Yet critics, such as Rutgers University biophysics professor Paul Falkowski, say the plankton also releases some carbon as it decomposes before it sinks to the ocean bed. As it decays, it produces nitrous oxide, which is far more damaging to the atmosphere than carbon, Falkowski says.
Climos CEO Dan Whaley, co-founder of travel site GetThere.com, agrees such risks must be studied but says early research suggests the carbon absorbed exceeds toxic emissions enough to make the project viable. If such seedings are repeated annually for 25 years, they could suck in 1 billion tons of CO2, he says.
With each seeding costing several million dollars, Whaley says a large-scale program would be feasible only under government regimes in the USA or Europe that provide for high offset prices. Yet neither the European system nor proposals in Congress permit ocean-based offset projects. Whaley believes such constraints could be lifted after demonstration projects prove the technology.
"If it works, then it's a large solution," Whaley says. "We need all the horsepower we can get because the problem is way bigger than we imagined."