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Ocean fertilization offset plan sinks without a trace of iron-y

By Joe Romm on February 15, 2008 at 2:15 pm

"Ocean fertilization offset plan sinks without a trace of iron-y"

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oceanfert.jpgPlanktos, everybody’s favorite carbon offset company, announced today:

… the company has been forced to indefinitely postpone its ocean fertilization efforts once intended to restore marine plant life and generate ecological offsets for the global carbon credit market.

A highly effective disinformation campaign waged by anti-offset crusaders has provoked widespread opposition to plankton restoration in the environmental world, and has caused the company to encounter serious difficulty in raising the capital needed to fund its planned series of ocean research trials.

I wondered why my ears were burning. Darn that disinformation from leading ocean scientists writing in Science magazine (subs. req’d). Andy Revkin at the NYT has much more.

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5 Responses to Ocean fertilization offset plan sinks without a trace of iron-y

  1. libhomo says:

    Carbon offsets and carbon trading always were dangerous. Anything that gives corporations loopholes to avoid dealing with Global Warming is dangerous, even when it sounds good in theory.

    Corporations are good at gaming systems their politicians create.

  2. Paul K says:

    Joe,
    I again recommend displaying your rules for offsets on your home page.

    libhomo,
    What is dangerous about carbon offsets and carbon trading?

  3. RhapsodyInGlue says:

    I’m at a disadvantage of not having a subscription to Science, so I haven’t been able to read the paper first hand. I do believe the press coverage of that paper probably went beyond merely reporting the science. My understanding of what that paper (or perhaps an older one on which it was based) actually said was that with their study they could not find evidence of immediate effects of carbon matter transitioning into deep waters during the time of an algae bloom. Leading to the proper conclusion that we still do not have enough experimental evidence that would show a carbon sinking effect from bloom algae.

    Press coverage I have seen implies that the paper proves iron seeding would not lead to sequestration. But failure to find evidence that carbon sinking is taking place is no where near the same as finding evidence that proves that it isn’t taking place. Not only has coverage overblown what that Science paper demonstrated, some articles have gone much further and talked about crazy issues like creating huge anoxic dead zones in the ocean.

    The two more reasonable points that unfortunately have often gotten overshadowed by the negative spin are…

    - It is too early to allow iron seeding to be used in cap and trade regimes because we simply don’t yet have hard data showing how much carbon gets sequestered. Further, the rate CO2 could be sequestered safely on a large scale is still merely speculative.

    - There might be some valid concern if a majority of the scientific studies concerning iron seeding are being conducted by ventures whose primary business plan is commercializing the process. Perhaps this issue could have been mitigated if Planktos had reached out more to academic scientists and offered to include them in the studies.

    Those are two caveats about the way Planktos was proceeding, but the concept of iron seeding should not be dismissed. Ocean iron seeding as well as marine cloud enhancement through salt water aerosols have several unique advantages as mitigation strategies…

    - They are replicating or enhancing processes that occur naturally.

    - They can be carried out in successively larger trials and inherently the processes effects are localized and linear in nature, so any potential adverse effects would appear slowly as the deployment is ramped up.

    - The direct effects of both of these schemes would dissipate within a period of days or weeks. Other supposed geoengineering solutions such as stratospheric aerosols or space shades, would have effects lasting for years even after the projects were terminated.

    I would firmly support continued research into these two technologies. If recent warnings from people such as Hansen that we have already passed the safe level of atmospheric CO2 turn out to be accurate, we may have no alternative but to deploy strategies like these to allow time for the energy infrastructure to be decarbonized.

  4. john says:

    Rhapsody:

    You focus on whether Planktos’ plan would work as advertised in terms of sequestration … presumably, you believe that if it could be shown by a neutral party that it did, then everythig is copasetic.

    There is a far more serious hurdle Plantos or any other group proposing planetary engineering must leap: can it be conclusively shown that there are no serious unintended consequences?

    When endeavoring to influence the biosphere on a planetary scale, you are — by definition — altering fundamental proceeses. Do we have the skill to do this, and understand all the consequences of such an action? I doubt it.

    But in any case, the burden of proof must be on those who would conduct such planetary experiments to show there are none. Any other course could have us exchanging one planetary disaster for another.

    Since we do not currently have the resources, skill, knowledge, or wisdom to do this kind of assessment, it is imperative that we leave these kinds of “solutions” on the shelf.

    Someday, maybe. In the meantime, geographically limited techniques that seek to restore exisitng biolgical regimes offer some opportunties if they are properly monitored, discounted, and are part of a carefully documented global inventory. That’s as much as we can do right now.

  5. b cole says:

    National Algae Association

    Algae: The Next Biofuel

    Inaugural

    Algae Commercialization
    Business Plan and Networking Forum

    April 10, 2008

    http://www.nationalalgaeassociation.com