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Immediate crisis of rising and high CO2
By Russ George


April 17, 2006

While Global Warming will one day become a great threat please consider a more immediate crisis of rising and high CO2 in the context of this blue planet we call Earth. Over 70% of this planet is ocean and since CO2 readily dissolves in water the CO2 already in and pouring into our air is mostly destined to end up our oceans. Why is this the most critical and immediate real and present danger? It's a simple and scary explanation with a basis in first principals chemistry and it doesn't involve complex models subject to debate.. We all enjoy the tangy slightly acidic taste of CO2 dissolved in water whether it be trendy mineral water or a soft drink. While this CO2 acidity in water may be good for drinks in the oceans this has produced an epoch crisis. It is a crisis that is already upon us.

Eighty percent of all life on this blue planet lives in the oceans and most of that life is delicately balanced around the solubility of minerals principally calcium and silica. Today the acidity of the ocean due to our higher atmospheric concentration of CO2 has become 10% more acidic in just the last few decades. This acidity is making calcium and silica carbonates much more soluble and as a result the organisms that rely on those carbonates are literally dissolving. Many air breathing organisms are already beginning to show clear signs of metabolic stress associated with acidosis due to high dissolved CO2 concentration. The consequence is that of the life in the oceans, 80% of life on Earth, of which half are plants like diatoms that require low acidity to be able to maintain delicate carbonate structures are in peril or in many cases doomed. The acidification of the oceans is already at dangerous levels and by the end of this century, by 2050 according to some experts, a majority of plant life in the ocean faces extinction. The most famous ocean scientist Henry Bryant Bigelow was once quoted as saying "All fish is diatoms (amongst the most threatened of the ocean plants)." Like Walt Whitman's observation "All beef is grass" this is a true statement and as go our diatoms so go our fish and all life that feed upon those fish.

There is a solution to this impending disaster, one which was proposed 17 years ago by another giant of ocean science, the late John Martin of California. Martin found that the ocean plants could be enormously stimulated by providing, indeed restoring, iron micronutrients to the oceans in tiny amounts. For over ten years I have worked on this concept and now my company, Planktos (, is following in Martin's footsteps and working to restore recently depleted ocean iron micronutrients and in doing so stimulate ocean productivity. Since ocean productivity is shown to be dramatically reduced in recent decades 26% in the North Pacific for example there is a huge waiting potential for enhanced ocean biomass sequestration of CO2. We think the ocean plant life we restore might take as much as half (3 gigatonnes/yr) of all the anthropogenic CO2 out of the air and ocean and convert it to stable non-acidic ocean plant biomass. A substantial portion of this biomass will sink to the ocean abyss where it will safely be sequestered for millennia thus reducing CO2 in air and water, buffering ocean acidity, and buying diatoms and fish and all other life that depends on a healthy ocean time while the world works to stop the madness that is the unabated burning of fossil fuels.

So while you pause to discuss, debate, dismiss, or promote global warming keep in mind it is the last and the least of the impacts this planet will suffer from anthropogenic CO2. A far more urgent clear and present danger is the direct effect of CO2 solubilty on ocean chemistry and the majority of life on this blue Ocean planet we like to call Earth.

Russ George
Foster City, CA

About: Russ George is President of PLANKTOS, INC. ( )



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