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India looks to the sea to cool planet

Among the world’s top polluters, India will test the concept of sinking carbon dioxide emissions in the oceans to manage global warming, reports Reshma Patil.
Hindustan Times | By Reshma Patil
UPDATED ON JUL 17, 2007 02:29 AM IST

Can India sink carbon dioxide emissions in the oceans to ‘manage’ global warming? Among the world’s top polluters, India will test this futuristic concept from January to March 2009 in the frigid Scotia Sea, off the Antarctic Peninsula in the South Atlantic.

India contributes about 4 per cent of heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions. The Scotia Sea is a mini-model of how the Southern Ocean behaved during the last Ice Age. The experiment will simulate the Ice Age, when the earth was drier and iron particles from continental dust settled in the glacial ocean.

“India will be particularly hard-hit by global warming, so it needs to adopt mitigation measures more urgently,” Victor Smetacek, NRI scientist and bio-oceanography professor at the University of Bremen, Germany, told HT.

Smetacek, researchers from the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) Goa, and scientists from Germany, Italy and Chile will use about 20 tonnes of non-toxic iron sulphate to ‘fertilise’ a 1,000-sq-km sea.

The iron particles will trigger the bloom of phytoplankton or algae and microorganisms that can soak up carbon dioxide. Smetacek said results showed we “cannot afford” to ignore oceanic fertilisation as a mitigation measure. “The experiment will put India at the forefront of international oceanographic research.’’

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change chairman Rajendra Pachauri said: “We need to consider environmental implications.’’ But NIO director Satish Shetye called it an “exciting, important” experiment.

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