Scientists and entrepreneurs alike are abuzz over iron fertilization, a controversial technique that uses iron-seeded plankton to sequester atmospheric carbon for centuries deep underwater. Now, a San Francisco-based climate startup called Climos has proposed a code of conduct to address contentious aspects of how experiments are conducted.
Some researchers envision the technique as an effective way to sequester billions of tons of carbon deep in the ocean for decades or even centuries. By dumping iron dust into the ocean, the thinking goes, scientists could stimulate the growth of plankton, for which iron is a limiting nutrient. As a plankton bloom grows, its carbonaceous waste would sink to a depth of roughly 500 meters or more. A number of medium scale experiments unrelated directly to climate change have confirmed that iron catalyzes the proliferation of plankton. But these studies weren’t designed to determine whether greenhouse gases apart from CO2 could be produced as an unwanted side effect, or whether scaling up the experiments to sequester millions of tons of carbon would damage ecosystems.
The prospect of selling carbon credits earned through iron dumps has attracted a number of commercial ventures, including Climos. But critics, including some leading oceanographers, say corporate profits could taint research, or that the risks, which could include the growth of harmful algal blooms, outweigh the possible benefits.
This is an interesting sequestration technique but before large scale implementation we need to know what effects this will have on ocean ecosystems, and if any greenhouse gases other than CO2 are emitted