Green Chemistry

There are many ways in which chemistry has helped to reduce CO2 emissions and helped adaptation to a changing climate. Iron fertilization experiments aim to reduce the concentration of atmospheric CO2 by promoting the growth of phytoplankton in oligotro-phic regions of the ocean, where primary production is supposedly limited by the iron supply, such as in the Southern Ocean. Some paleontology researchers have shown a link between large quantities of iron in the air and the onset of ice ages. On first discovering of this, according to J.H. Martin and S.E. Fitzwater, the lead oceanographer in the project commented on the strong link between iron and planetary temperature saying, "Give me a half a tanker of iron and I'll give you the next ice age."

Paul Crutzen, a British atmospheric chemist and head of the group who initially discovered the stratospheric ozone hole, has suggested a radical proposal to mitigate global warming. Crutzen proposes to control the climate with the use of sulphate aerosol injected directly into the stratosphere. These aerosols would reflect sunlight, thereby cooling the planet significantly, but he predicts the effect will be short-lived (about one week). Crutzen suggests that regular planeloads of sulphate dispersed in the stratosphere would be a safe and cost effective way regulate the Earth's climate.

Photovoltaic describes the use of semiconductors to convert the sun's radiation into electrical energy. The cost of producing photovoltaic energy is high, as the chemicals need to be extremely pure. However, the technology has the potential to provide large amounts of energy with low CO2 emissions. Green chemistry is an emerging discipline that looks at ways to produce chemical products with reduced impact on the environment. Its importance was recognized in 2005, when the Nobel Prize for chemistry was awarded to Yves Chauvin, Robert H. Grubbs, and Richard R. Schrock for their work in this field.

SEE ALSO: Aerosols; Arrhenius, Svante August; Biogeo-chemical Feedbacks; Biology; Carbon Cycle.

BIBLIOGRApHY. Global Warming Art Project, (cited October 2007); J.T. Kiehl and K.E. Trenberth, "Earth's Annual Global Mean Energy Budget," Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (v.78/2, 1997); J.H. Martin and S.E. Fitzwater, "Iron-Deficiency Limits Phytoplankton Growth in the Northeast Pacific Subarctic," Nature (v.331, 1988); J.R. Petit, et al., "Climate and Atmospheric History of the Past 420,000 Years from the Vostok Ice Core, Antarctica," Nature (v.399, 1999).

Carl Palmer Independent Scholar

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