Scientists are brainstorming all sorts of ideas to combat global warming. Among these ideas is geo-engineering, a hotly debated and controversial topic in which the environment is manipulated to great extremes to quell the effects of climate change.
Rather than looking for a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, geo-engineering is a system of ideas that aims to control the carbon dioxide that is already present in the atmosphere. One of the proposed methods involves dispersing massive amounts of the mineral olivine into the ocean. This would increase the water’s alkalinity, which allows it to suck some of the carbon dioxide right out of the air.
However, laboratory tests done at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research shows that this method would be futile. Studies show that in order to effectively eliminate the majority of the carbon dioxide, 40 gigatons of olivine would be required. That is equivalent to 40 billion tons and would fill a fleet of 100 transport ships.
Even if scientists could feasibly obtain that gargantuan amount, the amount of energy needed to crush the mineral into fine powder would create a whole other set of environmental concerns. The massive amount of energy used during the grinding process would emit about a third of the carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. On top of this hurdle, the mineral would also release traces of iron into the sea, which would cause ocean fertilization and lead to a huge surge in plankton.
Geo-engineering continues to remain a hotly debated subject in the scientific community. Some dismiss the idea as utter nonsense that could have unforeseen side effects and irreversible consequences. Proponents, however, see it as a viable alternative and believe that it warrants further discussion given the fact that proposals to curb greenhouse gas emissions have resulted in zero progress.