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ETpro's avatar

Could adding pollution to the oceans let us keep polluting the air without causing global climate change?

Asked by ETpro (34145 points ) July 20th, 2012

A 2004 research project in the ocean off the coast of Antarctica seems to have actually worked. Scientists deliberately added 7 tons of dissolved iron to the water, providing nutrients that then triggered an algae bloom. The diatoms and algae in the bloom take in CO2 from surface water. When they die, they sink to the ocean floor carrying the trapped CO2 with them. The resulting lowering of the CO2 content of the surface water makes it more CO2 absorptive, letting it take in more CO2 from the atmosphere. The result is carbon sequestration on the ocean floor and in bottom sediments.

What do you think about such geoengineering? Good idea, or one fraught with more risk than it’s worth? Would the direct approach, just cutting CO2 emissions into the air, be safer?

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14 Answers

syz's avatar

I think that we should have learned by now that screwing around with something so large and so complex is a recipe for disaster.

Ron_C's avatar

Every time I hear about one of these projects I wonder about the unintended consequences.

tedd's avatar

Algae blooms can also have drastic negative side effects. Many of them release various toxins that kill fish and other wildlife.

More importantly, algae blooms cause Dead Zones that are too low in oxygen to support life. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_zone_%28ecology%29#Causes

This would be an awful idea.

ragingloli's avatar

No, but it might help us decrease CO2 concentration once we stopped polluting.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Even the most Progressivist, pro-industrial development scientists have said that this can merely slow climate change. And then there’s the other negative effects @tedd mentions.

marinelife's avatar

Bad idea. Life depends on the oceans just as much as the air. Hiding out pollution in it does not make sense.

tinyfaery's avatar

Yeah. Let’s pollute the source of all living organisms. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

YARNLADY's avatar

Many people seem to have the idea that the oxygen in our air is mostly created by trees, but that is not so. More than half of the oxygen in our air comes from Phytoplankton. As ocean pollution kills them off, the major source for oxygen replacement in our atmosphere will disappear.

filmfann's avatar

This is exactly the kind of thing that you do that ends up causing a catastrophic situation.
History shows again and again how Nature points out the folly of Man.

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Godzilla!

Linda_Owl's avatar

I think that deliberately polluting our oceans is a very bad idea. The oceans are already in a very fragile state due to increased acidification from agricultural run-offs, over fishing, & plastic trash. And marine mammals that depend on sound for communication & to find their food, are having their hearing impaired by the US Navy’s insistence on testing new sonar weaponry. How much more can our oceans stand before they become marine deserts? We must address the air pollution problem directly by switching from fossil fuels to sustainable alternative fuels. The change over will require sacrifices from everyone on our planet & we first must over-come the mining & drilling companies that are insisting that Global Warming is not real so that they can (with very short sighted vision) continue to make tons of cash doing what they do best….. polluting our planet.

ETpro's avatar

@syz Well said. Geoengineering has a history of producing unintended, and often disastrous consequences.

@Ron_C I get why the fossil fule industry is hell-bent to make reality go away. But where do they find so many scientists who have apparently never heard of Murphy’s Law, and its disturbing set of corollaries?

@tedd Those are just the beginning of the things that could possibly go wrong.

@ragingloli Far too obvious. Surely we can’t take any such direct approach so long as the fossil fuel industry is in the driver’s seat.

@incendiary_dan Right on target. Thanks.

@marinelife Fiddling with its makeup doesn’t make sense.

@tinyfaery Well said. GA.

@YARNLADY Well, they are trying to feed the phytoplankton nutrients they can use to rapidly multiply (bloom). But there is so much still unknown about these organisms’ life cycles that I have to agree with you.

@filmfann Exactly. Let’s make sure Mothra is ready for the fight.

@Linda_Owl Particularly after the Japaneses Tsunami. Ocean dead zones are rapidly on the rise.

mattbrowne's avatar

I fear that around 2030 we will have to start resorting to geoengineering. The crisis won’t be solved on a political level.

ETpro's avatar

@mattbrowne I fear you are right, and consequences be damned. The greed of the oil billionaires limits their vision to nothing beyond immediate profits. And they have the money to sponsor junk science, PR and lobbying to ensure they rule the roost.

mattbrowne's avatar

I’m generally very optimistic about the future. This is an exception, at least when viewed from a political standpoint. So, let’s hope that the engineers and scientists get the geoengineering right when we have to use it as a last resort.

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