Scientists Look To Fight Climate Change By Dumping 6,000 Gallons Of Chemicals Into Ocean Near Martha’s Vineyard

Scientists Look To Fight Climate Change By Dumping 6,000 Gallons Of Chemicals Into Ocean Near Martha’s Vineyard
Satellite view of Obamas' new digs in Martha's Vineyard. Google Earth

By Nick Pope

A team of scientists is looking to dump chemicals into waters off the coast of Massachusetts this summer to research whether doing so could be an effective counter to ocean acidification and climate change, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The project would see researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) pour approximately 6,000 gallons of sodium hydroxide — a component of lye — into waters ten miles away from Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, in August 2024, according to the WSJ. The research project, estimated to cost about $10 million in total, will receive taxpayer funds from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provided the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signs off on releasing the chemicals.

The underlying concept is to see if the basic sodium hydroxide can reduce the acidity of ocean waters and make those waters more efficient repositories of carbon dioxide, according to the WSJ. Sodium hydroxide is a common ingredient in soaps and cleaning solutions, and it can be harmful to humans in high concentrations, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. (RELATED: Eco-Activists, Climate Scientists Quietly Met To Discuss Tinkering With The Sun)

“When you have heartburn, you eat a Tums that dissolves and makes the liquid in your stomach less acidic,” Adam Subhas, a WHOI scientist who is poised to serve as the project’s main investigator, told the WSJ. “By analogy, we’re adding this alkaline material to seawater, and it is letting the ocean take up more CO2 without provoking more ocean acidification. Everything that we’re seeing so far is that it is environmentally safe.”

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NOAA will provide some of the funding for the project, which is also being supported financially by private donors and two philanthropic organizations, according to the WSJ. Neither NOAA nor WHOI immediately responded to requests for comment, which included inquiries about the identities of the organizations and donors backing the project.

“EPA will follow the permitting process as described in the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act regulations before reaching a final determination to approve or deny the permit application,” a spokesperson for the agency told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Once EPA receives a complete permit application, the agency will provide notice to the public and will invite public comment on the permit application and EPA tentative determination on whether to issue a permit.”

WHOI’s intention to test the efficacy of tinkering with ocean chemistry reflects a wider emergent trend of climate scientists pushing so-called “geoengineering” projects, according to the WSJ. The basic idea of geoengineering is altering some physical or chemical aspect of an environmental system in order to counteract climate change.

Other geoengineering projects that are being considered or funded by the government, private sector or major donors include systems that shoot particles 60,000 feet into the air to reflect sunlight and cool the atmosphere, and another project that aims to enlarge and brighten clouds to increase reflectivity, according to the WSJ.


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