MIT study shows climate change mitigation potential of geoengineering the oceans

Like the leaves of New England maples, phytoplankton, the microalgae at the base of most oceanic food webs, photosynthesize when exposed to sunlight. In the process, they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, converting it to carbohydrates and oxygen. Many phytoplankton species also release dimethyl sulfide (DMS) into the atmosphere, where it forms sulfate aerosols, which can directly reflect sunlight or increase cloud cover and reflectivity, resulting in a cooling effect. The ability of phytoplankton to draw planet-warming carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and produce aerosols that promote further cooling has made ocean fertilization — through massive dispersal of iron sulfite and other nutrients that stimulate phytoplankton growth — an attractive geoengineering method to reduce global warming.

MIT study looks at benefits of acting on climate change

Since the 1990s, scientists and policymakers have proposed limiting Earth’s average global surface temperature to 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, thereby averting the most serious effects of global warming, such as severe droughts and coastal flooding. But until recently, they lacked a comprehensive estimate of the likely social and economic benefits — from lives saved to economies preserved — that would result from greenhouse gas emissions reduction policies designed to achieve the 2 C goal.Now, a team of researchers from the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change has published a study in Climatic Change that provides scenarios that climate scientists can use to estimate such benefits. The study projects greenhouse gas emissions levels and changes in precipitation, ocean acidity, sea level rise and other climate impacts throughout the 21st century resulting from different global greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation scenarios. The scenarios include a business-as-usual future and one aimed at achieving significant GHG emission reductions limiting global warming since pre-industrial times to 2 C. Research groups convened by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have already begun using the MIT projections to evaluate the benefits of a 2 C emissions reduction scenario for agriculture, water, health, and other global concerns.