Lock In Blocks: A wood replacement to consume and store atmospheric CO2. Built with tools to manage them for millennia and a path to 345ppm
Today, resolving climate change requires two steps: minimizing future CO2 releases to the atmosphere, which is closely tied to required and unpopular behavior changes; and the removal and secure storage of CO2 from the atmosphere.
Lock in Blocks is a technology that executes the removal and secure storage of atmospheric CO2. Adoption is driven by current human behavior and lifestyle aspirations: As the population grows and increasingly seeks a western middle class lifestyle, creating and using the blocks drives reductions in atmospheric CO2.
The product is a composite material that is a replacement for wood. It contains a paper based component, benefiting the product by reducing the weight, a bio-polymer with thermosetting properties, which would be the primary store of atmospheric CO2. It's coated with a thin film containing a uniquely identifying pattern that would be used to track each block of product throughout its lifecycle, and to facilitate product marketing and ownership.
Applications of the product include anything that wood or wood products, e.g. plywood, are used for today – construction, shipping and packaging, etc. The product has aesthetical qualities, so can be used for furniture, and accessories. Because the product is also waterproof, other applications such as roofing applications, where wood is not currently widely used, will become accessible. The product is designed with the intention, that each block be used for multiple applications throughout its lifecycle, and that if damaged, blocks can be repaired.
Marketing will take the form of a series of lotteries, executed in each participating country, that initially allow people to win a house made of it, and latterly, use the unique identifiers on the blocks as winning numbers, driving the customer’s desire to own and trade blocks as an asset.
The projected timeline for complete execution of this proposal is 80 years, delivering a stable atmospheric CO2 concentration of 345 ppm in July of 2094.
Category of the Action
Integrated action plan for the world as a whole
What actions do you propose?
The majority of the mass of Lock In Blocks consists of two components. A thermosetting bio-polymer, and a paper product. The thermosetting bio-polymer will be manufactured using a monomer that is the primary product of an algae that will be farmed on an appropriate scale. The algae will absorb atmospheric CO2, and the cellulosic residue from the algae will be used to make the paper product that is the second component. The required energy for the farming and manufacturing processes will come from base-load generation, in the form of a suite of renewable technologies including concentrating solar, wave power, wind, and geothermal power, with appropriate storage to facilitate sustained 24/7 operation.
Each block will consist of a paper core, a bio-polymer surface, and the block’s design will include an interface for connecting to other blocks. The blocks will achieve all the required certifications for use as any of an array of construction materials in all jurisdictions where it is to be used.
The blocks will be sold into these markets, initially to compete with incumbent materials, although the goal is to dominate these markets. Two lottery based marketing mechanisms will be used to stimulate demand, and the aspiration for ownership of the blocks, with the eventual goal of securing the block’s status as a tradable commodity. The value of the block will be measured both in terms of the carbon contained in it, and the likelihood that the block will win a daily prize (yield).
Lock In Blocks are designed with the expectation that they will have a variety of uses in different phases of their lifecycle. While they will initially be used as a wood replacement, they will be designed with an expected life approaching 10,000 years.
There are no new social actions associated with this proposal. It has been designed to operate within the world economy as it exists today. The only requirement for success is that the majority of the world’s population continues to aspire to a middle class western lifestyle, and make purchases consistent with that commitment.
Where will these actions be taken?
Production of Lock In Blocks will occur in four locations chosen because of their unique geographic and properties. Each location requires access to wave power, access to a port, and access to sufficient land on which to farm algae, to manufacture the product, and to host other supporting technologies. Each production location will be self-sustaining, and will be returned to its original state within 200 years. The extra time is allocated to ensure climate stability, and to mitigate any negative atmospheric impacts of ocean de-acidification.
The test/prototype environment will be in Iceland, where the operation will be sustained with geothermal power. This location will expand to serve the North American and European markets
The first production site is proposed to be in Western Australia, serving Lock In Blocks to markets in South and East Asia, Russia, and Oceania.
The second production site is proposed to be in Namibia, serving blocks to the African market.
The third production facility is proposed to be in Southern Chile, serving blocks to the Latin and South American markets.
Additional, smaller, production facilities will be added as market demand necessitates them.
Who will take these actions?
Partnerships will be formed with all necessary entities (governments, businesses, individuals) who are stakeholders in the process. The entity fully executing the proposed pathway and managing the Lock In Blocks throughout their full lifecycle will be a foundation registered in a stable neutral country.
What are key benefits?
The benefits of Lock In Blocks include the removal of CO2 until a stable atmospheric concentration of 345 ppm is achieved. It is forecast that this will result in the elimination of most short term climate effects on earth’s surface, for example, extreme weather. Some effects such as glacier shrinkage, and ocean acidification, will take longer to recover. Species extinction is permanent.
In terms of societal impacts, the creation of a new economic engine, and a new material for construction and other non-burning applications of wood, will stimulate global economies in ways that are not predicted in my model. I expect financial markets to evolve to treat this commodity in the same way as it treats copper or iron today. Other societal benefits will come from creating certainty about future climate, which is of concern to a large segment of the population.
What are the proposal’s costs?
Lock In Blocks will be owned by citizens of countries at levels consistent with their appetite for risk, and their appetite for non-burning applications of wood. As with the introduction of all new technologies, there is an opportunity cost associated with the purchase.
Water consumption, as with all externalities will be closely managed. Ideally an algae that flourishes in sea water will be used. If this is not feasible, desalination and water recycling will become part of the operation
The following steps will take place in years 1-5:
1. Building the team,
2. securing financial backing
3. licensing appropriate technologies,
4. product development,
5. constructing the prototype facility
6. securing product certifications,
7. developing supporting technologies for tracking, management, repair, etc.,
8. launching the blocks into select markets, on a competitive basis with other equivalent products
9. design and construction of first production facility
In years 6-18:
10. launch of all three production facilities, expansion of Iceland
11. expansion to all global markets,
12. Achieve a 30 day break even, where the mass of CO2 released by human activities over 30 days equals the mass of CO2 absorbed the manufacture and distribution of blocks over the same period.
In years 19-80:
13. Sufficiently and consistently exceed break even production, so the atmospheric concentration of CO2 on July 31, 2094 is 345 ppm.
Beyond 80 years:
Manage the Lock In Blocks to the completion of their lifecycle
This proposal has been written without reference to the climate colab, or the models referenced on the contest description page. Any similarity to proposals found in other contests is purely coincidental.
How do these sub-proposals fit together?
Explanation of model inputs
The period on which the model is based is 80 years from July 31, 2014 when the world population will be 7.3 billion to July 31, 2094 when it will be 10.1 billion. All tons expressed are metric tons.
Humans will, on average emit 485 tons of CO2 during their lifetime
Taking the growth in population into consideration, the total carbon dioxide that will be emitted by human activities, between now and 2094 will be 2.819 trillion tons. Of this, I assume that 50% will continue to be absorbed by oceans and other biological mechanisms.
Expressed in ppm, there is 401ppm CO2 in the atmosphere today. By 2094, without mitigating actions, there will be 667ppm. For the purposes of this proposal, I have set a target of 345ppm, requiring a reduction of 322ppm. This equates to 1.706 trillion tons of CO2.
Sustained removal of CO2 from the atmosphere requires conversion to a track-able product in the solid phase. Utilizing photosynthesis of algae, my process converts CO2 to an organic monomer that is the building block of a non-biodegradable polymer.
Carbon forms 27.3% of CO2, therefore, 1.706 trillion tons of CO2 equates to 465 billion tons of solid carbon. Chemically converting this to a thermosetting biopolymer requires a molecular mass multiplier of about 1.29, resulting in a final mass of 600 billion tons of biopolymer. Given the density in kgm-3 of 1.369, this equates to 441 billion m3.
The 2014 wood market consumes 3.26 billion m3 per year. It has grown at a rate of 2.5% over the last 30 years. I assume this growth rate is sustained for the next 80 years, consuming a total of 881 billion m3 of wood. In the past, this has been split equally between burning, and non-burning applications. For this model, I assume that this relationship continues and non-burning applications of wood will consume a total of 440.5 billion m3 over the coming 80 year period.
In conclusion, replacing the non-burning applications of wood with Lock In Blocks will cut atmospheric CO2 to 345 ppm in 2094.
The model tab was not meaningful for the calculations created to support this proposal - a fully functional model can be provided upon request
Current CO2 data came from Mauna Loa Observatory: Scripps CO2 Program as found on co2now.org
World population and growth rates from Worldometers.info
Wood market data came from IBISWorld Industry Report 42331: Lumber Wholesaling in the US, by Amal Ahmad, January 2014
Wood density data fromwww.engineeringtoolbox.com
Per capita lifetime emissions calculated from World Bank Data including data found at wdi.worldbank.org/table/3.8
Discussions on the applications of and properties of sustainable materials, including wood replacement technologies, were undertaken with Seva Tsodokov, of Metacomb, Inc.