Carbon Capture (Sequestration) Research
A significant component of our science focuses on the study carbon capture and sequestration in neotropical rainforests in Costa Rica. The sequestration of carbon is a major outcome or ‘effect’ of our reforestation work in Costa Rica and is a primary driver for our work. Our research efforts in carbon capture will focus on the process, the effective measure of carbon capture and on data collection methods.
A majority of the scientific community now understands that humans are responsible for global warming (climate change). That realization is, in part, the result of a tremendous effort of scientists worldwide providing a better explanation of the global carbon cycle and coupling it to atmospheric and oceanic cycles. Another essential part of this understanding is the contribution of satellites and remote sensing which make observations of the entire planet possible.
Because satellite observations are conducted without atmospheric interferences and look at the entire planet, scientists can make better estimates of radiative forcing. Radiative forcing is the impact of anthropogenic gases such as CO2 on a warming atmosphere. For the last 10,000 years the earth’s atmospheric temperature has been coupled to solar radiation. Recent satellite data shows that since 1980 the energy of the sun is decreasing, while the temperature of the earth is steadily increasing. That means the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere has now decoupled from the energy of the sun. The reason is because radiative forcing by greenhouse gases from human activity is increasing, “forcing” the atmosphere to warm.
Some fail to understand climate change because changes are subtle and do not occur fast. Because of both incredibly long cycles and inclusion of the entire planet as the domain of observation, it is impossible to observe climate changes or its impact on a daily basis. We must examine changes which are occurring over yearly or decadal cycles, or longer and look at the planet as a whole, not just at local events. Climate change and therefore global warming is not like observing the impact of a volcanic eruption that has an immediate impact at a local level and, if large enough, on a continental or planetary scale.
What are these greenhouse gases (GHGs)? Four compounds and one group of chemicals result in most of the radiative forcing: carbon dioxide (CO2), 81%; water, H2O (undefined percentage); methane (CH4), 10%; nitrous oxide (N2O), 7%; and, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), 3%. The reason for not being able to attach a contribution to water vapor, the most abundant greenhouse gas, is the feedback on atmospheric warming through cloud formation and precipitation.
One area in which PRFRP can impact global warming is by converting pastureland to secondary rain forests which are known to be one of these densest forest in the world and therefore efficient in capturing CO2. In addition to reforestation, our science program will quantify the increase in biodiversity by adding plant species and determining the impact of a warming climate on them, enhancing ecosystem services such as retaining water in watersheds, absorbing CO2, and producing oxygen through photosynthesis, and expanding wildlife corridors in the forest for native animals.
We also hope to do some work in improving the measure of carbon capture in soil, as it is transformed from pasture to a richer forest loam.
Our studies will also allow us to evaluate carbon neutrality and through carbon neutral ecotours be a cutting-edge program in showing tourists and other tour groups in Costa Rica how to reach and attain carbon neutrality.