Skip to comments.Ocean-seeding experiment re-ignites geo-engineering debate
Posted on 07/20/2012 11:49:32 AM PDT by Ernest_at_the_Beach
German researchers have re-ignited debate over geo-engineering by saying that seeding oceans with iron is an effective way to lock up CO2.
While the principle behind seeding is simple enough the iron acts as a fertilizer for phytoplankton, which multiply and consume carbon dioxide as they grow the topic is fiercely debated.
The core of the argument is also simple: its probably impossible to predict what other environmental impacts phytoplankton fertilization would have.
The researchers, led by Victor Smetacek from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, are reporting the results of a 2004 experiment in Nature (discussion here, abstract here).
The team used a 60 km eddy in the Southern Ocean as the site for the experiment, scattering seven tonnes of iron sulphate particles which developed into a giant diatom plankton bloom. What the researchers are now reporting is that the majority of the bloom, when it died, sank to the deep ocean (below a depth of 1,000 meters).
The ocean is the worlds largest carbon sink, but much of the carbon captured remains close to the surface and is soon returned to the atmosphere. By capturing CO2 in organisms that sink to the deep ocean, the group says carbon could be sequestered at the bottom of the ocean for centuries.
If the dead phytoplankton became part of ocean-floor sediments, Smetacek writes, the sequestration could last even longer.
The problem is this: other impacts of geo-engineering particularly on a scale sufficient to make an appreciable difference to the climate are complete unknowns.
Hence, as AFP reports, British professor John Shepherd warns that the report does not address the potential ecological side effects in what is a poorly understood field.
Smetacek is aware of the unanswered questions, and told Nature the Alfred Wegener Institute will not conduct any further fertilization experiments. Rather, he says, studies of natural blooms occurring around Antarctic islands could provide more information. ®
Bootnote: Thanks to the reader who corrected my spelling of the research organisation, to the Alfred Wegener Institute. ®
One big benefit: lots of fish feeding on the plankton. Unfortunately, lack of any ability to “own” the seeded part of the ocean would mean that others would harvest what you plant.
If iron locks up CO2 and CO2 is unrelated to warming, no harm done.
If iron locks up CO2 and CO2 causes warming, and we are actually warming as a result of CO2, then good deal.
If iron locks up CO2 and CO2 causes warming, but we are actually on a long-term cooling trend at the end of an inter-glacial period, then Holy Snowblower, Batman, it’s gonna get freaking COLD on this planet!
Yep - the sun seems to be on a downward trend of magnetic activity, which means more cosmic rays hitting the atmosphere, which means more water droplets forming, which means more clouds/rain, which matches the beginning of the Little Ice Age (1315).
This phenomenon is repeatable in a laboratory; not dependent on some fraudulent computer simulation.
This is a horrible idea. Who wants to bet that if this actually happens that it will cause some kind of major environmental problem that was unintended?
Now, they get front page in all the newspapers and are taken seriously by a large segment of our population
Sometimes I really miss the more saner era that of the past
Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is not a native species; it was introduced to North America in the early 1800’s from Eurasia. Settlers imported plants for their gardens and seeds were present in soil used for ballast on ships. Since those early beginnings, purple loosestrife has found its way into wetlands in nearly every Province and State in North America.
Lythrum salicaria, an invasive species that crowds out native species and disrupts water flow patterns.
Beginning in the 1980’s, the common “japanese beetle” was introduced as a biological control. A voracious feeder and natural predator of the loostrife.
Only after the introduction of the japanese beetle did science find out that the beetle (who is also a voracious breeder) didn’t feed exclusively on the plant. Several ornamental plants found throughout the great lakes region became infested. Ornamental roses in particular were found to be decimated in various locales.
They never learn, do they?
I liked the conversation about this here (see comments)
They’re going to keep screwing around until something really bad happens, imho.