Last week, an atmospheric scientist named Kyle Vandercamp stumbled across some surprising documents at his job, and decided to blow the whistle on his employer, Bluebird Lab. The privately funded lab wasn’t just researching potential geoengineering solutions–the planet hacks that could serve as a “plan B” if we can’t get globe-warming CO2 emissions under control–it was actually preparing a full-blown, unilateral tryout for one of these schemes, he said.
Freaky, eh? Might be something to be alarmed about–if it wasn’t just a game.
The fight against global warming has a brand new weapon: whale poop.
Scientists from the Australian Antarctic Division have found that whale poop contains huge amounts of iron and when it is released into the waters, the iron-rich feces become food for phytoplankton. Phytoplankton absorbs carbon dioxide from the air, the algae is in turn eaten by Antarctic krill, and baleen whales eat the krill. Through this neat cycle, globe-warming CO2 is kept sequestered in the ocean.
Scientists have long known that iron is necessary to sustain phytoplankton growth in the oceans, which is why one geoengineering scheme calls for adding soluble iron to ocean waters to encourage the growth of carbon-trapping algae blooms. While environmentalists have fretted over the possible consequences of meddling with ocean chemistry that way, this new study on whale poop suggests an all-natural way to get the same carbon-trapping effect: Increase the number of whales in the ocean.
The climate blog Celsias offers some intriguing insight into geoengineering. Recently spotlighted on DISCOVER’s website, geoengineering involves drastic, planet-scale alterations to the climate so Earth remains habitable for humans, despite our impressive negligence. The geoengineering schemes highlighted in the DISCOVER slideshow include blocking the sun with trillions of space-based shields and shading ourselves with stratospheric sulfur injections—but these are not the only innovative ways to help our climate.