Iron Ore to Save us from Global Warming?

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Okay we admit it, this is kind of a long shot from being a hardcore MetalMiner metals article but what the heck we thought it intriguing. Whether you buy into the whole global warming argument or not there is no doubt our politicians will spend an enormous amount of our money tackling the problem. Quite how they do that most effectively is open to huge debate. But let’s assume that at a minimum,   it means to reduce atmospheric carbon levels. And, we would contend, most sane individuals will accept that will take a long time to achieve. Lower emission power stations, cars, shipping and so on will help but these efforts may not even slow the rate of growth at the moment.   So to reach a stable level equivalent to say 20 years ago ” probably the level needed to prevent further warming the argument goes ” could take 50 years. In the meantime the temperatures potentially continue to rise and could get beyond the point where zero emissions have any effect ” i.e. beyond the point of no return.

So one might not be surprised to hear the great scientific minds of the world have been putting their thinking caps on and have come up with lots of ideas, some of them as radical as geo-engineering ” re-engineering the climate of our planet. Now MetalMiner does not have the space (nor our readers the patience) to cover the whole gamut here and so our focus once again will center around those projects involving metals. Many of the current solutions, like wind farms, tidal barrages and so on, involve significant amounts of steel but none of them involve seeding the oceans with vast quantities of fine iron dust. The idea  is that by seeding the oceans with iron it will promote the growth of algae blooms that will use carbon dioxide as they photosynthesize and capture that carbon when they die and sink to the ocean floor. Now before you rush out to buy shares in Rio, BHP and Vale we should add that the science is not proven. Although the explosion of Mt Pinatubo in 1991 released 500,000 tons of iron into the atmosphere and caused huge algal blooms, it has not been proved that the dip in atmospheric CO2 growth later that year was a direct result of the algae.

Still it is an intriguing idea and knowing how those enterprising iron ore miners are always on the look out for the next big market we are surprised they are not funding more research. The next step forward could be large scale tests planned this year in the South Atlantic off south Georgia. Come on Mr Kloppers, get your check book out.

–Stuart Burns

Comments (2)

  1. Todd Strunk says:

    This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this. During the last 1990’s I was in college and doing research for a science class and ran across an article of a scientists doing this same research in the Galapagos Islands. I’m trying to find that same article and wound up on your site. The scientists seemed to make the correlation between the lack of flooding due to electric generating dams and the rise in the global temperature I think. Got any ideas on this – Keep up the good work.

  2. Stuart says:

    Hi Todd, thanks for the comments, I dont have any details on the Galapagos Project you refer to but i did some research myself many years ago on natural annual algal blooms in the north Pacific trying to work estimates of the carbon fix during their few weeks of life – it ran into millions of tons, out of all proportion to any man inspired carbon fixes. So i must say i found the South Atlantic experiments intriguing, unfortunately i do not believe they were terribly succesful – looks like we still have a lot to learn from Mother Nature!

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