National Academy of Sciences offers six proposals
In the fight against climate change, the oceans might be our greatest allies. So says a National Academy of Sciences panel, which has proposed six ways the world’s oceans might help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and requested funding in the range of $1 billion over the next decade to test the efficacy of each. The panel doesn’t know whether any of these methods would work, hence the need for study, but it is certain that we need to do something to curb the amount of CO2 in the air to avoid major environmental consequences.
“We don’t answer the question, ‘Should we?’” panel chairman Scott Doney, a biogeochemist at the University of Virginia, told the Associated Press. “The question is, ‘Can we?’ And if we do, what would be the impacts, and one of the things we try to highlight is that all of these approaches will have impacts. What are the consequences to the environment?”
Some of the proposals are within the realm of science fiction, and geoengineering the world’s oceans would be a tall task indeed.
This would make the oceans less acidic. The more alkaline they are, the more carbon they can absorb. Acidic waters have also been wreaking havoc on shellfish and reefs. Because of the basic chemistry involved, Doney said, this would almost surely work, but it’s the most expensive of the proposals and a risky one. The report recommends $350 million in research.
This would also make the world’s oceans less acidic. This method would be less expensive and risky than electrical jolting. The panel requested $125 million to $200 million for research.
Dropping phosphorus or nitrogen to the ocean surface. The idea is that the nutrients would cause plankton to photosynthesize, inhaling CO2 and dropping deeper into the water. The panel says this has medium risk and medium to high chance of success. Their recommendation is for $290 million in research and experimentation.
Similarly to plankton, seaweed would absorb CO2 then either drop or be pumped to the deep ocean. The panel has medium confidence in this proposal, and it poses medium to high risk of environmental damage. They asked for $130 million in research.
A healthier marine ecosystem could absorb more carbon. Taking low-impact measures to heal the ecosystem wouldn’t pose much risk, but it low to medium chances of working. The report estimates $220 million in research.
The movement of these controlled waves would stimulate plankton growth in the world’s oceans. This proposal has little chance of success and high risk of environmental harm, the panel said. The report asks for $25 million in research.