Anew peer-reviewed study, reported by the Algae Biomass Organization, has shown that widespread use of algae in animal feed could help limit the rise in global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius by 2100 and possibly even turn back the clock, bringing atmospheric carbon concentrations down to preindustrial levels by the end of the century.

The analysis, “New feed sources key to ambitious climate targets,” published in the December 2015 issue of Carbon Balance and Management, details how the cultivation of algae for feed could free up millions of acres currently used to produce pasture and feed crops, reducing the tension that exists between food security and bioenergy crops.

When combined with a modest application of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) this approach can lead to dramatic reductions in atmospheric carbon. Replacing just 10% of agricultural feed with algae and capturing 25% of energy sector emissions could limit global warming to within 2°C. Higher combinations of algae feed and CCS are shown to result in a net decline in atmospheric carbon concentrations.

Projected atmospheric CO2 concentrations [ppm] in year 2100 of the simulation

Projected atmospheric CO2 concentrations [ppm] in year 2100 of the simulation

The findings show that algaculture adopted at any scale would have a direct effect on greenhouse gas emissions and that its promise exceeds that of other biomass solutions, which not only face competition for arable land, but could affect land that is currently acting as a carbon sink.

The authors recognize the complexity of changes to the global agricultural system, but emphasize the feasibility of their proposed solution, concluding with a call for greater attention to be focused to the algae industry.