By Clive Hamilton
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Additional resources for Earthmasters: The Dawn of the Age of Climate Engineering
17–44. Changes in stocks from C. htm (accessed Feb. 2012). Mike Raupach provided data in a more suitable format. indd 23 03/12/12 5:12 PM Earthmasters stored in the deep and intermediate layers of the oceans (the surface layer holds relatively little) – ten times more than is stored underground as coal, oil, natural gas and peat. 6 It is immediately apparent why getting more carbon more quickly into the oceans is so alluring. As the quantities there are so vast our additions would not seem to make much difference.
Indd 34 03/12/12 5:12 PM Sucking Carbon however, the bloom’s growth stopped after two weeks. The algae had attracted abundant predators, mainly in the shape of small crustacean zooplankton known as copepods (meaning ‘oar-feet’). The ecosystem went into recycling mode, with the carbon dioxide cycling through the planktonic life forms in the upper ocean zone, so that very little of the bio-captured carbon made it to the deep. The LohaFex scientists realized that the problem could be traced to the fact that waters in that part of the Southern Ocean contain no silicon, the element used by diatoms to make their glassy shells, shells that deter predators so that the carbon can find its way to the ocean floor.
Instead of diatoms a host of softer plankton flourished and they were immediately eaten by a range of predators before they’d sunk a few metres. 23 It turns out that two-thirds of the Southern Ocean has very little silicon so iron fertilization would be ineffective at sending carbon to the ocean depths. Efforts would need to be concentrated in those areas where fertilization would favour diatoms. Solving humanity’s global warming problem seems a heavy burden for these tiny marine creatures. The researchers estimate that if the silicon-rich third of the Southern Ocean were seeded with iron, the biological pump would at most take 1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.
Earthmasters: The Dawn of the Age of Climate Engineering by Clive Hamilton