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Should We Fertilize Oceans or Seed Clouds? No One Knows.

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Should We Fertilize Oceans or Seed Clouds? No One Knows.

Gather scientific evidence on the feasibility and risks of marine geoengineering to guide regulation of research, advise Philip Boyd and Chris Vivian.


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What's inside?

Marine geoengineering research on reversing global warming has so far produced dubious results.

Editorial Rating



  • Analytical
  • Innovative
  • Scientific


While dozens of marine geoengineering projects have been proposed to tackle global warming, none has been deployed on the massive scale necessary to make a difference. The risk of catastrophic results is amplified by a lack of solid scientific data. Moving forward, researchers must build a solid, shared database, catalog drawbacks and benefits, develop a specific methodology, and work under vigilant policymaker oversight. This Nature article will remind readers that, while climate change is a critical issue, people must not make the situation worse by harming the oceans.


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) believes the key to reversing global warming is “negative-emissions technologies.”

Some scientists propose encouraging massive growth of phytoplankton in the sea, which would absorb CO2 and then sink.

Another idea is to create seawater clouds that reflect sunlight; yet another suggests spraying the entire Pacific Ocean with a billion tonnes of filmy, chalk-like material. These projects would have to be deployed on a huge scale to have a meaningful effect.

Limited research has been done on marine geoengineering ideas aimed at affecting climate change.

Before countries and companies invest in any large-scale project, the...

About the Authors

Philip Boyd is professor of marine biogeochemistry at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania. Chris Vivian is a former national marine adviser at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, UK.

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