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The Oceans Need to Just Take One for the Team

by Karen Garcia

Tags: climate change, oceans, carbon sequestration, Peter Friederici, environment, Miller-McCune, Karen Garcia,

Miller-McCuneIt’s too late to hope for getting out of this unscathed. We’ve poisoned, destroyed, and exploited this planet to the point of no return, so now all we can do is minimize the damage. And according to some scientists, it’s the oceans that need to step up and staunch the bleeding.

In the latest issue of Miller-McCune, journalist Peter Friedrici investigates the pros and cons of carbon sequestration, the process of deliberating depositing mass amounts of carbon dioxide thousands of meters under the ocean’s surface. The theory is that this method would buy mankind some time to develop other ways to deal with greenhouse gas emissions, as CO2  causes more harm in the atmosphere than in surface waters (and even then, it would take thousands of years for the sequestered carbon to makes its way from the depths to the surface). But still, the consequences of this process would be devastating at best:

If carbon dioxide is deliberately placed in the ocean, at whatever depth, it will ultimately reach surface waters and contribute to their acidification…The larvae of sea urchins and other marine organisms with external skeletons will grow differently. Adults will grow less and have trouble surviving. Shellfish will be unable to develop shells. Corals will no longer build reefs.

Ultimately, we will have to make a choice. What organisms or ecosystems must, to some extent, be sacrificed for the greater good of global geochemical stability? Friederici writes:

Ocean sequestration may be a bad idea that will cause untold harm to deep-ocean ecosystems we barely understand—but doing it may also represent a better alternative than doing nothing. It’s like the amputation of a badly wounded leg: a terrible prospect, unless it’s the only way to save a life.

Obviously this could all be avoided if we dramatically cut down on our consumption of fossil fuels, but let’s face it, that’s just not going to happen. So which will it be: the leg, or the life?

Source: Miller-McCune