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Scientists want to hack the ocean

Ocean hacks // llustration by Kate Walker

Scientists want to hack the ocean


The Future. A group of scientists from the National Academies released a 300-page report this week detailing various methods of “hacking the ocean” to combat climate change. Realistically, these hacks probably won’t substitute for current proven methods, like cutting emissions… but could instead act as a potential complement.

Ocean hackathon
Scientists are exploring billion-dollar strategies to hack the ocean for climate change, such as:

  • Fertilizing the ocean to boost the growth of photosynthetic creatures that can pull carbon out of the atmosphere.
  • Changing the chemistry of seawater to absorb more planet-warming gases.
  • Sending electrical current through waves to break apart molecules and enhance their ability to take up CO2.

Climate crisis
Known as geoengineering, hacking the planet isn’t new — facing the staggering toll of climate change, many are trying to innovate on ways to address the climate crisis. For example, a method called “stratospheric aerosol injection” aims to bounce the sun’s radiation back into space.

But, geoengineering has massive potential side effects that are yet unknown, potentially disrupting the fragile ecosystem of the ocean. Plus, as the Washington Post puts it: “the distant promise of unproven technological fixes distracts people from the emissions cuts that need to happen today.”