Geoengineering to mitigate climate change has long been proposed, but remains nebulous. Exploration of the feasibility of geoengineering first requires the development of research governance to move beyond the conceptual towards scientifically designed pilot studies. Fortuitously, 12 mesoscale (approx. 1000 km2) iron enrichments, funded to investigate how ocean iron biogeochemistry altered Earth's carbon cycle in the geological past, provide proxies to better understand the benefits and drawbacks of geoengineering. The utility of these iron enrichments in the geoengineering debate is enhanced by the GEOTRACES global survey. Here, we outline how GEOTRACES surveys and process studies can provide invaluable insights into geoengineering. Surveys inform key unknowns including the regional influence and magnitude of modes of iron supply, and stimulate iron biogeochemical modelling. These advances will enable quantification of interannual variability of iron supply to assess whether any future purposeful multi-year iron-fertilization meets the principle of ‘additionality’ (sensu Kyoto protocol). Process studies address issues including upscaling of geoengineering, and how differing iron-enrichment strategies could stimulate wide-ranging biogeochemical outcomes. In summary, the availability of databases on both mesoscale iron-enrichment studies and the GEOTRACES survey, along with modelling, policy initiatives and legislation have positioned the iron-enrichment approach as a robust multifaceted test-bed to assess proposed research into climate intervention.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Biological and climatic impacts of ocean trace element chemistry’.
One contribution of 20 to a discussion meeting issue ‘Biological and climatic impacts of ocean trace element chemistry’.
- Accepted August 30, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.