olivine dissolves in seawater, it sets off a series of chemical reactions that break down CO2 and generate oxygen, countering ocean acidification while lowering atmospheric CO2.
To reverse global warming we must dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, say many experts, remove 10 gigatons of carbon from our atmosphere each year. (About 40 gigatons of carbon are currently released annually.) Vesta’s research shows that seeding just .25 percent of the Earth’s beaches with olivine could remove a gigaton of CO2 per year. This would help set the planet on track to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and protect the livelihoods of millions of people who depend on the ocean.
King Philanthropies’ support is helping Vesta continue to develop and deploy its Coastal Carbon Capture solution that protects the planet and the livelihoods of vulnerable ocean-based communities.