back to article Under the Iron Sea: YES, tech and science could SAVE the planet

Back last week we had the news from Google bods (almost but not quite boffins) telling us there's no way to make renewable energy fuel in an advanced industrial society. Our esteemed editor here at El Reg then pointed out that we've got a reasonable and cheap method of producing all the power we need: nuclear. The frustration …

  1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    I sometimes get the feeling

    that the various environmentalist groups behave just like any bureaucracy: while there are one or two in the organisation who have the cause in mind, the majority just want the organisation to continue.

    Finding even a partial cure for an enviromental problem removes the need for their existince, so they're against it... that it involves (shock!) dumping waste is a bonus for them.

    Most engineers would agree that as a rule efficiency is good; doing more with less is usually an elegant solution and we like elegant solutions, but the environmentalists would have us living in caves and sound oh-so-plausible while they propose it.

    <Radical thought - if an environmentalist is so concerned about the effect of humans on the planet, shouldn't they immediately remove themselves from the equation? At the very least, sterilise themselves and prevent even more overpopulation? Should they not abjure the use of nasty energy-intensive technology, and give up the use of transport infrastructure, concrete structures, woven fabrics, electronics... ? And yet, and yet...>

    1. bill 36

      Re: I sometimes get the feeling

      It's not a radical thought at all.

      It would be easy to rant about this and i was tempted.

      As any good troubleshooter knows, you have to find the root cause of a problem to provide an effective fix.

      Right now there are too many hippies out there that cannot add 2+2 together. It is 4, always has been 4 and always will be 4.

      Our problem is that there are too many humans requiring too many resources.

      Therefore the answer is obvious except that its too controversial. Even worse than nuclear power.

      1. Fungus Bob Silver badge

        Re: I sometimes get the feeling

        "Therefore the answer is obvious except that its too controversial. Even worse than nuclear power."

        You mean Open Season on people every leap year?

        Yes, I *do* have 5 hunting rifles. Why do you ask?

    2. Chris Miller

      It isn't a bureaucracy, it's a religion

      We've all offended against Gaia, the Earth Mother, and now we must all be made to suffer for our sins. Proposing quick, cheap and effective solutions (or even suggesting that they could be worthy of investigation) is simply missing the point, which is penance.

      1. Cipher
        Coat

        Re: It isn't a bureaucracy, it's a religion

        A Modest Proposal:

        All hippies report to Soylent for processing...

    3. strum

      Re: I sometimes get the feeling

      >the environmentalists would have us living in caves

      Bullshit. 'The envirnomentalists' (if there were ever a single body of them) would have us engaged in new and prosperous industries, to replace the dead-end of fossils.

  2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Iron is not enough

    1. You need a whole laundry list of microelements and some of them are even higher on the "naughty" list than Ferrous Sulphate. The regulations unfortunately are not taking into account fact that you are dumping them in micro-quantities (if not nano-quantities) and to an exact measured spec. They just say no. There is also a way around it - agriculture has already done that for microelements.

    2. The guy who dumped it off British Columbia is probably full of it. That is not a part of the ocean that is anywhere near being a marine desert so the benefit of seeding it with extra microelements should be NIL.

    Temperate oceans are regularly stirred by winter storms so they do not go into a desert state. There is an excellent proxy for ocean desertification - visibility. The visibility off British Columbia is is usually sub-5m dropping down to sub-1m during the algae growth season. That is _NOT_ a desert, no point to seed it. Now, bang in the middle of the Indian ocean, visibility is 30m+. Now that is what I would call a desert.

    Additionally, the whole thing should be controlled in a very careful manner - if you overseed the algae will bloom too fast and the fish population will not catch up resulting in a Black Sea or Mexican Bay style "overfished sea" style bloom.

    1. Filippo

      Re: Iron is not enough

      That's kinda the point. We don't know if it would work without all the other microelements, and the guy who dumped it off BC is not really a scientific experiment. And we don't know if the results would be what we want anyway. We really, really need to run a few small-scale well-designed experiments - but we can't.

    2. Tim Worstal

      Re: Iron is not enough

      Iron not enough......weeeel.....not quite.

      There's areas where iron only is enough. There's other areas where iron and silicic acid are required. And then other areas where all sorts of other stuff is as well.

      This 1 Gtonne is iron and iron only.

      This isn't, btw, from the Alaska/BC bloke (although I've talked to him). It's from those German researchers (who I have also talked to).

      1. Frankee Llonnygog

        Re: Iron is not enough

        I am not a chemist, as I will now make clear...

        Ferrous Sulphate isn't iron only. What happens to the sulphur?

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: Iron is not enough

          I am not a chemist

          I am actually (albeit one that has gone to IT very long ago). At the concentrations at which you are looking at sulphate is mostly harmless and will end up being either bound by bacteria (sulphur is also an essential element) or hug a Ca or Mg ion from the environment and proceed towards the abyss below.

          Just to be clear - I agree with Trevor that there are places where Iron itself may be enough, there are ones where iron + silica may be enough. However, I would venture a very educated guess that these are actually few and far between.

          Based on the common prevalence of various microelements in the environment you are likely to run out of other microelements _LONG_ _BEFORE_ you run out of Iron and in that case you are not doing anything useful regardless of how much Iron you are dumping into the ocean. Similarly, even if they are around and Iron is not, throwing Iron into the mix will deplete them and they will become the limiting factor overnight.

          1. Tim Worstal

            Re: Iron is not enough

            I understand your point but disagree with it I'm afraid. We really do see such algal blooms when Saharan sand gets blown out into the Atlantic. And the boffins who have actually gone and done the experiments tells is that that 1Gtonne is about right for iron only, per annum.

    3. Primus Secundus Tertius

      Re: Iron is not enough

      I have always undestood that phosphorus in some soluble form was a limiting element. Phosphate is notoriously insoluble.

      Secondly, my geology lecturers always pointed out that a creature being fossilised is a rare event. Sounds sensible, otherwise we would be overwhelmed by fossils instead of regarding them as rarities. So fertilising the ocean may make fish (and squids and many small other invertebrates) but is unlikely to fix CO2 as fossil carbon.

      Most of the world's carbon exists as CO2 in chalk cliffs, seashells, etc. The organic carbon is a minor contaminant.

      For those reasons I believe Worstall is mistaken.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Iron is not enough

        "a creature being fossilised is a rare event...Most of the world's carbon exists as CO2 in chalk cliffs, seashells, etc."

        Those chalk cliffs (and limestone wolds etc): you do know what they're made out of don't you?

        1. Tim Worstal

          Re: Iron is not enough

          Thank you. Glad I didn't have to try to deal with that one.....chalk is CaCO3......

      2. Gordon 11

        Re: Iron is not enough

        Phosphate is notoriously insoluble.
        Phosphate is an anion, and hence not something that exists on its own.

        Monoammonium phosphate (or ammonium dihydrogen phosphate) is easily soluble in water (34.3g in 100g).

        It's a common fertilizer...

      3. rh587 Silver badge

        Re: Iron is not enough

        "I have always undestood that phosphorus in some soluble form was a limiting element."

        Sorry, but your understanding is limited. My Ocean Science lecturers universally defined Iron as the usual limiting nutrient, though in areas Phosphorous may also be limiting, or may be the next limiting nutrient once Iron has been supplied. It may also be that you only need to add a little iron for it to not be limiting, and each area needs a tailored cocktail to get the bets results.

        Certainly when I was studying this stuff it was established that it worked quite well, but the cost of actually processing and shipping that iron out there off-set most of the carbon sequestration that took place, which rendered the whole effort somewhat pointless.

        Of course if suitable seeding material can be sourced as a waste product of some other processing going on anyway, and it doesn't take much carbon to transport it from it's source to the coast (and sail out to sea), then that changes the equation rather dramatically.

        Of course care needs to be taken. Just because an area appears relatively barren of life does not mean it is not supporting certain niche species, and using it as a dumping ground to sequester carbon could - in excess - cause major environmental issues if we continuously bloom areas which should naturally be clear water.

    4. strum

      Re: Iron is not enough

      >to an exact measured spec

      And what would that 'measured spec' be?

      'It would be nice if this worked' isn't science.

  3. DriveBy

    You are probably right Tim... sadly.

    V.Similar to the carp about "vaping"...

    Same sort of people, same sort of objection...

    Not... Oh deep joy, we've solved that problem... Let's go and do something else...

    Oh no... Rather.... Get your BALLLS off of my green!

  4. The last doughnut

    It's a complex issue

    The whole climate change and man-made global warming issue must be like any large thing. Its big and scary but there are lots of sides to it, lots of angles. Some see it as a threat to their existence, others want to worship it as some kind of vengeful natural spirit. Some see it as an opportunity to eek out a living or something to pin their own political agenda to. Some want to address it as a series of technical or organisational problems that may be solvable.

  5. thames

    I hate to burst your bubble but ...

    I hate to burst your bubble, but the story about the guy who dumped iron off the coast of BC in 2012 is full of holes. We can start with his claim about the size of Fraser River salmon run. Reputable news reports put it at about 21 million, not 72 million as he claimed. There were 72 million was for all of BC, but that is quite a different matter from claiming 72 million for the Fraser River run alone.

    The other hole is that the area he dumped the iron in is not nutrient poor. Ocean currents carry nutrients from land and produce phytoplankton blooms, and he dumped his iron right in the middle of one of the richest of these.

    There was an exceptionally large salmon run for BC in 2014, but it was due to two factors. One was that salmon populations go in cycles, and 2010 (two years before the iron dump) was an unusually good year. They laid a lot of eggs and the 2014 run is their progeny returning. So in other words, it was due to events which took place 2 years before he dumped iron in the ocean. This larger return was predictable based on existing records, so it should have come as no surprise. I'm getting the feeling though that claiming credit for predictable natural phenomenon is part of his business plan.

    The other cause was that unusually warm waters in the Pacific drove the salmon north from US waters into Canada. Salmon don't like warm water and are sensitive to changes of even a couple of degrees. The Americans were left with empty nets while the Canadians got all the fish. Normally, half of the run would go to the US, so warmer ocean temperatures effectively doubled the size of the BC run without actually increasing the total number of fish in the ocean, aside from the above mentioned increase due to the good year in 2010.

    Oh but wait, warmer ocean temperatures disrupting fishing? Am I allowed to mention that here?

    As for seeding the oceans with iron as a solution for global warming, the Quirks and Quarks podcast (highly recommended, by the way) had an interview with one of the scientists a while ago. His or her (I can't remember which) conclusion about it was that while it may possibly be worth while for increasing fish yields (more research is required to answer that), as a solution for locking up CO2 to prevent global warming it was a drop in the bucket. Very few areas of the ocean are actually limited by lack of iron, and those are mainly near Antarctica. When they did add iron, there was a limited effect because there are so many other bottlenecks to ocean phytoplankton growth.

    1. Martin Budden Bronze badge

      Re: I hate to burst your bubble but ...

      Only a drop in the bucket... that doesn't mean it's not worth pursuing. Get enough drops from different ideas and we can fill that bucket.

      (Or we could fill it in one go with clean safe nuclear, but as Mr Worstall points out hippyragelogicfail)

    2. oolor
      Windows

      Re: I hate to burst your bubble but ...

      @ thames:

      I agree with your points, this seems to be what the research shows, have been following and live the vicinity.

      To be more specific, the salmon runs are on a 4 year cycle for the sockeye, with a 10 year cycle overlapping, and a 2 year for the pinks which are the majority of the biomass of salmon. The peak years for any species can be a few times bigger to above an order of magnitude. It really can be quite insane.

      I leave it as an exercise for the reader to insert their own pithy comments about the complexity of the biome involved here on my behalf, while I appreciate Worstall's spitballing nonetheless.

  6. Tom 7 Silver badge

    So a guy dumps some shit in the sea and next years salmon run is huge

    so did he have a tardis - these buggers live at least three years and nearer 7 for most of them

    And did he compare it with the run on the asian side to see if that was different? The amount he dumped couldnt have affected more than a miniscule percentage of the pacific so any claims he makes are pretty much bonkers in terms of wildlife effects.

    You must also remember that if we start fertilising then we will seriously change the balance of power amongst the various species - see the current jellyfish swarms and red tides around the med etc - and may wipe out a huge food source.

    Its funny how all the unseen problems with this can be solved whereas the technically easy problems associated with green energy are too complicated to even consider!

  7. flearider

    i'd wait a bit

    whoa there big fella ..why would you go and upset a natural cycle ? C02 is not bad ..check the extra tonnes of farmed food over the last 5yrs guess what caused it ? then we have the next 35+yrs of cooling ohh yes natural cycle what go's up must come down .. by 2025 earth temps will be 3.5 deg c cooler and hopefully al gore and friends will be in jail ..

    C02 whats left of this will help warm the planet after 2050 when the sun wakes up and the cycle will continue . until the next big glacial event (read Pleistocene )

    1. Martin Budden Bronze badge
      Joke

      Re: i'd wait a bit

      I want to make a computer stimulation of the pre-Holocene epoch... because I like playing with Pleistocene models.

  8. Nick Kew

    No dumping required!

    When I first heard of seeding the oceans, the proposals didn't involve any dumping. Rather the deployment of big tubes, that would (powered by the waves) draw up sufficient nutrients from the ocean depths to seed algal bloom, which would then grow on sunlight. For example, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/09/070926-warming-solution.html.

    This plan, like any other, has a downside: algal blooms are hugely damaging to existing marine ecosystems. It could also precipitate large-scale climate events of its own if, for example, ocean currents are affected. But it appears nevertheless likely to be of net benefit on balance.

    Of course, if it were to happen, it will only be a matter of time before someone proposes harvesting the algae for biomass energy. And then it gets burned ....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No dumping required!

      Why would using the algae for energy be a problem? That's net zero CO2 footprint, as the CO2 the algae draws in would be returned to the atmosphere when it is used for fuel. As opposed to digging up fossil fuels that drew in their CO2 millions of years ago.

  9. Nick Kew
    Flame

    Enough of the cheap jibes

    "The frustration comes from the fact that those who insist that we've got to have some non-carbon-emitting energy system are exactly the people ..."

    No we're not! There may be some overlap, and lazy journalists may like labels, but we're not at all the same.

    As far back as the 1980s I tried to get involved in (for want of a better word) "green" activism. I was thwarted by the fact that back then I was unable to find an activist group that didn't engage in anti-nuclear nonsense, to which I was never prepared to subscribe. But things have changed since then: even in the early '90s I was able to argue Nuclear is Good for the environment, and whilst it was still a minority view it was at least not treated as ... hmmm ... Holocaust Denial.

  10. x 7

    "British Columbia, Alaska,"

    Since when has British Columbia been part of Alaska?

    1. Tim Worstal

      Re: "British Columbia, Alaska,"

      It ain't, of course, but one part of the coast is Alaska, another part BC.

  11. Simone

    Cooking is simple, science is not

    So, 2 + 2 is 4 ? It depends on the context of those numbers. If using base 3 maths then 2 + 2 is 11. If it is 2.3 + 2.4, that is 4.7, and by rounding to integers 2 + 2 is 5. Research is funny in that experiments can be constructed to try to prove this or that, or to quantify something, but the results can then be viewed, analysed or fiddled in different ways to give different conclusions. It is important to have GOOD research that has a controlled environment and peer review, to mention just two things. It also needs funding - give me loads of money and I'll do some research, but there is no guarantee of any results, certainly not a return on that money. Anyone likely to offer anything?

    Having a simple stance makes it easy to get the message across, on both sides of the argument. Sadly, that stance may not be valid but still gain unstoppable popularity. The complexity gets lost but the call for a solution grows; do this, do that, do nothing - if the stakes are high we risk picking the wrong one in our haste, perhaps making things irrevocably worse

    We're doomed!

  12. Salts

    All we need to do is...

    Wait, once the lights go out people will change their minds:-)

    Anyway on a different note, does anyone have any experience of products that rejuvenate flooded cell lead acid batteries? Mine are just not cutting it anymore, but 12 110Ah batteries do cost a bit, so a cheaper solution would be nice.

    PS the lights went out last night and the generator is f%^&ed at the moment, hence the need to get off my arse and do something about it :-)

  13. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

    molluscs?

    I've got some "organic" slug pellets whose active ingredient is iron sulphate. I think that it's supposed to work on them (ie, kill them) by doing something to their stomach/gut. Not sure what sort of concentration is needed, but depending on how much we need to dump overboard isn't it possible that there may be an unintended consequence of killing/harming the mollusc population in the area with all the resultant knock-on effects to the ecosystem that that might have? I know you said "desert zone" and all that, but most deserts are not devoid of life and it seems prudent to do research into what actually does live there before blanketing vast areas with something that could destroy unique ecosystems and species.

    PS interesting to read that iron sulphate is a waste product. Those slug pellet manufacturers must be really minting it.

    1. Eddy Ito

      Re: molluscs?

      Slug baits tend to be iron phosphate rather than sulphate. The reason for the cost is that iron phosphate is used in lots of other applications from rust inhibitor to bonding agent and is even used in some types of lithium batteries so it's unlikely to be landfill. Iron sulphate on the other hand doesn't seem particularly toxic to aquatic molluscs (pdf).

      1. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

        Re: molluscs?

        Slug baits tend to be iron phosphate

        Thanks for the correction; I was too lazy to go and find the thing to check the ingredients. Interesting PDF, too.

  14. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    A plan with no obvious drawbacks

    Changing the ecosystem of millions of cubic miles of seawater will no have no unexpected side effects - like say toxic algea blooms migrating to kill the fishing crop of a whole continent - because sudden giant man-made changes to ecosystems have always worked well.

    Then of course it also means we can up our CO2 production because now we have a solution. If this can absorb 2x Britain's usage then Britain can obviously double its CO2 output, and since the solution isn't just Britain's - so can every other country in europe. And as this is in the Pacific then China and the USA can both increase their use of coal as well.

    Fortunately this will be decided by economics - one group who are experts in the accurate long term prediction of complex systems and spotting unforseen side-effects.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A plan with no obvious drawbacks

      Its all well and good to come up with worst case scenarios, but we are nowhere near the point of doing this in large scale. You're simply being a alarmist twit who says "don't research anything that might help the problem, because it could have unforeseen consequences and will distract attention from reducing CO2 usage". In other words, exactly the type of twit the article dealt with.

      I don't suppose you'd be willing to concede that if there are unforeseen consequences that they might be POSITIVE? Or do you automatically assume "fuck with Mother Earth, and she'll fuck you back" so all unintended consequences must be negative, because reasons.

      1. strum

        Re: A plan with no obvious drawbacks

        > we are nowhere near the point of doing this in large scale

        OK. Just how long should be perform experimental-scale projects, to find out what the unintended consequences are?

        1yr? 5yr? 20yr? (bit late, if the latter).

  15. Zog_but_not_the_first
    Trollface

    Finally!

    A use for all those redundant video and audio cassette tapes. Well, the tape coating at least. But not the chrome ones. Obviously.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    " It's only..."

    "...an increase in the occurrence of a natural process".

    So is the hydrogen bomb...

    1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

      Re: " It's only..."

      So is food, so is shelter....

  17. Peter Johnston 1

    Wow. How to fuck the planet big time!

    Messing with an eco-system without understanding it is a recipe for disaster. What if, for example, fish move there to eat these plankton and populations drop elsewhere. Or the poo from all these extra creatures provides nutrients for things we didn't want to see explode in population.

    Has myxomatosis taught us nothing?

    1. DaveDaveDave

      "Has myxomatosis taught us nothing?"

      That you shouldn't draw conclusions about efficacy from children's films? Despite Watership Down, myxie has been incredibly successful at doing what was intended, with almost no unintended side-effects.

    2. ZanzibarRastapopulous

      "Has myxomatosis taught us nothing?"

      Ummm... no not really.

      The rabbits getting wiped out by it was intentional, not an accident.

      Perhaps you could explain how vaccination - a similar messing with eco-systems - is bad too?

      Maybe farming - also messing with eco-systems - is bad too?

      Perhaps clean water - also a result of messing with eco-systems is also problematic?

      Maybe you scavenge berries and hunt small rodents to nourish your diseased body crawling from water source to water source clad in rabbit fur?

  18. John Savard Silver badge

    Wait a Moment

    I do remember reading a credible news article with what seemed to be good science that came to the conclusion that iron, unfortunately, wouldn't really do much good. I wish I could recall the cite, so I could point people to see it.

    Ah: before the ban, according to Wikipedia, there were nine or so serious scientific studies. The current reason this is considered not worth trying is because it seems more likely to promote the blooming of harmful algae than to genuinely spur photosynthesis.

    Oh: limestone is calcium carbonate, so, yes, it does remove carbon dioxide from the air when you make it.

  19. Chris G Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Right or wrong

    It doesn't hurt to re-ask a question every so often. It may be that there is new light to shed or that a slightly different approach may work.

    One question as already mentioned, is what does currently live in these ocean deserts?

    Most deserts may look, well, deserted, but most of them have something living there and one of the questions is what or how do those organisms do that may affect other parts of the ocean.

    It's nice to compartmentalise ocean deserts as separate but other than completely landlocked seas it is really one big sea where the borders of one bit gradually merge into another bit.

    So asking the question again is beneficial if it makes people look again, ask other questions and perhaps as a result think of other possible solutions as well.

    Energy wise though, I really think nuke is the way to go.

  20. KrisMac

    What happend between @1940 that might have pumped up the iron concentration in the sea?

    ... fair number of huge iron concentrations dumped in the mid-Atlantic around then by way of unfriendly torpedoes... and 'Iron-Bottom Sound' in the Solomons only earned its name in 1942/43....

    Given that it is much shallower than Atlantic I wonder if anyone has tried to measure how much new rock has formed around Savo as a result of all that corroding metal...

  21. ZanzibarRastapopulous

    Hair shirts.

    They wear the hair shirt to assuage their guilt, not because it achieves anything.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More FISSION! More! Now!

    The answer is more fission plants. If these guys wanted a solution they would admit that they already have one and be done with it. They want the issue, not a solution. They are all misanthropes.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: More FISSION! More! Now!

      fao Billy Catringer:

      Should anyone trust a word you write?

      The reason I ask is that nearly two years ago on this site, you wrote:

      "Japan is about to suffer from hyperinflation. Friedman and Keynes were both wrong. The Austiran School will soon be proved correct."

      Given that Japan's inflation rate is 2.9%, should we expect your definition of "about" to be somewhat elastic - maybe meaning decades? - and that the Austiran (sic) School will indeed be proved correct at some point?

      Or perhaps nuclear science is your core competence? Unlike economics. Or proof-reading skills.

  23. tomsk

    Nice idea, but it's looking a bit doubtful

    There’s a fair bit of research going on. It’s not generally being done by actually dumping large volumes of iron in the ocean and seeing what happens, though. Geoengineering can be quite controversial so scientists often keep things reasonably quiet. The episode off Canada was a bit of a stupid stunt tbh; it was done without anything like enough monitoring in place to let us draw any very confident conclusions.

    What’s generally being done is more modelling work and relatively small-scale experiments in mesocosms etc, mostly aimed at the weakest link in the chain from iron fertilisation to long-term carbon sequestration, which is (as you note) getting the carbon to sink to the seabed and be mineralised rather than rotting on the way down and ending up back in the atmosphere within a few months.

    Basically creating a plankton bloom is the easy bit and nobody really questions our ability to do it. But long-term carbon export to the deep sea depends on a lot of complex biogeochemical interactions in different parts of the water column, and we need a lot more research to understand whether it’s even remotely plausible at an interesting scale. There’s limited point doing more large-scale trials until we understand the basic biogeochemistry. There have been a lot of papers on this over the last few years and my overall impression is that the results are pretty mixed, certainly not the catalogue of triumph that the boosters of the idea of iron fertilisation would have you believe.

    There’s also been some interesting oceanographic work going on to try to understand how ocean circulation might affect the prospects for long-term C storage at depth. The authors of this paper http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2013GL058799/full ran an ocean circulation model, assuming that the above problems had already been overcome and the carbon had made it a kilometre down and then seeing how long it stayed there. Their results suggested most of the carbon was brought back up to the surface by upwelling water pretty quickly - far too quickly for there to be much effect on the climate over a relevant timescale. (They were looking only at the Southern Ocean, though, which is one of the main areas where phytoplankton growth is known to be iron-limited, though not the only one, and so is often the main target for armchair geoengineers.)

    My personal view is that iron fertilisation may be able to provide some benefits but is looking increasingly unlikely to have a decisive impact on anthropogenic climate change in itself. But it’s not my field and I could well be wrong.

  24. strum

    And another thing

    What's all this garbage about environmentalists == hippies?

    Environmentalism may have emerged from the hippy culture (of the Whole Earth variety), but that was over 40 years ago. Today's 'environmentalists' fit no particular stereotype. They're as likely to wear Armani as tie-dye, as likely to smoke herring rather than splifs.

    Time to join the 21st century, you anti-environment stalwarts!

    1. JudeKay (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: And another thing

      *All members of Greenpeace are officially hippies, like it or not: it's the organisation's policy...

  25. TrishaD

    I dont see what the problem is here...

    Given that no-one's given any real evidence to suggest that research is actually being suppressed by the big bad hippies, then surely, if there's a realistic chance that this stuff should work then, in accordance with Tim's very own theories about how economies should operate, shouldnt some bold thrusting go getting venture capitalist types just leap up and offer all of the required funding?

  26. Kepler
    Joke

    TERRIBLE Pun

    (Unfortunately, we do not have a Bad Joke Alert icon. But this story is 100% true.)

    About 10 years ago, to combat a bit of anemia, I had to take iron tablets for a few weeks. (Preceded a few minutes by vitamin C and folic acid, as anyone who has been through this will know.) My doctor told me I could reduce the regimen from every day to every other day a week or so in, as my strength recovered. So one Saturday morning, I announced to my live-in girlfriend of the time — with a straight face — that "Today is Ferrous Sulphate's Day Off."

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