Fertilizing the oceans with iron could help remove a gigaton of carbon dioxide per year

Iron fertilization could remove one gigaton of CO2 per year

Last year, Buesseler joined a group of scientists to release a report through the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that looked at several options for fighting climate change, including iron fertilization and increasing the levels of phytoplankton in the world’s oceans. Buesseler doesn’t believe adding iron to the world’s oceans on a mass scale to increase phytoplankton levels would cause any harm to global ecosystems. However, he does stress that more research is needed to investigate the effects.

Buesseler explained that up to a gigaton of carbon dioxide could be sequestered on a yearly basis using the phytoplankton method — and this, he told The Daily Beast, is a “very conservative” estimate. “It will change the types of plants and animals that grow, but that is already happening with the changes in temperature and acidity,” he said.

Iron fertilization could be deployed fairly easily and cheaply using boats that would simply have to tip the iron into specifically selected regions — chosen because they are lacking in iron. The iron would also take effect quickly, as phytoplankton blooms can be observed within 24 hours of iron being added to water.

It’s important to note that Buesseler doesn’t see iron fertilization as an alternative to ending the fossil fuel industry. In fact, in July last year, scientists from the U.S. Center for International Environmental Law wrote that carbon capture was a “dangerous distraction” that could be used as an excuse to slow the transition away from fossil fuel consumption. Still, the method could help to avoid the worst effects of climate change alongside other strategies focused on carbon removal and renewable energy production.

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