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Geoengineering: Sprinkling Mineral Dust in Oceans to Combat Climate Change

Geoengineering is a technique that can be used to reverse the effects of climate change on a global scale; it is considered highly controversial as it may have unknown secondary effects on a global scale. Despite this risk it is still researched as a failsafe option in case efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are unsuccessful.

A new study reports on one method of geoengineering that could prove immensely effective, that of sprinkling billions of tonnes of mineral dust into the oceans. It is stated that this will make the seas more alkaline, meaning that they can then absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Unfortunately this is also likely to change the biology of the oceans, and would require a new mining industry on the scale of the coal mining industry in order to produce sufficient olvine (the mineral to be used).

Peter Köhler, the leader of the study, from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany, said that 100 huge ships would be needed to distribute the mineral dust all year around.

Related Article: The Trade-off between Aerosols and Greenhouse Gases

Köhler’s study showed that three billion tonnes of olvine a year would be enough to remove around 10 percent of CO2 emissions from the atmosphere, although the process of mining the mineral and distributing it would release carbon emissions, amounting to a third of the carbon absorbed by the seas due to the geoengineering.

Köhler’s proposal to sprinkle mineral dust into the ocean offers a more permanent solution to that of spraying sulphate particles into the air. “With atmospheric geoengineering, once you start you have to keep going. If you stop there may be a very abrupt increase in warming on a magnitude you do not know, if carbon emisisons have not been reduced.” The mineral dust actually causes the sea to absorb the CO2 permanently. Stopping the process of sprinkling the dust in the ocean would only mean that no more CO2 was absorbed.

By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com


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