Monday, February 11, 2008

Ocean Carbon Fix Using Iron Is Unproven, Marine Scientists Say

Releasing iron into the ocean to stimulate the capture of carbon dioxide and alleviate global warming is an unproven method, and shouldn't be rewarded with pollution credits, marine scientists from around the world said.
The technique, known as ocean iron fertilization, uses the metal to stimulate the growth of microscopic plants that absorb and trap carbon dioxide from the air. Some private groups are planning to use the process to generate so-called carbon credits, tradable pollution permits, the scientists say in tomorrow's edition of the journal Science, without naming the organizations.
While trials of the process have increased scientific understanding, there isn't yet enough proof that it can be used as an effective way to trap carbon dioxide, the main gas blamed for global warming, the scientists, led by Ken Buesseler at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, say.
``As yet, there is no scientific basis for issuing such carbon credits for ocean iron fertilization,'' they wrote. ``Adequate scientific information to enable a decision regarding whether credits should be issued could emerge from reducing uncertainties; this will only come through targeted research.''
The researchers proposed field studies be conducted across a wider portion of ocean and a longer period of time. They also suggested an investigation of the effects on seabirds, fish and marine mammals of adding iron to the ocean.
``While we do envision the possibility of iron fertilization as an effective form of carbon offsetting, we believe larger scale experiments are needed to assess the efficiency of this method and to address possible side effects,'' one of the paper's authors, Professor Andrew Watson of the U.K.'s University of East Anglia, said in a statement. ``There remain many unknowns and potential negative impacts.''
Other institutions whose scientists contributed to the paper include the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, Stanford University in California and establishments in New Zealand, the Netherlands, India and Germany.
To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Morales in London at .

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