The Green New Deal: Algal Solutions to Reversing Climate Change and Ending World Hunger

Charles H Greene, Cornell University, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Ithaca, NY, United States
The industrial production of marine microalgae can provide a foundation for reversing climate change while simultaneously addressing the global challenges of food, energy, and water security. Microalgae can be cultivated to produce a variety of biopetroleum products, including carbon neutral biofuels for the transportation sector and long-lived, potentially carbon-negative construction materials for the human-built environment. In addition to mitigating and potentially reversing the effects of fossil CO2 emissions directly, microalgae can play an important indirect role. Because microalgae exhibit much higher primary production rates than terrestrial plants, they require much less land area to produce an equivalent amount of biofuels and food. On a global scale, reforestation and the avoided emissions resulting from displacement of conventional agriculture may exceed the benefits of microalgae biofuels in achieving climate stabilization targets. The production of marine microalgae has the potential to supply much of the protein necessary to feed a global population approaching 10 billion people by mid-century while simultaneously conserving global freshwater resources, wild-caught fisheries, and nearly 3 million km2 of cropland. By decreasing fossil carbon emissions and reforesting conserved cropland, microalgae can account for up to a one third reduction of global CO2 emissions each year by 2040.