In a Correspondence in this week’s Nature , James Lovelock and Chris Rapley propose a way of stimulating the Earth to cure itself from the disease of global warming.
Lovelock, author of the Gaia hypothesis and his co-author Chris Rapley, newly appointed director of the Science Museum in London, argue that drastic action is needed to help heal the planet, as they believe it is “doubtful that any of the well-intentioned technical or social schemes for carbon dieting will restore the status quo”.
They turn to the ocean for solutions. Their proposed scheme involves placing vertical pipes some 200 meters long in the sea to pump nutrient-rich water from depth to the surface, thus enhancing the growth of algae in the upper ocean. The algae, which are key in transporting carbon dioxide to the deep sea and producing dimethyl sulphide involved in the formation of sunlight-reflecting clouds, should help to prevent further warming.
Although fertilizing the ocean with iron as a way of stimulating algal growth is being considered, the use of pipes to use the ocean’s existing nutrients as fertilizer is certainly novel.
Lovelock and Rapley admit that the scheme may fail or impact the ocean in negative ways, such as through further acidification (which is recognized a significant threat to marine life and water quality) but they argue that the stakes are so high now that we can’t afford not to try such a solution.
Read the news story by Quirin Schiermeier on the proposed scheme here.