Qualitative proposals to control atmospheric CO2 concentrations by spreading crushed olivine rock along the Earth's coastlines, thereby accelerating weathering reactions, are presently attracting considerable attention. This paper provides a critical evaluation of the concept, demonstrating quantitatively whether or not it can contribute significantly to CO2 sequestration. The feasibility of the concept depends on the rate of olivine dissolution, the sequestration capacity of the dominant reaction, and its CO2 footprint. Kinetics calculations show that offsetting 30% of worldwide 1990 CO2 emissions by beach weathering means distributing of 5.0 Gt of olivine per year. For mean seawater temperatures of 15–25 °C, olivine sand (300 μm grain size) takes 700–2100 years to reach the necessary steady state sequestration rate and is therefore of little practical value. To obtain useful, steady state CO2 uptake rates within 15–20 years requires grain sizes <10 μm. However, the preparation and movement of the required material poses major economic, infrastructural and public health questions. We conclude that coastal spreading of olivine is not a viable method of CO2 sequestration on the scale needed. The method certainly cannot replace CCS technologies as a means of controlling atmospheric CO2 concentrations.