Researchers doubt global warming will be reduced by ocean fertilization

November 30th, 2007 - 6:03 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Nov.30 (ANI): Research undertaken at the Universities of Stanford and Oregon State have raised doubts about the viability of plans to fertilize the ocean in a bid to neutralize global warming.
According to Dr. Michael Lutz, who is presently working at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, the projected 100 billion dollar venture for reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a major contributor to global warming, is a non-starter at best.
Ocean fertilization, the process of adding iron or other nutrients to the ocean to cause large algae blooms, only reduces carbon dioxide in the atmosphere if the carbon incorporated into the algae sinks to deeper waters, he says.
This process is called the “Biological Pump”, and is thought to be dependent on the abundance of algae in the top layers of the ocean.
The more algae in a bloom, the more carbon is transported, or “pumped”, from the atmosphere to the deep ocean.
To test this theory, researchers compared the abundance of algae in the surface waters of the world’s oceans with the amount of carbon actually sinking to deep water.
They found clear seasonal patterns in both algal abundance and carbon sinking rates.
However, according to Dr. Lutz, the relationship between the two was surprising: less carbon was transported to deep water during a summertime bloom than during the rest of the year.
“If, during natural plankton blooms, less carbon actually sinks to deep water than during the rest of the year, then it suggests that the Biological Pump leaks. More material is recycled in shallow water and less sinks to depth, which makes sense if you consider how this ecosystem has evolved in a way to minimize loss”, said Lutz.
“Ocean fertilization schemes, which resemble an artificial summer, may not remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as has been suggested because they ignore the natural processes revealed by this research,” he added.
This analysis has never been done before and required designing specialized mathematical algorithms.
“By jumping a mathematical hurdle we found a new globally synchronous signal,” said Dr. Lutz.
This study closely follows a September Ocean Iron Fertilization symposium at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) attended by leading scientists, international lawyers, policy makers, and concerned representatives from government, business, academia and environmental organizations.
Topics discussed included potential environmental dangers, economic implications, and the uncertain effectiveness of ocean fertilization.
To date none of the major ocean fertilization experiments have verified that a significant amount of deep ocean carbon sequestration occurs. Some scientists have suggested that verification may require more massive and more permanent experiments.
According to Professor Rosemary Rayfuse, an expert in International Law and the Law of the Sea at the University of New South Wales, Australia, who also attended the Woods Hole meeting, ocean fertilization projects are not currently approved under any carbon credit regulatory scheme and the sale of offsets or credits from ocean fertilization on the unregulated voluntary markets is basically nothing short of fraudulent.
There are too many scientific uncertainties relating both to the efficacy of ocean fertilization and its possible environmental side effects that need to be resolved before even larger experiments should be considered, let alone the process commercialized, Rayfuse said.
All States have an obligation to protect and preserve the marine environment and to ensure that all activities carried out under their jurisdiction and control, she cautioned.
Indeed, the global study of Dr. Lutz and colleagues suggests that greatly enhanced carbon sequestration should not be expected no matter the location or duration of proposed large-scale ocean fertilization experiments.
The findings of Dr. Lutz and colleagues coincide with and affirm this month’s decision of the London Convention (the International Maritime Organization body that oversees the dumping of wastes and other matter at sea) to regulate controversial commercial ocean fertilization schemes. (ANI)

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