Ocean Iron Fertilization for Geoengineering Should Be Abandoned

open ocean photo

photo: Anderson Mancini
Geoengineering as a whole arouses strong feelings in the green community, and ocean iron fertilization is no exception. Now, as Climate Progress points out (and excerpts from generously), a new opinion piece in Nature Magazine says that the whole prospect of ocean iron fertilization should be abandoned. Here's why:Ecological Side Effects Deleterious
Basically, authors Aaron Strong, Sallie Chisholm, Charles Miller, and John Cullen assert that both the IPCC and the Royal Society take a dim view of the technique, saying that the environmental consequences are unknown -- with the latter saying ocean iron fertilization probably has a relatively small capacity to absorb carbon and that the ecological consequences are "probably deleterious."

Ultimately though they support further research into the technique for the purposes of studying ocean processes, further research for the purpose of geoengineering is "both unnecessary and potentially counterproductive" as it diverts scientific resources and "encourages what we see as inappropriate commercial interest in the scheme."

No 'Control Patch' in Experiments...
Here's one of the more specific objections made:

Ocean fertilization for climate mitigation would have to be widespread and cumulative over decades. Thus, properly field testing its geoengineering potential would entail fertilizing and sampling an enormous swath of ocean. Assessment would be needed for between decades and a century or so to demonstrate sequestration, and to document the downstream effects on ecosystem productivity -- "nutrient robbing" as described in the Royal Society report -- and oxygen depletion. Such a test would have to be implemented against the background of a dynamic ocean that would remain exposed to unprecedented climate change, making the impacts of iron fertilization difficult to extract from other ongoing effects. In such a global experiment, there could be no 'control patch'.

Keeping in mind that the Royal Society, nor Nature don't exactly play lightly with words when talking about science, what do TreeHugger readers think about this. Check out the excerpt over at Climate Progress and they weigh in here.

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