Yesterday we ran a post on two UK stories that included one report, in the Guardian and prompted by a Nature-published study, on the fate of algae and other plankton that bloom in the sea when fertilized by iron. The gist is that a research team ran its test to a well-defined ocean eddy and were thus able to see what happens to the organic, carbon-rich material in the bloom in relative isolation from surrounding waters. They report that a large share of the blooms eventually sank deep, perhaps to sediments. Thus prospects increase that some atmospheric carbon can be diverted to the sea floor in a form that will stay there, relatively inert (and not contributing much to acidification) for centuries. But it is far from demonstration that large scale operations would be safe or would have major impact on atmospheric CO2.
That one story was leading a small platoon. Here are some more:
- NY Times (Green Blog) Rachel Nuwer: A Way to Trap Carbon Deep in the Ocean ; Her primary source, one of the authors at Germany's Alfred Wegener Institute, explains that while such measures could never have the scale to offset humankind's current rate of excess CO2 emission, it might help draw down the accumulation of CO2 beyond natural levels once and if industrial emissions drop drastically. But here's a question about norms and tradecraft. Traditional news stories have seldom listed the email addresses, phone numbers, and office locations where their sources can be reached, or found. This story links the man's name directly to a web page with all that info. Sure, it's available to anybody who wants to hunt it down. But doing the work for all readers - does that make him likely to get unwanted harassing (or welcome, complimentary) reaction from the public? To provide it so easily, should it become routine, may make other sources chary of helping journalists get their stories together. Maybe Ms. Nuwer got his permission? To have provided links to the university's press release or general description of the research or even an unadorned bio wouldn't raise my eyebrows. This makes me nervous. (I must say that I link to press releases that give email, phone numbers, etc., of press officers at research institutions. The ethics and social consideration aspects of that, compared to this blog's similar link to a source's personal contact info, are not well sorted out in my brain.)
- ScienceNOW - Eli Kintisch: Did Marine Snot Cause the Ice Ages? ; Highly detailed, good history of the work, lots of perspective, and does not take practical oceanic sequestration as the most important angle for judging the study. Until reading this I hadn't noticed that most of the field research behind this paper was some years ago.
- Chemistry World (Royal Society, UK) - Hayley Birch: Ocean fertilisation shows carbon sequestration promise .
- Reuters - Alister Doyle: Fertilizing oceans with iron dust helps sink carbon: study; Highlights angle that while nobody who is seriously qualified to have an opinion thinks this kind of thing should be on the list of practical things to do - but that a moratorium now in place on further experiments is out of line.
- LiveScience - Wynne Parry: Could fertilizing oceans reduce global warming? ; Story is tentative about answering the hed's question. Which suggests that asking a question in a headline shouldn't be a bait and switch operation in which there is no way the reader is any surer of the answer after reading the story, other than the answer is maybe, maybe not.
Dept of Going off on Tangents:
Speaking of oceanic fertilization of a different sort, and of Ms. Wynne Parry, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution today released the names of its 2012 Ocean Science Journalism Fellows, including her. WHOI Press Release.
Grist for the Mill: Alfred Wegener Institute Press Release ;
- Charlie Petit