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Buoyant flakes on impoverished seas provide organic, slow-release nutrients to biomass, cooling, C-biosequestration & de-acidification


Description

Summary

Buoyant tiny flakes made from the natural materials of rice husks, lignin glue, and low-grade iron-phosphate-rich waste materials, when disseminated sparsely onto nutrient-deficient ocean surfaces, provide the ultra-slow-release limiting nutrients needed to develop rich and stable marine ecologies without boom-bust eutrophication. Over a year, the flakes are colonized by phytoplankton that extract their contained nutrients, before being consumed themselves, and the denuded flakes disintegrate and sink. Some phytoplankton, diazotrophs, are able to use the mineral nutrients and sunlight to make protein from dissolved atmospheric nitrogen. Together, phytoplankton provide the base for the whole marine food web. Periodic flake distribution should have the capacity to return the impoverished blue ocean regions to something like their bounteous, pre-industrial productivity by returning to them the nutrients that we have cumulatively extracted by means of marine catch. Bounteous oceans are green with chlorophyll.

 

Funding is to be provided by corporations leasing rights to fertilized plumes of ocean under independent scientific monitoring.

 

Further details of the proposal may be found at the /envisionation website at http://envisionation.co.uk/index.php/sev-clarke The documents are in reading order.


Category of the action

Geoengineering


What actions do you propose?

The buoyant flake system is designed to have the net beneficial effects of:

·      Cooling the planet by increasing phytoplankton concentrations that in turn increase ocean surface albedo (reflectivity) and cause brightening of marine clouds (MCB) following phytoplankton’s cloud-nucleating emissions

·      Mitigating extreme weather events following ocean cooling

·      Increasing marine productivity and biodiversity through fertilization

·      Absorbing net carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as CO2is photosynthesized by phytoplankton into biomass and as some of that biomass, when dead, sinks into the deeper ocean depths and is biosequestrated for long durations as organic or inorganic carbon

·      De-acidifying the upper reaches of the water column as dissolved carbonic acid is transformed into neutral biomass and oxygen faster than atmospheric CO2 dissolves to form new acid

·      Buoyant flakes containing the trace elements tungsten, cobalt and molybdenum can be used by methane-eating microorganisms enzymatically to convert into biomass methane bubbling from Arctic seas and pools over permafrost

 

Before ocean experiments are conducted to validate the concept, to assess and improve it, and to determine its likely social, environmental and economic effects, certain preliminary actions are required. First, there should be extensive Earth Systems modelling to determine the likely effects of flake introduction to a variety of ocean environments. Second, there should be laboratory tank experiments to determine the optimal flake formulations for a range of sea conditions, marine ecologies, and material sources. Third, the local, regional and global manufacture, logistics and support mechanisms need to be modelled to optimize the system. Fourth and finally, broadly acceptable governance and licensing arrangements need to be agreed at national and international level. This will likely involve the difficult integration of existing treaties and the creation of, or extension to, governance authority – followed by cautiously staged proposal approvals with transparent reporting.


Who will take these actions?

Scientific organizations, possibly at the behest of policy-makers, industry or philanthropists, will first need to establish the validity of the Buoyant Flake concept and to probe its likely effects.

 

National governments or activity-governing international authorities will need to negotiate social licences and other agreements necessary for trials of increasing diversity and scope, their monitoring, evaluation and publication – followed by industry regulation.

 

Corporations will need to prepare plans to acquire the approvals & agreements, the raw materials, facilities and services to manufacture and disseminate the flakes and to manage the values deriving therefrom.

 

Technically-proficient organizations will need to develop the skills and facilities to ensure that they can provide the contractual services for the adequate study, surveillance and policing of mobile fertilization sites and the wider, downstream effects of fertilization activity.

 

Citizens, NGOs and governments will need to assure themselves that this concept does indeed represent a relatively safe, effective, equitable, cost-effective, timely, opportunity-presenting and reversible solution to some f our most pressing environmental threats.

 

Concerned agents will then need progressively to optimize the system to produce the greatest net value to humanity and the planet


Where will these actions be taken?

Apart from sourcing the raw materials, their transportation and the location of flake-manufacturing factories, the principal location of flake dissemination will be the high, nutrient-deficient seas.

 

The raw materials and solar power economically to transform them into flake is sustainably found in many agricultural nations or stored as waste at alumina refineries or mines


What are other key benefits?

 

·      Food security

·      Job opportunities for both less and highly skilled people

·      After concept validation, no cost to public purses or individuals

·      Time to develop and extend emissions-reduction measures

·      Carbon credits for participating industry

·      A better chance to avoid passing global tipping points, such as catastrophic CO2 levels, 1.5 degree Celsius plus global warming, methane eruption, Arctic ice melting, and excessive sea level rise

·      Independent and secure funding for some international and scientific agencies, including the United Nations.


What are the proposal’s costs?

Once the concept has been validated, all costs will be willingly borne by profit-making corporations and co-operatives.

 

The proposal’s phased costs are included under the Time line section.

 

A possibly negative side-effect is that the increased carbon flux to the deep ocean might result in an increment to the hypoxic (low-oxygen) conditions prevailing there and in the ocean sediments. However, both aerobic and anaerobic life forms would benefit from the increased food supply and hypoxic and anoxic conditions would tend to aid in the long-term biosequestration of carbon. Eventually, much of this carbonaceous material tends to be transformed into oil, coal, limestone, and stable methane clathrates.

 

The risk that the residual alumina content of the red mud component of the flake fertilizer might adversely affect some marine life can be tested. This is unlikely, because of its insolubility and great dilution in the ocean. Red mud can readily be replaced with ironstone, laterite or other low-grade iron sources, should it prove problematic. The downside of replacement is that much energy would be probably required to mine, transport and grind up material from these sources.

 

Similarly, the wastes from phosphate mining and processing tend to be mildly radioactive. However, as the ore typically came from earlier oceanic deposits, it is not much of a concern to return it to the ocean. If necessary, these wastes may also be replaced with phosphatic material from extensive, non or less-commercial deposits.


Time line

SHORT TERM activity/duration/guestimated cost

·      Conceptual vetting and refinement/3 months/Absorbed$

·      Laboratory experimentation/9 months/$0.25m

·      Earth Systems Modelling/1yr/$0.47m

·      Small sea trials/1.5yr/$5-10m

·      Governance negotiations/Unknown/Unknown

·      Demo flake factory construction/15 months/$12m

·      Sea trial upscaling & analyses/1.5yr/$180m

·      Industrial development & deployment/3yrs/TBD

·      Global rollout/Progressive from ~2019/Industry pays

·      Global effects monitoring, adjustments made, and industrial revenues commence/from 2020/Industry pays

These activities are overlapping. Trials may begin in jurisdictional waters with only national governance, transparency, and wide consultation.

 

MEDIUM TERM

·      Ocean fertilization contributes substantially to reversing global warming, to carbon sequestration, ocean de-acidification, and food security.

·      Sea-level rise may begin to slow down, provided that tipping points are not exceeded.


Related proposals

A second Climate CoLab proposal is intended to be submitted under a title such as Glacial Solutions to Climate Change. This is related to the current proposal because, whilst Buoyant Flakes should have effects that cool the world, they will tend to cool it most at low and intermediate latitudes. However, to stabilise the polar vortex and jet stream, and to maintain the flow of the Gulf Stream that moderates the climate of Western Europe, it is necessary to cool the high latitude, or polar regions, more. This is what the Glacial Solutions is designed to do, see IntegratingOIFStrategiesv7.


References

The formal references may be found at the end of the first document at http://envisionation.co.uk/index.php/sev-clarke Less formal references may be found scattered through the other documents. These are typically referenced only by principal author, year and general subject. They may usually be found by either Google search or Google Scholar.