One idea for removing excess carbon dioxide from the Earth's atmosphere may not work as well as advertised, according to a new study. The problem arises from extra-greedy diatoms, a type of algae with structured silica bodies.
In the past few years, some researchers and enthusiasts have proposed dumping iron into the ocean as a strategy for mitigating climate change. Last fall, a California businessman even did a little of his own ocean fertilization, drawing condemnation from legal experts. The idea is that the iron acts as a fertilizer, encouraging the growth of photosynthetic plankton that, like land plants, absorb carbon dioxide. When the plankton die, they sink to the seafloor. In that way, they're supposed to sequester away excess carbon forever.
What would actually happen if you fertilized the ocean isn't well studied, but one new piece of research suggests that the iron's effects would be short-lived. In the long run, iron fertilization may even decrease the amount of carbon dioxide-absorbing algae that live in the ocean. Recently, another research team also found that fertilizing the ocean may not work, as the plankton could run out of nitrogen.
For the newer study, oceanographers from several U.S. institutions studied phytoplankton off the coast of West Antarctica. There, they found, diatoms take iron from the ocean and put it in their shells at a high rate. They even seem to take up more than they need. "Just like someone walking through a buffet line who takes the last two pieces of cake, even though they know they'll only eat one, they're hogging the food," Ellery Ingall, an earth scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology who went to collect the phytoplankton, said in a statement.
Iron that enters the Antarctic Ocean via snowmelt and dust can barely keep up with the diatoms' appetite, Ingall and his colleagues wrote in a study they published on Monday in the journal Nature Communications.
This could mean that if someone were to dump iron into the ocean, much of it would be taken up by diatoms. That might be fine at first. Diatoms are photosynthetic, so they absorb carbon dioxide. When they die and fall to the bottom of the ocean, however, they take the iron they ate with them, trapped in their silica shells.
After an initial bloom from iron fertilization, diatoms may leave other plankton types with less iron, reducing the size of carbon dioxide-absorbing plankton blooms, according to Argonne National Laboratory. Argonne scientists worked on this study by analyzing diatom silica structures for their iron content.
Studies like this help scientists understand the consequences of ocean fertilization without having to actually dump anything into the water, which is controversial among conservationists and may violate international law.
In the late 1970's we were told there was an ice age coming, then we were told the climate was warming and NYC would be underwater by the year 2000. Then the "smart people" decided to call the coming catastrophe "Climate Change!" that way, no matter what happens they couldn't be wrong!
You know, I would be seriously worried if the climate ever stopped changing! History has shown that the climate is constantly changing, theres no reason to believe we are the cause, or have the power to do anything about it. What is the "ideal" temperature? This is about controlling people, not about controlling the climate.
This planet has gone through centuries and millennia of much warmer and much colder times. Human beings have been around for an unimaginably insignificant time period in the overall history of the planet. How about we worry about things we have real control over… not that I can tell you exactly what that is, but I can tell you its not the climate!
The global cooling work of the 70s was based primarily on milankovich cycles. The limits of the computers of the day allowed a resolution of n=1 and assumed earth was a perfect black body. As our technology has advanced we can treat earth less and less uniform having hundreds or even thousands of resolution units.
The problem isn't that the climate is changing so much as the rate at which it's changing. Very few times in the past had the climate changed this quickly and that has always been caused by massive events such as the Siberian basalt flats degassing and accompanied by massive extinction rates.
I don't understand why man made climate change deniers use studies from FIFTY YEARS AGO as reasoning behind their denial.
First of all, natural climate change DOES happen, people on both sides of the isle can agree upon that.. But natural climate change takes HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of years.
What's happening right now has taken only two hundred years (more like 150 years) to happen.
I don't know how many times i read the same old drivel from man made climate change deniers.
1. the 70's studies said..
2. climates change.
The earth has warmed and cooled.. sure! over the course of 250,000 years.. absolutely.
what is FACT is that the earth is warming right now, but at a ridiculously alarming rate. Some 1000 times faster then natural cycles have done.
The air we breath comes from plankton (see: PBS's the Earth from Space series for satellite images of this happening).. If those plankton go, we're screwed, and in a big way. if the ocean becomes too acidic to support plankton growth, CO2 levels will grow exponentially... and planting a few trees isn't going to make any difference.
I just hope the deniers can become science understanders before it's too late.
once the plankton go, we're literally doomed.
i guess if you believe the earth is only 6,000 years old, then 150 years isn't that short of a span of time.. but the truth is, the earth is 8 billion years old.. and 150 years is less then a fraction of a second. The amount of change that has occurred in just the last century and a half is simply frightening to anyone with the mental capacity to grasp it.
If you believe that the earth is 8 billions years old, then the hysteria over climate change makes even less sense. 150 years on a geological timescale is barely, if even noticed.
Science is constantly improving and disproving its own theories which were taken as fact. There is simply no reason to even consider taking crazy measures like fertilizing the ocean with iron or anything else. More than likely, any efforts on the part of humanity would do far more harm than good in one way or another.
These people that buy into the idea that humans are destroying the planet and causing climate change are the true "deniers" and are so closed and single minded that they themselves don't even realize it.
I don't know anyone denying there is climate change, what is in DISPUTE and correctly so, is the assumption that it "must" be humans someone causing the change!
We, as humans, simply are not that powerful. Even if we were to detonate every nuclear warhead we have, we wouldn't destroy the planet. We would make it extremely inhospitable to most life for more than a few years, but in a couple of hundred, or thousand years, it would be as if it never happened.
Should we as a society do things to clean up our environment? Of course!
Should we research and develop new and cleaner ways of generating power? Of course!
Should we blindly pollute our eco-system? Of course NOT!
Climate change will always happen, with or without humans. Being hysterical about it, and looking for ways to radically "fix" what we don't even clearly understand is not a good idea.
There are very few people that say we are literally destroying the planet. Life will go on. The problem lies in the fact that modern humanity has grown up in a very stable past 10000 years. Humans will survive but the current economic paradigm of infinite growth will not be able to continue. Agriculture is one major thing that will necessarily change. Another is that cities on the coast will have to mitigate rising sea levels. Whether natural or not, the change we are experiencing is bad news for our modern lifestyles.
Saying humans are insignificant to the earth and can't do any damage to it, is like saying the HIV virus is insignificant and can't harm a cell.
Both are about the same relative size to their host.
Killing off the planet doesn't mean obliterating it out of existence. Who ever said that?
I'm talking about mankind, and the large creatures we call wildlife.
even if we blew everything away, and killed every organism on the earth, life would come back eventually.
but who wants that?
Dumping antacid in the ocean isn't the answer, getting the CO2 out of the atmosphere and reducing how much we put up there IS.
risking the human species to save $.25 a gallon is about as foolish of a decision as any person could ever make.
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I think you completely missed my point. No one is suggesting we go out of our way to "destroy" the planet as we know it. I'm simply saying there is not as dire of a need to stop everything we're currently doing as some scientists and politicians would have you believe.
Oil is a natural product, or by product, of our eco system. It is mainly the old and decomposed remains of plant matter.
Would you have us all return to stone, or bronze-age technology? How about we revert everyone to burning wood for heat and fuel? That puts off far more "pollutants" per person overall.
There is nothing "evil" about oil, or using oil as a fuel source to advance humankind. At some point I'm sure it will be replaced by something better, and cleaner that someone like you down the line will find is somehow harmful to life as we all know it and will try to demonize that as well.
You can find harm in anything if you look hard enough. Wind power can kill birds, and I'm sure some will claim can alter the weather. Solar probably reflects too much light, etc, etc.
To re-iterate my original point. Global Warming, or Climate Change is going to happen with or without humans. Lets not do anything to try to stop it because we are still pretty stupid as a whole and would probably make matters a lot worse in whatever we try. Lets just do our best to do what we're already doing a little "cleaner". The earth has been hotter overall, even in human history… Greenland was once abundant in agriculture, sometime in the 1400's I remember reading. Northwest Passage wasn't always frozen. Things used to be warmer before the evil humans started using oil.
I agree there is no dire need to stop everything we are doing.
Because the experts are saying its already too late.
So man-made or not the change is happening and there is no need for you to believe it was caused by man.
The point the climate scientists are trying to drill into people like you is that you need to prepare for what is happening right now in front of your eyes.
The sea levels are already rising.
The climate is causing crops to fail.
Strange weather patterns are causing problems.
The sea is dying.
What is your plan to combat all of these problems happening in front of you?
Are you just going to wait to die?
Global cooling, boy that takes me back.
The ice age is coming-the ice age is coming.
Funny now, but it was the stuff of nightmare back then.
Anyone still agonizing over the ozone hole. I threw myself body and soul to save the planet on this cause.
What happen to CFC destroying it for thousands of years?
Nuclear is even making a comeback Boy did I look stupid protesting for the end of nuclear, now our best hope for powering the world without CO2 (hint, don’t build them in coastal arena, we should have learned that by now)
An whoever denied the impending doom was called heretic
Now we call them denier
Deniers are part of the scientist process, I wonder if Einstein would have been called a gravity denier in today’s scientific community.
Gravity it turned out was only part of it.
To call someone who has made research their whole life, not a serious scientist remind me of school yard bullying when name calling would be used to solve problem.
Some of the people that worked on the program used by NASA to measure our planet are taking offence to the way their work and the data are been used
We have no problems using the data provided by these scientist works, but discard them as not serious scientist when they don’t agree with the interpretation of the data.
Keeping in mind that I have been waiting, since 1992 (El-Nino anyone) for one bloody prediction to come true.