How do we solve global warming? Where some people see an obvious solution — stop burning so many fossil fuels and stop tearing down forests and grasslands — others see a great opportunity for technological Band-Aids that do nothing to address the root causes.

These fixes range from a plan to launch mirrors into space to deflect some of the incoming sunlight to schemes to seed the oceans with iron and other nutrients that can feed large blooms of algae. The logic goes like this: algae is a plant, plants absorb carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, algae sinks to the deep ocean after it dies, the carbon it absorbed goes with it.

Only, it turns out, that logical might not be so logical. A new study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research has found that, when algae is most abundant, the amount of carbon that gets tucked away deep underwater is at its lowest.

If that sounds counter-intuitive, it goes to show you that nature understands things better than we do. The researchers believe that when algae is more abundant, more things move in to eat it — “Waste not, want not,” being a deeply held philosophy in the natural world. So all that carbon that we thought would sink to the seafloor instead ends up in the bellies of microbes and larger creatures. And the ever-accelerating carbon cycle goes on.

Now I’m not against technology when it can really solve a problem. Compact fluorescent light-bulbs are a great innovation. So are solar panels and passive solar water-heaters. But technology that doesn’t solve a problem — or helps make a problem worse? That we can and should do without.

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