Russ George was interviewed by the ecologist. He describes how iron fertilization could be used to remove one trillion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere.
Russ George was involved in the fertilizing of the ocean off of Canada in 2012 with 100 tons of iron.
In the fall of 2013, 226 million pink salmon were caught. They stopped at 226 million because there was no longer any capacity to accept more fish. All of the fish handling facilities were filled. Reports from villages and communities indicate that half a billion pink salmon came back. This was ten times the predicted 50 million and a record.
The background level of iron in the open ocean is only 3 parts per trillion. Iron dust in dirt fall from the deserts can boost the level of iron to 100 parts per trillion.
Before the ice age, the Earth became dry and dusty. Restoring the ocean to a pre-ice age level would store 1 trillion tons of CO2 which is about all of the emissions that humans have put into the air. However, the pace of emissions has not slowed down. If it started slowing down the world might emit another 3 trillion tons from now to 2100 but if the emissions continued to increase then the world might emit another 6 trillion tons of CO2 by 2100. Storing 1 trillion tons by 2100 would lower temperature by about 1 degree. Storing 1 trillion tons of CO2 is about 20 years worth of emissions.
If we restore the oceans we will have ten to fifty times as many fish as today.
It would be easy to get the iron into the ocean. As noted by Goatguy when Nextbigfuture blogged about the iron fertilization 5 years ago, iron could be released from simple barges towed on the back of commercial ships (container ships, cruise ships, oil ships, fishing ships, etc…).
Massive kelp farms in the ocean can be like forests on land and agriculture on land
Usually the graphs showing temperature stabilization show the fairy tale of massive and immediate emissions drops to zero. They also show negative emissions in the future.
The negative emissions can start being scaled in parallel with to adopting cleaner energy and technology.
These methods will be faster to scale then complicated and industrial intensive carbon capture at coal and natural gas plants and factories and creating massive national and global pipelines to move the captured gas into underground storage.
Expand Commercial Kelp Growth by 100 times
There is a proposal to use about 9% of the oceans surface for massive kelp farms. The Ocean surface area is about 36 billion hectares. This would offset all CO2 production and provide 0.5 kg of fish and sea vegetables per person per day for 10 billion people as an “incidental” by-product. 9% of the world’s oceans would be equivalent to about four and a half times the area of Australia.
In 2016, seaweed farms produce more than 25 million metric tonnes annually. The global value of the crop, US$6.4 billion (2014), exceeds that of the world’s lemons and limes.
A 2016 report from the World Bank estimates that the annual global seaweed production could reach 500 million dry tons by 2050 if the market is able to increase its harvest 14% per year. Hitting that 500 million mark would boost the world’s food supply by 10% from the current level, create 50 million direct jobs. The Ocean forest plan would accelerate growth of seaweed farming to 25-50% per year growth and reach about 20-60 billion tons per year of production. The world currently produces about 4 billion tons per year of agricultural product.
Ocean Afforestation (aka Ocean Macroalgal Afforestation (OMA)), has the potential to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations through expanding natural populations of macroalgae, which absorb carbon dioxide, then are harvested to produce biomethane and biocarbon dioxide via anaerobic digestion. The plant nutrients remaining after digestion are recycled to expand the algal forest and increase fish populations.
Ocean Afforestation research suggests 12 billion tons per year of biomethane could be produced while storing 19 billion tons of CO2 per year directly from biogas production and 34 billion tons per year from carbon capture. These rates are based on macro-algae forests covering 9% of the world’s ocean surface, which could produce sufficient biomethane to replace all of today’s needs in fossil fuel energy, while removing 53 billion tons of CO2 per year from the atmosphere. This amount of biomass could also increase sustainable fish production to potentially provide 200 kg/yr/person for 10 billion people.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.