The International Herald Tribune reports that:

Some Silicon Valley technocrats are betting that it just might. In an effort to ameliorate the effects of global warming, several groups are working on ventures to grow massive floating fields of plankton intended to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and carry it to the depths of the ocean. It is an idea, debated by experts for years, that still sounds like science fiction — and some scholars think that is where it belongs.

On geological time scales, current CO2 concentrations are close to an all-time low. CO2 is critical to life on Earth. Without CO2, all plants die. Without plants, animals die. That includes us. Experiments aimed at reducing CO2 concentrations, without knowing whether or not the slight increase in CO2 concentrations due to human activity are causing catastrophic global arming, is premature:

To succeed, a geoengineering scheme would have to spike an area of ocean the size of Asia, nearly 500,000 times the size of the experimental patch. The bloom of plants could enrich the whole ecosystem.But the decay of all that organic matter could rob the surface waters of oxygen, generating huge anoxic zones–the equivalent of a giant swampy layer in the ocean–that would kill marine life there. It is even possible that the organic matter could exacerbate global warming by generating methane, a greenhouse gas much more potent than carbon dioxide. “I think it’s folly. It would just cause another environmental problem,” says Chisholm. “It’s so naive to think that we can do one thing and it’s going to have a predictable effect. The arrogance of human beings is just astounding.”

We would serve the Earth better if we focus on reducing atmospheric pollution, especially in the Third World, and on restoring the natural world by reducing man’s foot-print. Technology is the key.

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