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You may never look at a piece of seaweed the same way. Acclaimed scientist, Professor Tim Flannery, argues that seaweed has vast potential to draw carbon out of the atmosphere – and to also provide a generous food source for fish. In his new book, Sunlight and Seaweed, Flannery explores the potential of kelp, a fast-growing sea algae, to be used on a large scale to convert carbon from the air to a non-gaseous form, reducing levels of atmospheric carbon. Drawing carbon out of the atmosphere is an essential component in limiting climate change.

The former Australian of the Year also refers to new technologies that use concentrated sunlight to provide intense heat energy.  The book breaks down a number of emerging technologies that Prof Flannery believes are key to stopping global warming.

All up, he says, there is cause for climate optimism. However, this means we start planning - an opportunity we have missed numerous times before.

“Seaweed farming is already a $10 billion industry and it is very well understood… it draws acidity out of the water and it’s also a food source for fish,” he says, adding that the approach would appeal to businesses. “You can grow seaweed off the coasts where the carbon in the seaweed is sequestered forever. It could play a huge role in drawing down carbon from the atmosphere.”

Solar energy has, until now, been limited to supplying power only when the sun is shining. But new technology using concentrated sunlight to provide intense heat energy that can be effectively stored overcomes this problem, providing clean renewable power around the clock.

Additionally, the large amounts of power produced can be used to tackle the issue of feeding the world’s growing population—by enabling energy-intense methods of purifying polluted land for agricultural production.

In Sunlight and Seaweed, he “lays a foundation for a more optimistic view” of the fight against climate change. “We need to cut down as hard and fast as we can on emissions right now (and then) start building our capacity as a species (to reverse warming).”

But he called for greater government investment in renewable energy, pointing to the recent announcement of a $650 million solar plant in South Australia as a good start.

The Aurora Solar Energy Project will open in 2020 and supply 100 per cent of the state’s energy.

“The sort of concentrated solar thermal plants such as the one being built in Port Augusta have huge potential,” Prof Flannery said.

Sunlight and Seaweed is available through Text Publishing.