Reason No. 2 Why We Need Solar

brightsource2 Reason No. 2 Why We Need Solar

In my last post, I took a pretty dim view of the looming climatelegislation battle. 

Treehugger has a differentand more upbeat take, reporting that 22 high-on-health-care Democratshave already whisked off a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reidpressing for clean energy and climate legislation this year.

But let’s turn now to what a certain one-celled creature has to sayabout climate change and the need for a solar power revolution:  Lastweek, the National Academy of Sciences reported on the results of their efforts to create iron-rich phytoplanktonblooms that could sequester carbon dioxide.  The researchers were ableto generate massive blooms by dumping liquid iron into patches ofocean.  So far so good.  Except the iron-fertilized phytoplankton wasfound to harbor high levels of a toxin that is fatal to seabirds andmarine mammals and can sicken humans who consume tainted shellfish.

Phytoplankton is the base of the marine food chain, so poisoning itdoesn’t seem like such a hot idea.  The results of the 12-yearexperiment are a major setback to scientists who held out hope thatfertilizing the oceans with iron could be a silver bullet in the fightto stop climate change. As lead researcher Charles Trick conceded, “Itis an indication that we are not masters of nature when it comes tolarge-scale ecological manipulations.”

So what do poisonous plankton have to do with solar power?  Theexperiment should serve as a wake-up call:  We shouldn’t be wastingresources and time pursuing dangerous and improbable high-tech carbonsequestration schemes when we have proven, reliable and safetechnologies like wind and solar that will prevent us from generating so much darn pollution in the first place.

There are all kinds of dicey ploys floating around, fromgeo-engineered trees and crops to shooting clouds of sulfur into theatmosphere.  There’s no need for desperate measures (yet).  Let’s startwith what already works and reserve apocalyptically dangerous strategies for if and when there’s no other option.

–Erica Etelson