Southern Ocean at sunsetWe fertilize our gardens to help our plants grow, but fertilizing the oceans to stop climate change? It sounds as ridiculous as it is. Dumping tonnes of iron sulphate into the ocean in hopes of stimulating massive up-take of carbon dioxide by an explosive bloom of iron-starved plankton may seem like a novel idea (although a complicated one), but it’s nothing more than a false climate change solution. It is far more likely to add insult to injury for marine species facing threats in a changing ocean than it is to address our CO2-ridden atmosphere by dumping more crap into the oceans. Nevertheless, there are proposed fertilization projects, albeit not without their controversy. And rightly so as far as I'm concerned. The ocean is a natural CO2 sink but not an infinite one and they are already becoming more acidic, reaching their breaking point of absorption. These fertilization projects could make matters worse by the creation of dead zones in the ocean as decomposing plankton use up the dissolved oxygen, the release of other, more potent greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and increase the absorption of sunlight and thus heat by the plankton, further heating a warming ocean. Not to mention other unforeseen effects due to a complete changes in the composition of ocean.

The idea is that once the plankton die they will take the CO2 with them to the ocean bottom for safe-keeping, but creating a bloom of plankton so big that it can be viewed from space, just doesn’t seem like a good idea. Sure, the proponents would argue that not only could it help lessen our changing climate but it could also feed our hungry whale populations, many of which rely on plankton for meals, but a slew of likely and unknown effects isn’t worth it.

Oh, and it’s illegal. The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity banned the practice. Given also that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) considers iron fertilization to be no more than ‘speculative’ as a climate change mitigation strategy, I question the motives.

One "experiment" is planned to take place half way between Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope – here’s to good hoping it doesn’t happen and we start coming up with climate change solutions at the source not the sink.

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