Essay by Eric Worrall
Having failed to gain traction with solar geoengineering schemes, greens are dusting off ocean geoengineering ideas. But like all green ideas, ocean geoengineering has a deadly downside.
Can we beat climate change by geoengineering the oceans?
Chemically altering the seas through iron fertilisation or alkalinity enhancement could be our best hope to suck vast amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere – but questions remain on whether it is worth the risk
A SPRINKLING of iron ore “glued” onto rice husks using goo from plants hardly sounds like a recipe for saving the planet. Not to mention the fact that the mixture is designed to mimic whale faeces.
And yet if a team of researchers backed by a former chief scientific adviser to the UK government crack this, it could be coming to an ocean near you soon. Theirs is just one of several projects across the world, small in scale but big in vision, looking at a new way to stave off the worst effects of climate change: engineering the oceans.
Similar “geoengineering” proposals are highly controversial, and this idea is no different, horrifying those who warn of the potential unintended consequences of fiddling with sensitive marine environments. But the world’s lack of progress on curbing carbon emissions might make it necessary. A recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on how to tackle climate change made clear that deploying techniques to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere will be “unavoidable” if humanity is to achieve net zero carbon emissions around the middle of the century. On land, there are plenty of schemes to do that, from planting trees to machines in Iceland that chemically capture CO2 so it can be buried deep underground. But getting any of them to the scale we need in time to really make a difference is a tough ask. It could be that we need the oceans, too.
Sounds reasonable right? Nothing like solar geoengineering insanity, reflecting sunlight away from plants?
Not so fast.
Taiwan Research Group Challenges Global Warming Solution
Translated and compiled by Shin-wei Chang and Olivia Yang
“Iron fertilization” is widely recognized as a possible applicable solution to global warming. However, a research team led by Haojia Abby Ren, associate professor of Geosciences at National Taiwan University (NTU), has proved that “iron fertilization” is not beneficial to algae.
To alleviate the impact of global warming, scientists have proposed a hypothesis of “iron fertilization,” assuming that adding iron into the ocean can boost the growth of algae to absorb the carbon dioxide in the air.
However, researchers in Taiwan have found flaws in this hypothesis.
The growth of algae requires nutrients other than iron, such as nitrate and phosphate. With the growing amount of algae, consumption of these nutrients also increases in the area. But when currents carry the algae to other waters, the nutrients become relatively scare elements, making algae hard to grow.
This results in iron fertilization not being able to increase the growth of algae worldwide; on the contrary, it would suppress the growth of algae in the equatorial zone. In addition, there is a limited reduction of carbon dioxide, and there would be a lack of oxygen in the ocean.
The 2016 study which dismisses the alleged benefits of iron fertilisation is available here.
If the Taiwanese scientists are right, the worst case outcome of a major ocean iron fertilisation effort could be the creation of a large equatorial ocean dead zone, and no net absorption of CO2.
A large equatorial dead zone is probably not as devastating as what the solar geoengineering fans want to do to us, which could cause global famine, but who knows. Either way lets hope none of these high risk global climate tinkerers ever receive the funding they are looking for.
via Watts Up With That?
July 4, 2022 at 08:26AM