Oceanic Hubris

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

My friend Matt was kind enough to forward me some links to a new scheme for sequestering carbon in the areas of the ocean that have very little chlorophyll, which means areas with little of the oceanic green plant life called “phytoplankton”. Phytoplankton are the tiny chlorophyll-producing plants that are the foundation of all sea life—everything that lives in the open ocean either eats phytoplankton, or eats something that eats phytoplankton, or eats something that eats something that eats phytoplankton, ad infinitum. Without phytoplankton, the ocean is clear blue and lacks life.

The scheme involves the work that a company called MyOcean Resources is doing to solve what they call the “Global Warming and Ocean Acidification problems” in one go. They plan on building something called “ECOPIA”, which stands for “Earth Climate Optimisation Productivity Island Array”. ECOPIA is supposed to increase oceanic carbon sequestration. Information about ECOPIA is available as a PDF from the link above.

(A short digression. These acronyms like “ECOPIA” make me laugh. I’ve worked a few times as a consultant to the US Government. When you write a government report, they want a glossary of the acronyms at the end. So I invented an acronym, “SPREVELUA”, and put it into my glossary, claiming it meant the “Society for the PREservation of VEry Long Useless Acronyms” … of course, none of the bureaucrats who read my report ever noticed. But as I said, I digress, let’s set sail again on the marvelous ocean …)

Matt sent the information to me because he knows I’m a data guy, as well as an erstwhile commercial fisherman and bluewater sailor. I’ve sailed across some of the very areas of low chlorophyll that their scheme covers. So I set out to see if I could replicate their finding that the low-chlorophyll areas of the ocean are expanding.

The information he sent me included two studies which were most interesting, here and here. Both studies claimed that the areas of the low-chlorophyll parts of the ocean are getting bigger. So I decided to see if I could replicate their findings. I used a different dataset, the AQUA satellite chlorophyll dataset available here, because it is the longest one available. Here are the average chlorophyll levels from the first of the two studies, for the period 1998 – 2013.

And here are my results, for 2002 to 2021:

I’ve used a log scale, as did the paper above, to encompass the range of the data. As you can see, I get results that are virtually identical to the results from their study, despite the different time periods and data sources. So that finding is totally replicated. The area-weighted average chlorophyll level globally is 0.38 mg/liter.

However, I was totally unable to replicate their results regarding their claim that the least productive areas are expanding. Here are my results showing the decadal trends in the chlorophyll level.

There are several things of note here.

• Some areas are indeed losing chlorophyll, and some are gaining. However, they are only loosely related to the areas of least productivity shown above, particularly in the southern hemisphere.

• Overall the oceanic chlorophyll is increasing, not decreasing. The global average increase is about 0.012 mg/liter per decade.

• The trends are generally small compared to the average chlorophyll level of .38 mg/liter.

• The biggest gains are in the extratropics, particularly the sub-polar regions, and the tropics on average is basically neutral.

Having replicated one but not the other of those claims, I took a look at the ECOPIA concept. Their plan is to sequester 9 gigatonnes of carbon per year. Their claim is that a glass lens 1m in diameter plus a few hundred meters of fiber optic cable will sequester 50 kg of carbon per year. And they airily say they just need to “scale up building of structures”. Yeah, like that’s so easy to do. Here’s their graphic of the lens plus the fiber optic cable.

Their plan is to pipe light down deep into the ocean, to increase phytoplankton growth. Let me note that if light was all that was needed to increase phytoplankton growth, we’d find phytoplankton at the surface … but we don’t, because the necessary nutrients (mostly iron) aren’t available. Their claim is that the lower end of the assembly will be down below the “thermocline”, which is the dividing line between the wind and wave mixed surface waters and the next deeper layer. They say there are nutrients aplenty in that deeper water.

As an aside, it’s far from clear that hanging something like this down below the thermocline will work. The problem is that the currents in the mixed layer are often going in a different direction from the currents below the thermocline … and when that happens, the fan arrays will be dragged in a different direction, and may well get pulled at an angle to the point where they are no longer below the thermocline …

In addition, it’s also much colder down below the thermocline, so it’s not clear where these cold-adapted phytoplankton will come from, since none live there naturally

However, I find no indication anywhere that they have actually tried this concept to see if it works … which is curious, because it could be “proof-of-concept” tested for a few ten-thousands of dollars or so. Makes a man wonder.

In any case, assuming that 50 kg/year of carbon sequestered per assembly is the case (they don’t present any actual experimental figures), this oh-so-simple “scaling up” to sequester 9 gigatonnes of carbon would require the manufacturing of no less than 180 billion 1-meter glass lens plus fiber optic cable assemblies.

(By comparison, about 90 million cars and 135 million toasters roll off the assembly line each year. So if we could build these lens/fiber assemblies at the rate of say 500 million per year, it would only take 360 years for the buildout … but I digress.)

Then they say these assemblies will be enclosed by “Ring Donut shaped artificial islands with a diameter of 50KM with an internal moon pool of 46KM diameter” … here’s their graphic of the concept.

I have no idea how to even build such an object in a manner that would withstand a serious storm. Per their description, the surface of the artificial island will be 2 km wide and 160 km long (1.25 by 100 miles), and will be made of … well, further deponent sayeth not. What could it possibly be made of? How will it be made strong enough to withstand flexing from the occasional huge ocean waves?

To give an idea of the size, the top surface area of each artificial island will be about 300 million square meters. The top surface area of the world’s largest container ship is 24,000 square meters, so it would take 12,500 of the world’s biggest ships to cover the area needed.

And assuming the glass lenses are each floating independently, what will keep them from bashing each other to death in the first storm?

Then they claim that these artificial floating islands will be kept from drifting until they crash into the shore somewhere by “magnetohydrodynamics or vertical wings” … seriously? The forces on these structures will be immense. Handwaving about MHD and wings won’t cut it.

And where and how will they construct even one of these gigantosaurs? It’s 50 km (30 miles) across … seems like the only way would be to build it in 12,500 giant ship-sized sections, each weighing a couple hundred thousand tonnes, tow the sections thousands of miles out to sea, and bolt them together … nothing like that has ever been tried, and for very good reason. Tshe towing of just one of these sections will require a small fleet of tugs … and the thought of bolting two 200,000 tonne structures together in mid-ocean while each one is independently bouncing up and down in the waves makes my blood run cold.

I’m getting the sense that some of these folks have never been through a severe storm at sea … not something for the faint of heart.

Next, we have the price. They claim that it can be done for a mere $10 trillion dollars. To start with, they are looking to raise $20 million dollars for the initial funding …

Now, folks generally don’t realize how big a trillion dollars is. So let’s assume that they somehow get their funding so fired up that they are bringing in $20 megabucks each and every day of the year … at that furious rate, how long will it take to raise the $10 trillion dollars?

The answer is, if they are bringing in $20 million dollars per day, it will take them 1,369 years to raise the full $10 trillion.

And even those numbers seem wildly optimistic. They plan to build one hundred of these floating ring-shaped islands, each the equivalent of 12,500 gigantic container ships. These giant ships cost on the order of $200 million each … and the islands will have to be much stronger to take the strains. So the one hundred floating islands will cost on the order of $250 trillion … and even in the unlikely event that they could somehow be built for a tenth of that, it’s still $25 trillion for a hundred of them, which is more than double their estimate for the whole project.

Finally, as a long-time fisherman and seaman, here is what I can guarantee will be the largest problem with this scheme, a problem which they don’t even mention …


Ship’s bottoms are painted with toxic anti-fouling paint to keep all kinds of small marine creatures from taking up residence on the underwater surface—barnacles, limpets, mussels, copepods, and a host of different kinds of zooplankton (tiny animals) and phytoplankton (tiny plants) all love to colonize anything underwater. Some kinds of antifouling paints have had to be made illegal because when there were a number of boats in an area, they were poisoning entire bays and harbors … doesn’t bode well for the ECOPIA idea of increasing sea life …

These underwater surfaces will be heaven for phytoplankton in particular because phytoplankton are plants, and like all plants they need light. The phytoplankton will immediately take up residence on each of the fiber optic strands. And these few phytoplankton will choke off all of the light for the surrounding area that the ECOPIA people are depending on to create the midwater conditions for big plankton blooms … no bueno.

Humans have spent centuries trying to prevent fouling on the undersides of ships, with only limited success. Even the best of antifouling paints needs renewing every few years, and not one of the various kinds of antifouling paints is transparent, as would be required for this application.

And even if some magical transparent antifouling is invented, it’s a near certainty that they’ll still need to reapply it to the 180 billion units say once every three years (although likely much more frequently) … which means you’d need to take a boat up to ten miles out into the “moon pool”, haul out, clean off the fouling, prep the surface, and repaint no less than 164 million of these lens/fiber optic assemblies every day, 24/7/365, forever.

Riiight … so setting the practical impossibility of that aside, let’s assume that including labor and materials and transportation of the same to midocean, it would cost maybe $250 to renew the antifouling for a lens/fiber-optic assembly. It probably would be much more, getting a fender on your car fixed costs more than that, but let’s be wildly optimistic.

That would be a cost of $15 trillion per year … and they claim the whole project will only cost $10 trillion …

Math. Don’t leave home without it.

And moving on, last year we had a drought here in California, and everyone was raving about how it was the result of evil human-caused global warming. But this year, here on our lovely California hillside with a tiny bit of the ocean visible in the distance, we’ve already gotten more rain than we got all of last year (rainfall year, Oct. 1 to Sept. 30). And it’s funny … but nobody is ascribing that most excellent news to global warming.

Go figure. It’s almost like they are rooting for disaster so they can blame it on people … what a bizarre anti-human religion climate alarmism has become.

My very best wishes to all, inlaws, outlaws, climate alarmists and sane people alike, and my thanks to Matt for sending me this interesting koan,


PS: If the inventors of this scheme wish to comment, they are more than welcome to explain and defend their ideas, and to point out any mistakes I may have made.

MY USUAL: I can defend my words. I cannot defend your interpretation of my words. So to avoid misunderstandings, when you comment please quote the exact words you are discussing.

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November 13, 2021 10:15 am

Acronyms are a curse in all fields.
In my old field, I built a sheet with all the acronyms we used. We tended to 3 letter acronyms. So of course, I called my list the “TLA List”.
People would ask what TLA meant.
I replied that it was “three letter acronym”.
Everyone asking would become exasperated, and say ” I KNOW that. But what does it mean?”

Kinda like “what is the number of 911?!” by a famous American philosopher.

Reply to  Les Johnson
November 13, 2021 11:03 am

A four letter acronym (FLA) is a TLA and so it goes on. HAGD. 🙂

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Greytide
November 13, 2021 12:06 pm

Then too there is this:
UNA = use no acronyms

Reply to  Greytide
November 13, 2021 3:50 pm

I get to be the Ackshully guy!

A four letter TLA is an ETLA, Extended Three Letter Acronym.

Reply to  Charles Rotter
November 14, 2021 1:39 am

i joke you not I got a book in throwout at an opshop(guess why) its huge heavy and some 300+ pages just under A4 size
and its FULL of acronyms for govt and global departments
one day it will be fuel for my fire

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Les Johnson
November 13, 2021 12:06 pm

Then too there is this:
UNA = use no acronyms

Paul Johnson
Reply to  Les Johnson
November 13, 2021 8:56 pm

They could develop a BOA (Book Of Acronyms), but that would squeeze the meaning out of all technical communications.

Reply to  Paul Johnson
November 14, 2021 1:40 am

see my post above:it exists

Reply to  Les Johnson
November 14, 2021 6:22 am


*You people are obsessed with acronyms. You are nuts.

Reply to  Les Johnson
November 14, 2021 6:34 am

Of course, the word acronym is derived from the Greek akro, meaning top or extreme, and nomen, meaning name. Back in the day, NASA had a book of acronyms. Included in it was: ACRONYM – A Coded Rendition Of a Name Yielding Meaning.

Gilbert K. Arnold
November 13, 2021 10:29 am

Willis: I got a chuckle out of your acronym “SPREVELUA”. I submit for your edification the following acronym for the enforcement of climate claims… FERN – Federal Enforcement of Ridiculous Nonsense… Feel free to use any time

Reply to  Gilbert K. Arnold
November 13, 2021 10:59 am

Biologically Appropriate Real Foods.

November 13, 2021 10:38 am

I see that they are a team of 2 and their purpose is to TRY to solve SOME of the pressing challenges etc.

I suppose it keeps them off the street corners cluttering up the pavements, and if they keep at it they could solve some unemployment problems, always supposing they can get some trillionair to fund them, and always supposing they could con enough of the unemployable to go to sea to pick up the bits.

Insurance might be a problem, though.

Reply to  Oldseadog
November 13, 2021 10:39 am

Or is it a relocated April Fool?

My best to the family, Willis.

Curious George
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 13, 2021 12:16 pm

Do they need some serious money?

November 13, 2021 10:40 am

please please, I’m a farmer. send me money as I wish to crowd fund a court case agains all who wish to steal my naturally occurring plant food. I NEED it.CO2

November 13, 2021 10:45 am

Once again, the devil is in the details.

John Tillman
November 13, 2021 10:46 am

Phytoplankton aren’t plants. They’re cyanobacteria and small, unicellular eukaryotes, ie microalgae. Plants are multicellular, with chloroplasts descended directly from cyanobacteria or from algae, whose chloroplasts also originated from cyanobacteria.

Phytoplankton are diverse, and a fascinating study. Microalgae include diatoms, dinoflagellates, coccolithophores and green algae.

Last edited 1 year ago by Milo
John Tillman
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 13, 2021 12:30 pm

NASA labors under the misconception that algae are plants. They’re not.

Which phytoplankton are plants?

John Tillman
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 15, 2021 11:41 am

Not hair-splitting. It’s one of the most important phylogenetic issues of the past decade. And, for anyone with an interest in the oceans and CO2, understanding marine phytoplanlkton is critical.

In phylogeny, some lumpers have proposed including green algae in a clade (variously named) with plants, or even just including them under the classical Linnean Kingdom Plantae. But in that case, then unicellular and colonial choanoflagellate protozoa would have to lumped together with Kingdom Animalia (metazoans).

Same goes for the unicellular ancestors of fungi. Yeast, though unicellular, are fungi because they “devolved” from multicellular fungi. There’s also a group of plants with members species both single-celled and multicellular.

The problem of paraphyletic classification arises when modern cladistic taxonomy, based upon phylogeny is shoe-horned into anatmoy-based Linnaean systematics.

This is phylogenetic inside baseball, so few might be interested, but here it goes. Algae are photosynthetic eukaryotes. Most are unicellular. Those which form marine phytoplankton are microscopic microalgae. “Green algae” is probably a monophyletic group, but hugely diverse. Marine green algae phytoplankton are microalgae, mainly coastal, so mainly uninvovled in Willis post. (I’ll spare any readers the lengthy names of these groups.)

However colonial and even multicellular marine green algae exist. The latter are a kind of “seaweed”, a highly diverse, polyphyletic common term. It’s not a clade, ie a natural group sharing a common ancestor, unless you go so far as to be meaningless and wildly paraphyletic. Any way, the seaweedy group is attached to the seafloor rather than floating, like the green microalgae.

Most green algae in the sister group of marine algae (micro and macro) live in freshwater and even on land. It’s from this class that land plants (embryophytes) most likely evolved. They have cellulose in their cell walls, store carbohydrates as starch and use chlorophyll a and b. However they reproduce differently, in both sexually and asexual phases. And of course, they’re usually unicellular.

So, if you attach this class of green algae to the plant kingdom, then that leaves both Chlorophyta and Plantae paraphyletic. So in this century some lumpers have argued for including all green algae with plants, with a few names suggested for the group. Splitters adhere to the classification of prior centuries.

In any case, marine phytoplankton green algae are less closely related to land plants than are freshwater Chlorophyta.

“Alga” itself is highly polyphyletic. It used to even include “blue-green algae”, which are bacteria, not eukaryotic.


John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
November 15, 2021 12:19 pm

PS: Just as green algae have cellulose, choanoflagellates make collagen, yet nobody that I know of considers them animals. They do however resemble sperm, and, as noted, form colonies.

From a choanoflagellate colony to protosponge is a few easy steps, chiefly evolving signaling chemicals and cllular differentiation. The feeding cells of sponges, choancytes, are practically identical to their free-living choanoflagellate kin.

“Choano” refers to the collars or skirts which collect bacteria for the heterotrophic, motile eukaryotes to eat. “Flagella” of course denotes the whip-like propulsive structure which they share with similarly-shaped metazoan sperm cells.

Off-topic, I know.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
November 15, 2021 12:34 pm

Red algae evolved from other eukaryotic cells endosymbiotically incorporating other alga. Then brown algae, ie multicellular seaweeed, evolved from them.

Hence, the polyphyletic* status of “seaweed”.

*Pertaining to a group of organisms derived from more than one common evolutionary ancestor or ancestral group and therefore not suitable for placing in the same taxon.

Paraphyletic: Of a group of organisms descended from a common evolutionary ancestor or ancestral group, but not including all the descendant groups.

Monophyletic: Of a group of organisms descended from a common ancestor, including all its descendents.

The plant-green algae case is similar to the tetrapod-lobe-finned fish situation and so many other evolutionary transitions in the history of life on Earth. We tetrapods are traditionally rated a new, higher level taxon, but are at the same time a subgroup of lobe-finned fish, more closely related to the (practically amphibian) lungfish than to coelacanths, the only other surviving lobefin group.

Last edited 1 year ago by Milo
Hokey Schtick
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 16, 2021 8:45 am

You’re a great hugs-all-round guy until someone points an error. Then you have this snarky snapback which does you no credit. Take the correction on the chin, and be thankful for it.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  John Tillman
November 13, 2021 2:27 pm

Sunlight fueled autotrophs. SFA.

John Tillman
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
November 15, 2021 12:25 pm

Just wait until humans transplant chloroplasts into our skin.

Blood sugar too low? Rebreath exhaled CO2 and stick your hand out into the sunshine.

Little and big green men!

Last edited 1 year ago by Milo
Ed Fox
November 13, 2021 10:52 am

I used to place a dummy nonsense paragraph in every report to check to see who had actually read the report.

If you can read this …

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  Ed Fox
November 13, 2021 9:39 pm

Much like my frequent inclusion of a page which contained only: “This page unintentionally left blank.”

Joe Crawford
Reply to  Michael S. Kelly
November 14, 2021 9:30 am

That cost me a cuppa… and almost the keyboard. I use to work for a company where the documentation department always started each chapter on and even page number, so they had a lot of ‘almost blank’ pages. That would’ve driven ’em nuts if they’d seen it :<)

Reply to  Ed Fox
November 14, 2021 3:25 pm

Created a whole series of user guides for a maintenece software platform for the NHS 8 years ago, everyscreenshot image in the documents was carefully doctored to include a readable word or words from the lexicon of particle physics, no one ever commented, which means they either never noticed, or they did notice, guessed it was me and then carried on with their day job.
I`ll never know !

Ed Fox
November 13, 2021 10:56 am

It is MUCH cheaper to bring the mountain to Mohammed.

An OTEC pumps deep water to the surface using the ocean’s heat energy. Now the phytoplankton have nutrients to grow on the surface.

Richard S Courtney
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 13, 2021 12:45 pm


There was a demonstration OTEC system on the Big Island of Hawaii in the 1990s. The system generated a little electricity which was used as the power for pumping cold sea water up from beneath thermocline. The cold water was used as a coolant which was piped to provide cooling for buildings and also for arable soil.

The system was surprisingly successful. It provided very cheap air conditioning and – contrary to my expectation – suffered no significant corrosion of the pipework.

The demonstration plant proved there was no problem with scaling up but the OTEC system was of limited use. It could only operate on coasts which had no continental shelf because the pipework to bring water to shore from below the thermocline needed to be relatively short. Hence, usage of the system was limited to places such as Hawaii and parts of the west coast of India.

There being only a few places where it could be of use meant the OTRC system would not be commercially viable. There would be little demand for OTEC units and in effect each OTEC plant would be a unique ‘one off’. Despite that, at the time when I investigated it I thought it was an impressive piece of kit.


Richard S Courtney
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 14, 2021 1:25 am


Thanks for your link to a recent assessment of the OTEC system. I had not seen it and I found it to be interesting. Again, thanks.

As you say, link says the observed technical problem was fouling. However, my reading of the report does not induce me to think it was found to be an insurmountable problem.
The pertinent section of the report says in total,


Makai tested ozone, iodine, and chlorine dioxide treatments in addition to daily hypochlorite treatments for biofoulant control. Hypochlorite treatments are the most effective. As long as hypochlorite treatment is consistent, it is effective at preventing biofilm/biofouling; however, once biofilm begins to form (e.g., due to failure in the bleach delivery system), hypochlorination is does not remove the film and additional material can accumulate on the film. Although manual cleaning is effective at removing biofilm, it is time consuming and impractical for heat exchangers. Acid treatments and flow reversals remove most of the biofilm and can be implemented for a heat exchanger. 

So, the interesting report which you link does not report any significant technical problems with OTEC. But so what?
As I explained,

There being only a few places where it could be of use meant the OTEC system would not be commercially viable. There would be little demand for OTEC units and in effect each OTEC plant would be a unique ‘one off’

It does not matter that OTEC is technically feasible when it is economically non-viable.


PS As your phraseology suggests you know, I am aware of the problem of fouling because removal of biofouling was a significant annual cost when my boat was my home, my office and my laboratory.

November 13, 2021 11:03 am

Same results for free (via Govt. Est. Methods):

If one wanted to upset the oceanic life cycles to cure a made up CO2 problem for less than $10 Trillion imaginary $’s… I believe broadcasting iron @ 10mg/m^2 over a similar area would cost about $10 Trillion less (rounding to $10’s of Billions)… so by 0.1% Govt. Est. rounding methods…the whole process would be free.

Last edited 1 year ago by DocSiders
Ed Fox
Reply to  DocSiders
November 13, 2021 11:13 am

Or, how about going back to burning coal? The aerosols produced kept temperatures stable following WWII.

It is only after the Clean Air Act started messing with the atmosphere that this mess started. Before that the big worry was cooling.

Ed Fox
Reply to  Ed Fox
November 13, 2021 11:20 am

Once Xi convinces Kerry and Biden to pay China to put scrubbers on all their coal plants global warming is going to really take off as global aerosol levels fall

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 14, 2021 1:22 pm

Thank you I have Been looking for this for ages thought it might have been scrubbed totally
The people involved where prosecuted I believe
there was a good illustrated article about it can’t find it now
Similar work has been don in Antarctic waters the results are spectacular to the point that it would be easy to remove man’s co2 output but it is suppressed More evidence this is about something other than climate

Ed Fox
November 13, 2021 11:07 am

As a bonus the cold water an OTEC brings to the surface cools the planet without any need to cut CO2.

Thus happens because OTEC increases the mixing rate of the ocean. This is such an obvious low cost solution that governments will never consider it.

There are of course many other benefits of OTEC such as increased marine food production associated with increased upwelling as well as electrical generation from surplus energy.

Rick W Kargaard
Reply to  Ed Fox
November 13, 2021 12:22 pm

How in Heck does Ontario Tourism Education Corporation (OTEC) raise cool water? Perhaps by burying tourists at sea. They probably produce some hot air but how does that help.

Rick W Kargaard
Reply to  Rick W Kargaard
November 13, 2021 12:29 pm

I tell you, man, I am SOA and it is time they were EFSW.

November 13, 2021 11:10 am

All this infrastructure indicates that this is about getting funding not the results
In this case a few grams of iron sulfate per hectare will cause a plankton explosion that other marine life will exploit the surplus will settle into the deep ocean and be fixed for eons
Trials of this have been done in antarctic waters with massive results , A semi commercial effort was done in the north Pacific to enhance a salmon fishery it worked a treat but the promoters where arrested the reports have disappeared from the internet

November 13, 2021 11:15 am

CACA Verde

Steve Fitzpatrick
November 13, 2021 11:26 am

At least the idea is good for a laugh.

Easier and cheaper to just fertilize the phytoplankton free areas with missing nutrients. Or fly jets in the stratosphere to disperse fine sulfate particles and reflect 1% of the sunlight (should that ever be needed), which would be even cheaper than fertilizing the oceans.

Reply to  Steve Fitzpatrick
November 13, 2021 1:31 pm

The missing nutrient in all that blue area is enough dissolved CO2, the primary food for phytoplankton.

November 13, 2021 11:37 am

Let’s not forget what it would take to create these. If they are basically glass, you have considerable energy required to melt the glass and fabricate it, which is mostly burning CH4. Then you have to transport it to the site which is even more fossil fuel use. But I’m pretty sure no one would take this into consideration. https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=12631

November 13, 2021 11:40 am

“And even if some magical transparent antifouling is invented, it’s a near certainty that they’ll still need to reapply it to the 180 billion units say once every three years”

Rain-X. Never any barnacles on MY windshield. I’m buying in early.

John Larson
November 13, 2021 11:46 am

It’s easy to farm when you plow with a pencil.

Gordon A. Dressler
November 13, 2021 12:04 pm

Willis, you’ve presented a great rebuttal to the infeasibility of the MyOcean Resources  concept for CO2 sequestration per the above article.

I will just add that the average global ocean temperature below the thermocline is approximately 3.5 C (ref: Physical Oceanography, Oceanic Adjustment, Ping Chang, in Encyclopedia of Physical Science and Technology (Third Edition), 2003 via https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/thermoclines ).

That temperature is antithetical to producing robust phytoplankton growth.

November 13, 2021 12:14 pm

Consider the carbon footprint per meter of fiber optic cable against the biomass production capabilities of a simple artificial reef used for aquaculture (perhaps this is more properly called deliberate fouling).
I’m pretty sure that the mechanism to transmit light through fiber optic cable isn’t as simple as pointing one end at the sun..
I looked up phytoplankton aquaculture — turns out that it is a thing — and found not one mention of use of light at depth. Instead, best results (mass/energy input) seem to be obtained shoreside in near lab conditions — expensive, but far cheaper than 10 trillion.
A former coworker claimed that he’d fallen just short of getting BOHICA accepted as a military project name: per the tale, the word substitution scheme was quite mature until someone clued in a previously enthusiastic, but clueless, flag officer to the original meaning of the term. Until recently, I was skeptical that flag officers could be that gullible, but even today I rate that story more believable than this ECOPIA project.

Last edited 1 year ago by dk_
Rud Istvan
November 13, 2021 12:39 pm

Your most excellent post reminds me of another seriously proposed CO2 capture scheme, the ‘Sky Mine’ from Skyonics. Wrote about it in the Details chapter of Arts of Truth. Idea was to use Drano (sodium hydroxide) dissolved in a column of water thru which flue gas would be bubbled, producing sodium carbonate (soda ash) for which there is a market. Basic high school chemistry experiment.

Problem is they need a LOT of Drano, which is produced together with hydrochloric acid via the electrochemical chloralkali process. Whether steam coal or CCGT powered, making the Drano produces at least as much CO2 as can be sequestered by a Sky Mine. Renewables cannot be used because of intermittency.

Never the less, DOE gave them $25 million for a demonstrator Sky Mine. As Will Rogers once said, “We should be thankful we aren’t getting all the government we pay for.”

Reply to  Rud Istvan
November 13, 2021 5:42 pm

You can make NaOH by electrolyisis of seawater without producing CO2. H2 is a by product (–> Super-Green Hydrogen!). Unfortunately Cl2 is also a by-product. Can anyone think of a commercial use for Mega-tonnes of Chlorine?

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  John Reid
November 13, 2021 6:41 pm

Well, one “use” was found during WWI.

I also understand that a certain despot in the Middle East has likely repeated that “use” within the last ten years on certain populations of his country, including on women and children.

Reply to  John Reid
November 13, 2021 6:46 pm

Piping it into the Halls of Congress to ensure that any COVID-19 virus is exterminated would be a good use.

Any co-incidental extermination of other noxious creatures would be a side benefit.

Ed Fox
Reply to  John Reid
November 14, 2021 11:45 am

Mega-tonnes of Chlorine?
Scrubbing OTEC. As I recall the Bay of Fundy tidal project electrified the rotor to keep it clear of fouling.

Climate believer
November 13, 2021 12:55 pm

Now where’s my rubber stamp….ah..


Craig Williams
November 13, 2021 1:11 pm

Re the digression : ACRONYM – Alphabetical Collection Representing Often Needed Yardlong Monikers

November 13, 2021 1:14 pm

The three figures tell us the true story and they tell me there scheme would never work. All that blue area is where the ocean surfaces are net emitters of CO2. The other ocean areas are net sinks. There is less CO2 in the higher temperature areas so phytoplankton gets less food to grow on. Look at the effect of upwelling of cold CO2 containing water near the equator on the west coast of South America. The cold polar waters are the ultimate sinks for CO2. Each year these sinks, with the help of a lot of phytoplankton, suck up all (natural and anthropogenic) CO2 emitted during the year. There is no appreciable accumulation beyond each year. The observed increase in concentration is the result of natural increases in emission rates.

Peter Wells
Reply to  Fred Haynie
November 13, 2021 2:41 pm

Consider all of the CO2 emitted by undersea volcanic activity due to continental drift, which has been going on for millions of years.

Reply to  Peter Wells
November 13, 2021 6:18 pm

Nature has the best net zero with respect to CO2. Within each year, the oceans absorb all that they emit and all of the relatively small amount of anthropogenic as well. There is no need to try to improve that absorbing ability.


Richard Williams
November 13, 2021 1:22 pm

I look forward to contributions from you Willis. For some reason I just know I am basking in truth. Satan’s lies are everywhere. Thanks Willis.

Thomas Gasloli
November 13, 2021 1:37 pm

How can the people who have been on a rant for 30 years about the evil impact humans have on the planet propose humans have an even greater impact on the planet with engineering specifically design to screw with large areas of the oceans?

Everyone in “climate science” must be smoking crack with Hunter!😳

November 13, 2021 1:44 pm

Why not bring the nutrients to the surface? Much cheaper and with other advantages. We proposed this idea back in 2007. http://www.ecofluidics.com/OceanMixing/index.html No-one was interested.

Nutrients in smoke plumes from big bushfires in Australia already remove more CO2 than the fires generated: https://blackjay.net.au/a-bloom-as-big-as-australia/

Randle Dewees
November 13, 2021 1:44 pm

Willis, I bet you had fun with this one. I’m impressed with the scale of the MyOcean Resources concept. It reminds a bit of Ring World. And the Far Side cartoon where a couple spiders had built a puny web across a playground slide and were commenting as they watched a pudgy kid coming down “it’s a long shot, but if it works we feast tonight!”

November 13, 2021 2:00 pm

“It’s almost like they are rooting for disaster so they can blame it on people” – you can tell that is the case, because they fight tooth and nail against anything which could solve the “problems” that they feed off.

As someone who has tried and failed to get a fishing line down an awful lot less than 100-300m where there are cross-currents, I don’t see how these optical pipes are going to reach that depth without a ginormous weight on each one.

Joel O'Bryan
November 13, 2021 2:22 pm

ocean fertilization with a fleet tankers spraying iron magnesium phosphates mixtures would be a far cheaper and low tech way to bio-sequester carbon. Everything to do it already exists.

November 13, 2021 2:31 pm

Thanks for the fun read Willis. It would be nice if these guys would take their company public. Then we could all short the hell out of it and make some money out of this whole climate crisis scam. (Since I’m still waiting for my cheque from the oil companies 😝)

Coeur de Lion
November 13, 2021 2:34 pm

RPC. Request the Pleasure of your company
WMP. with much pleasure
MRU. Much regret unable
That’s all you need

November 13, 2021 2:54 pm

Thanks so much for the laughs. Had to be the most enjoyable article I’ve read in a long time!

November 13, 2021 3:13 pm

Ocean iron fertilization is somewhat similar, but based on science.

Long story short, whales used to vertically mix nutrients in the oceans by pooping iron. Then we killed most of them. Now the ocean primary productivity is lower. Most of the damage was done before satellites. The whales and the oceans have been slowly recovering during the modern era. Give it a millenia for a natural recovery or jump start them with an intervention.

Russ George lead a team that did a commercial scale demonstration off western Canada. He and his team almost went to jail based on accusations of illegal dumping at sea despite a pile of permits.

The demonstration was wildly successful, turning a few million dollars of time and materials into many hundreds of millions of dollars of extra fish. It may have also sequestered some CO2 through enhanced biomass fall into the deep sea and it may have temporarily increased local cloudiness, since phytoplankton emit and become cloud condensation nuclei.

The total benefits of the demonstration are probably circa 100-1000x the cost. But it is an inverted crisis of the commons problem. Private costs pay for mostly public benefits.

His site is about the only one to discuss the subject in detail. The scientific community studying oceans and iron mostly pretend the one commercial scale demonstration never happened:


Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 21, 2021 6:56 am

Here’s an article about how phytoplankton influence cloudiness.

If the linkages are all correct, your theory about how clouds control temperatures in a naturally dampens system is correct. The slow loss of ocean surface nutrients after the great vertical mixing machines (whales) were mostly killed off reduced the responsiveness of the cloud system.

Slower daily cloud formation caused part of, possibly most of, the last century of warming.

Entertainingly, you can spot Russ George’s demonstration project from the satellite record. The area completely clouded over. He’s never made much fuss about clouds. His business model is fish. But it works great as a cloud machine.


Brian R
November 13, 2021 4:53 pm

Anybody want to guess what blocking 22.5 trillion square miles of ocean surface from sun light would do?

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Brian R
November 13, 2021 6:46 pm

Probably something like what happens every night around the planet.

Brian R
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 13, 2021 9:10 pm

Well I screwed up. I took the surface area of each island and multipled it by the number of lenses needed.

That will teach me to try to be snarky while trying to work.

Tombstone Gabby
November 13, 2021 4:58 pm

G’Day Willis,

One item you didn’t mention – what a heck of a navigation hazard.

November 13, 2021 5:06 pm

I would suggest different donut which is 20 meter in diameter.
Made of titanium, because everything corrodes in seawater- except titanium.
Or marine aluminum or corrosive resistance stainless steel.
It’s thin walled fat donut which float on the surface when it has thin walled cylinder
hanging below it which is 50 to 100 meter tall.
What it does is allow ocean wave water to go over donut and water has sink to get out
of the donut.
What does is cause warmer surface water to fall.
What does it does is warm deeper water and thereby cool surface surface water- it heats entire ocean, and heating entire ocean causes global warming.
Since we in an Ice Age, global warming is good thing, but with enough of them it lower global surface temperatures- so, cause actual global warming but lower global air temperature.
And it could maybe force CO2 into the ocean. And having them encrusted with life is not a problem.

November 13, 2021 5:37 pm

There was an original Star Trek episode that featured a city hovering in the clouds. Somehow, I think that idea is more believable than this massive magic floating lens system. 😉

November 13, 2021 8:42 pm

Two guys, $10 trillion dollars, and they promise to fix ‘Climate Change’…….

OK, sure. Sounds legit. I’m good with that.

Paul Johnson
November 13, 2021 8:58 pm

it’s not clear where these cold-adapted phytoplankton will come from, since none live there naturally”
from higher latitudes, perhaps?

Julian Flood
Reply to  Paul Johnson
November 13, 2021 10:17 pm

Some grow on the underneath of polar ice.


November 13, 2021 11:21 pm

Aside from the following glaring error, some of your points seem valid.
But not this:

“… where and how will they construct even one of these gigantosaurs? It’s 50 km (30 miles) across … seems like the only way would be to build it in 12,500 giant ship-sized sections, each weighing a couple hundred thousand tonnes…”

Incorrect assumption, based on insufficient data (an example cherry picking, similar to the vast majority of global warming “skeptics'” arguments). Why assume each “ship-sized section” is as deep, or as complex (thus, as costly) as a tanker?? Well, it bolsters the argument of course–so long as the error (which most of your rather unscientifically sympathetic audience won’t detect, let alone question) isn’t discovered.

So why is an alleged climate scientist fomenting false/failing data or calculations?? Don’t you have a dedication, as a scientist, to unearth truth, not lies and deception based on fake calculations?? Or is it that your other science is frequently as faulty as this piece: easily debunked conclusions, false assumptions, and who knows what other failures??

Not science at all, Willy. Try *public,* not hidden/secreted shilling for oil companies, on whose side (profits over people and planet) you obviously favor.

November 13, 2021 11:40 pm

… since it seems I can’t edit my comment, I’m making this addendum to explain in more detail and clarity one of my points:

There is no reason I can see to assume a floating ring with the surface area of thousands of fuel tankers must achieve the complexity and the below-water depth an actual tanker must. The entire floating island the ring could be many pieces, all joined. In that case, the links must necessarily be stronger than the pieces linked, in order to withstand oceanic forces attempting to separate those links. Licking all the pieces however contributes however contributes to the strength of the overall unit, much as a tennis bracelet is more strong and flexible than a solid bracelet, so long as the joiner pieces are sufficiently strong.

1) When sections of a large floating object are joined, they do not need the same ballast as a ship with that surface area.

Therefore the mass and certainly the complexity could, most likely would–be much less than a tanker–and thereby, the cost.

2) Given those facts, why did you assume your assumptions were the only like anyone’s contributing or to the cost of such an endeavor? As an alleged scientist, aren’t you supposed to be aware of your own likely blinders? Isn’t it incumbent on you to check your ideas with others to uncover such blind spots and arrive at a more viable theory or more precise or correct calculations?

Do you feel so confident as to be ideologically arrogantly inflexible, and unwilling to check your ideas with others because you “just know” you’re right despite immediate evidence to the contrary??

November 13, 2021 11:46 pm

2) Given those facts, why did you assume your assumptions were the only *likely ones* valid that determine the cost of such an endeavor?

Reply to  KTshane3000
November 14, 2021 2:32 pm

KT – I love it when someone goes off half cocked and gets their ar*e kicked by Willis with those awkward little things called facts, but still come back for another whippin’. Keep it up.

Julian Flood
November 14, 2021 12:43 am

Warm water plumes. Ask the USN about them, they are the experts.

Truncated post, the other one disappeared.

Julian Flood
Reply to  Julian Flood
November 14, 2021 9:57 am

Now the Remembrance: Sunday services are over (388th Bomb Group memorial has a service of its own when we leave the church. Thank you America, you lost a lot of brave young men flying B17s from Knettishall) I can expand a little.

A warm plume initiated below the nutricline would perhaps rise to the plight with enough nutrients to feed plankton. There are a lot of details before it’s even a remote possibility but an assessment of using warm plumes shouldn’t be too costly.

During the Cold War subs were alledgedly tracked by the warm water they left behind. If that’s so then the USN will have data about how heated water makes its way up from the depths. Maybe someone should ask them.

It makes a lot more sense than spraying the stratosphere.


Julian Flood
Reply to  Julian Flood
November 14, 2021 9:59 am

‘light’ dammit.


November 14, 2021 12:50 am

Very nice piece. Confirms the phenomenon with yet another example. Don’t know why, but people advocating measures and policies in relation to the alleged climate emergency seem unable to think consequentially about either the feasibility or effects of what they are proposing. Its so widespread that it would merit another tab in the site itself, or at least a tag: crazed climate schemes.

Examples cited here in recent weeks include the various mad UK proposals. But the truly insane ones are, like this one, from the mad mad world of geo-engineering.

The rule seems to be, the measures should fail to address the alleged problem.

If they reduce emissions at all, it should be by too small an amount to make any difference.

Or, they can fail to reduce them or even increase them.

If they do reduce them, this should be in the form of a sharp increase in the next couple of decades, and a reduction 50+ years out. As in, we burn wood now, but its carbon neutral because someone will plant the trees somewhere to recover the emissions.

They should be impossible to deliver. For instance, convert the entire electricity grid to wind generation without installing any storage. Or with the installation of a half-hour’s worth of storage, which will be the above, too small to solve the problem.

They should also fail to deliver in the proposed application. As when we generate electricity from solar, omitting to note that peak demand is at 5pm on a January weekday, at which time the sun is not shining.

There are bonus points in these schemes if they are downright impossible, as the present one – construction of the proposed device and successful deployment in the proposed environment is beyond any feasible engineering.

There are also bonus points if they are obviously far riskier than allowing the present situation to continue – for instance, firing huge quantities of particulates into the upper atmosphere to limit solar radiation. Bonus points on this because its hideously expensive and it will be a giant totally untried experiment with unknown consequences.

Further bonus points if a scheme can have associative dire environmental effects, as for instance when we electrify cars and charge them from solar panels with no idea what to do with all the batteries and the solar cells when they have to be replace, and when their manufacture in the first place is environmentally disastrous and dreadful for the health of anyone working in the industry or living anywhere nearby.

Another shining example is when we move to biofuels, which results in wholesale destruction of habitats accompanied by the conversion of food into fuel with resulting rises in food prices and a most commendable increase in world hunger. Corn is much better used as ethanol than sold as food to eat. In addition, ethanol has the extra added merit of being far worse for car engines than regular gasoline.

If it can be shown that the proposed scheme will result in untoward events like common household appliances bursting into inextinguishable flames without warning and for no apparent reason, this is highly desirable and deserves a special award. Bus designers who have deployed such products in Germany should be especially singled out for such awards, but GM and Tesla are in the running.

A correlated subsidiary prize goes to the most creative efforts to substitute one’s own home grown math or statistics methods to justify these schemes. A couple of nice ones are on display in this piece.

Reply to  michel
November 14, 2021 9:22 am

I like how you think, michel 👍😁

My entry, which IIRC, I suggested over 15 years ago on Revkin’s NYT climate blog, was giant window blinds placed in orbit.

When we need more sunlight, the blind is opened. When the Earth is in danger of frying, the blinds are closed.

We ought to be able to do that for… [scribbles on back of cocktail napkin and then just makes up a number] ,,, two $trillion or less if there are no change orders from the gummint during the build.

The above is two guys and ten $trillion. I’m just one guy coming in at two $trillion. The correct choice** is obvious. 😜

** Two guys and ten $trillion, of course. More money = more graft and kickback opportunities. Who cares if it works or solves any particular problem?.

Joe Crawford
Reply to  michel
November 14, 2021 10:53 am

“Corn is much better converted to and used as ethanol than sold as food to eat.” Actually that use to be standard practice in the mountains of North Carolina (and still is in spots). It’s always been a lot easier and much more profitable to convert your corn to ethanol that to try and haul it into town and sell for food :<)

Vincent Causey
November 14, 2021 1:04 am

But apart from the $250 trillion, the 12,500 giant ships, the repainting of 165 million lenses with anti fouler every day, the destructive effect of large waves and preventing the structures from crashing into the shores, what is wrong with the idea?

November 14, 2021 1:37 am

aw Willis..but the pic is so pretty:-)
no really Thanks again for a ripper read and a damned hearty laugh
apart from all your wise points can I add that the fishies etc down deep dont NEED or like light in their bedrooms either, oddly enough they adapted to be just where they like it best

Reply to  ozspeaksup
November 14, 2021 9:36 am

So… you’re saying Darwin just might have been on to something?

Thanks again for a ripper read and a damned hearty laugh”


Just when you thought the scheme couldn’t get more impossible or dumber, Willis sez, “But wait, there’s more!”

Simon Derricutt
November 14, 2021 5:35 am

The fouling problem might be solvable – see https://www.theengineer.co.uk/laser-process-fouling-multiflex-project/ or search on “laser antifouling”. After all, sharks don’t get their skins fouled because of the nanostructuring of the surface, and we can (at a cost) mimic that. However, the other downsides of this idea aren’t so easy to fix. Given the amount of material and thus the amount of energy needed to make it and to put it in place and maintain it, it looks unlikely to even break even on the “Carbon budget” before it reaches end-of-life.

Maybe a more-achievable way to offset the human CO2 production would be to use quick-growing trees to make charcoal, and then store the charcoal in a big hole in the ground. We’d only need to produce around 10.6 GT of charcoal each year to fully offset the 39GT of CO2 we already produce. As Basil Fawlty would say, piece of p_ss…. Of course, once we found that this didn’t make any appreciable difference to the rate of rise of CO2 in the atmosphere (since it seems more likely to be a result of the slow rise in temperature of the ocean) , we would then have a load of easily-mined charcoal to use, too. Admittedly, this is a lot of wood to make into charcoal, and going on the wood supplies for Drax power station in the UK (only produces around 13-16MT of CO2 per year at the moment) we’d only need to multiply that by around 2,000 to achieve that true “net zero” that people are aiming at. With total mass of forests around 359GT (see https://www.fao.org/3/y1997e/y1997e07.htm) we’d probably be able to do this for around 10 years before we ran out of trees. Yep, pretty silly overall, but not quite as silly as the Ecopia proposal.

The Carbon in those fossil fuels had only one source as far as we know, and that’s the atmosphere. Fairly obviously when it was all in the air as CO2 the world didn’t end. The main problem is not having enough in the atmosphere, and since over geologic time the shells of various sea-creatures fall to the bottom of the ocean, forming a layer of Limestone that will likely take quite a while to be subducted and return the CO2 to the atmosphere by volcanoes, I’m seeing the extra CO2 in the atmosphere as being a Good Thing anyway – we get better crops from anything that grows. Looking at the graphs of Global Average Temperature over the last few thousand years, I can’t see a strong correlation of temperature and CO2 either – even in the last couple of centuries there were periods when temperature was falling whilst CO2 was rising. It’s only from around 1980 onwards that you can get a good correlation, and in the 70s we were being warned that the Earth was cooling (because of human emissions, of course) and we’d be glaciated by now. The attempts to memory-hole those predictions don’t work on me – I lived through that time.

Though WUWT (and of course Willis) have put a lot of effort into scientific analysis, most of the people I talk to are convinced that CO2 is the control-knob of climate, and that every effort to reduce CO2 emissions is worth doing. Looks to me that this isn’t a scientific problem, but one of belief (and constant propaganda) instead.

November 14, 2021 6:23 am

Upon reading through the article, I came to this conclusion: the proposal is a scam to get grants money, nothing else. Just say “NO” and move on.

Almost forgot: what happens when that giant whiz-bang thingy decides to take a prolonged excursion by breaking its moorings (there are moorings, right?) and drifting away on the tides? I will not hesitate to point and laugh.

Last edited 1 year ago by Sara
November 14, 2021 8:35 am

The rule where I worked was that you had to include the acronym immediately after the first use in the document, other than the title, in parenthesis. This solved nothing, as by the time you have read two or three more pages further, you have forgotten what those three or four letters stood for. Then, you had to go back and read the document. Ent to find the first use so that you could determine what they were talking about. It was so bad I got Adobe Acrobat so that I could convert the document into a text searchable document and search for the acronym rather than reading the document over again from the beginning.

November 17, 2021 12:39 am

So to reduce CO2 induced ocean warming, they propose piping energy below the thermocline? Absolute gold. Five star morons.

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