Give me half a tanker of iron and I’ll give you the next ice age so said oceanographer John Martin in a famous speech to colleagues during the 80s. Martin was referring to the process of “iron fertilization”; which when applied to the oceans in slurry form promotes vast blooms of algae. The algae in turn consume carbon dioxide as they grow; thus removing more from the atmosphere and preventing climate change. Problem solved? From the article,
“‘There are many critical questions that require both better scientific understanding and an improved legal, economic, and political framework before iron fertilization can be considered either effective or appropriate,’ said Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist in WHOI’s Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department and a participant in two iron fertilization experiments at sea. ‘The time is right to bring scientists, policymakers, and commercial interests together to inform each other and the public.”‘
Though common on land, dissolved iron is rarely found in the oceans. This may be for a good reason as no one is exactly sure what massive blooms of algae would do to ecosystems. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is holding a conference this week to determine the benefit of iron fertilization and if it may indeed prove to be a safe, cheap, counter-attack to climate change.
While it’s great to have these weapons in hand, the real silver bullet in preventing pollution and catastrophe is to address our own emissions and practices.