Does Earth Balance Carbon Dioxide Levels Automatically?

A group of German scientists has received clearance from the United Nations to perform a controversial experiment: dumping tons of iron into ocean water.

Victor Smetacek and his research team from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany, will test the effects of what Leeds University professor Rob Raiswell, conducting research aboard the British HMS Endurance, discovered—tiny bits of iron in Antarctic glaciers that may play a role in holding the earth’s climate in balance.

As greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide build up in the atmosphere, the earth’s surface temperature rises. This causes glacial ice to melt, which releases iron into ocean water. Iron, in small amounts, is a vital element for life, and in seawater it causes marine algae to bloom. As algae proliferate near the ocean’s surface, they trap carbon dioxide, which could then lead to a reduction in global temperatures. The German scientists will attempt to verify whether the algae, after dying, sink to the bottom of the sea, thereby sequestering carbon dioxide “for several hundred years.”1

Marine bacteria work to maintain a healthy balance of atmospheric methane levels, and methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.2 The role of nitrifying and denitrifying bacteria in balancing nitrate and nitrite levels is also well-known as the Nitrogen Cycle. It would seem unlikely that these gas-balancing features of the biosphere would interact so effectively with the inorganic environment—thus sustaining life on the planet—by chance. As Raiswell told the Daily Mail, “The Earth itself seems to want to save us.”1

It would not follow that a universe and earth that formed themselves through undirected natural processes would or even could produce these complex ecological interactions that are also specified to maintain an atmosphere necessary for life. However, if God created the heavens and the earth as a place for living things to thrive, it would only make sense for Him to have embedded these natural processes in the planet.

It is not the earth that wants to save us, but God Himself, the Creator of all things, who established the earth and its systems as a unique home for His creatures.3


  1. Macfarlane, J. Amazing discovery of green algae which could save the world from global warming. Daily Mail. Posted on January 4, 2009, accessed January 5, 2009.
  2. Thomas, B. A Natural Cause of Greenhouse Gas. ICR News. Posted on July 16, 2008.
  3. Bergman, J. The Earth: Unique in All the Universe (Updated). Posted on February 26, 2008.

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer.

Article posted on January 12, 2009.

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