A sprinkle of fairy dust may be all it takes to put the brakes on global warming. Researchers in Germany have found that seeding our oceans with olivine, a common Earth mineral named for its color, might speed up the absorption of carbon dioxide. Other upsides may include the tempering of ocean acidification, which has destroyed vast swaths of precious coral reefs and upset fish populations.
If only geo-engineering were so simple. As it turns out, there are a number of obstacles beyond the inherent risks involved in tampering with our ecosystem on a massive scale:
To carry out such a project would require in the range of a 100 bulk tankers and shipping vessels to be used to distribute the minerals "10 times a year," requiring the frequent usage of ships needed for international business purposes. Further, the ocean-wide changes caused by the distribution of minerals could affect the species composition of plankton populations, which form a key component of essentially every marine ecosystem.
The plan would be far from the first attempt at ocean seeding. In October it was discovered that entrepreneur Russ George had dumped 100 tons of iron sulphate in the Pacific Ocean in an attempt to spawn an artificial plankton bloom. The experiment violated a number of international treaties and has so far had no discernable effect. But by all means, let’s keep at it.
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