Schmidt's story was about one company in particular that's trying to artificially induce plankton to grow in the ocean by dumping iron into it. The idea is that the plankton will act like a tree planted on land and reduce CO2 in the air. What Schmidt failed to do was ask any questions:
- What happens to the iron when you dump a bunch of it in the ocean? I can't imagine that that's good for the sea or the fish long-term.
- How long does the plankton keep sequestering the carbon? As far as I know, when a plant dies it gives carbon back off as it decays; does plankton do the same?
- What will be the long-term effect of lots of additional plankton in the ocean? Will there be disproportionate growth in the populations of fish that eat it? Will it prevent the ocean from the current carbon sequestration it already does? Will the plankton give off some other chemical we don't want?
- According to wikipedia, there are potentially a lot of positives about adding iron to oceans that need it, making them more productive and healthier, but who's to say that the companies trying to sell offsets will stick to oceans that need iron?
I love Marketplace and the economic perspective they take on stories, but it seems like for this one, Kai Ryssdal needs to take over and try again.
*There was a great tongue-in-cheek article about this in a recent issue of Time Magazine, actually, where the author suggested that we allow parents to buy credits when they want to hit their children. They'll purchase a credit which would pay off a parent who regularly hits their kid in exchange for them taking the day off. The child abuser is happy, the kid who would have gotten hit is happy, and the parent who bought the credit is happy. The credit-buying parent's kid, not so much.