• Commercial oceanic iron fertilisation to be governed

    Antarctica, Climate, Conservation, Energy, Law and Legislation

    Last week I posted about Planktos, a company working on a commercial scale iron-fertilization programme. An issue I've had an interest in for some years now, mainly as it seemed to be a threat mostly ignored by mainstream conservation organisations and conservation-loving countries. This lack of action led to a number of for-profit companies trying to take advantage and make a quick buck by selling the activity as a good, scientifically sound, way of battling climate change. Some days ago Greenpeace, in cooperation with the ETC Group and CTA, finally released an official, public, statement on this issue.

    This has been discussed during a meeting of the London Convention Scientific Group (agenda, pdf) that took place in Spain last week. The convention's final statement of concern (see below for the full text and a number of statements) is pretty damning for current commercial applications of the iron fertilisation theory.

    Statements & assorted information

    Statement on ocean fertilisation by Greenpeace International - DOWNLOAD PDF
    Challenging geo-engineering solutions to climate change: The urgent need for detailed scientific scrutiny and international regulations to protect the oceans from large-scale iron fertilization programmes

    Statement on Planktos by the United States - DOWNLOAD PDF
    It is the understanding of the United States Government that the United States-based for-profit company Planktos, Inc., plans to dissolve up to 100 tons of iron dust in a 100 km by 100 km area approximately 350 miles west of the Galapagos Islands in June 2007 in order to stimulate phytoplankton blooms. Because this iron release project will not be done by vessels flagged in the United States or by vessels leaving from the United States, the United States Government does not have jurisdiction to regulate this project under its law implementing the London Convention. The United States believes that the iron addition projects proposed by Planktos, Inc. should be evaluated carefully by any State that has appropriate jurisdiction over this activity.

    London Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter - LINK

    Statement of Concern from the Scientific Groups of the London Convention and the London Protocol. - DOWNLOAD DOC. Full text below

    Greenpeace International statement: "Recent announcements by the company Planktos of their intentions to fertilize 10,000 km2 of the seas around the Galapagos Islands with iron nano-particles raise renewed concerns regarding the unpredictability of impacts, the likelihood of unintended and potentially irreversible adverse consequences and the absence of international regulatory controls on such geo-engineering projects. Greenpeace International draws attention to recent research papers which illustrate fundamental limitations to scientific understanding of processes controlling oceanic carbon fluxes and, therefore, of the effectiveness and possible adverse impacts of iron fertilization programmes, and calls upon the Scientific Group to identify iron fertilization as an issue requiring urgent consideration by Contracting Parties during the 29th Meeting of the London Convention/2nd meeting of the London Protocol."

    Statement of Concern

    Large-scale Ocean Iron Fertilisation Operations

    • 1. Large-scale fertilisation of ocean waters using micro-nutrients such as iron to stimulate phytoplankton growth in order to sequester carbon dioxide is the subject of recent commercial interest. The Scientific Groups of the London Convention and the London Protocol take the view that knowledge about the effectiveness and potential environmental impacts of ocean iron fertilisation currently is insufficient to justify large-scale operations.
    • 2. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), iron fertilisation of the oceans may offer a potential strategy for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by stimulating the growth of phytoplankton and thereby sequestering the carbon dioxide in the form of particulate organic carbon. However, the IPCC also stated that ocean fertilisation remains largely speculative, and many environmental side effects have yet to be assessed.
    • 3. The Scientific Groups of the London Convention and London Protocol note with concern the potential for large-scale ocean iron fertilisation to have negative impacts on the marine environment and human health. They therefore recommend that any such operations be evaluated carefully to ensure, among other things, that such operations are not contrary to the aims of the London Convention and London Protocol.
    • 4.Such an evaluation should include, among other things, consideration of:
      • 1. the estimated amounts and potential impacts of iron and other materials that may be released with the iron;
      • 2. the potential impacts of gases that may be produced by the expected phytoplankton blooms or by bacteria decomposing the dead phytoplankton;
      • 3. the estimated extent and potential impacts of bacterial decay of the expected phytoplankton blooms, including reducing oxygen concentrations;
      • 4. the types of phytoplankton that are expected to bloom and the potential impacts of any harmful algal blooms that may develop;
      • 5. the nature and extent of potential impacts on the marine ecosystem including naturally occurring marine species and communities;
      • 6. the estimated amounts and timescales of carbon sequestration, taking account of partitioning between sediments and water; and
      • 7. the estimated carbon mass balance for the operation.
    • 5. The Scientific Groups request the 29th Consultative Meeting of the London Convention ad 2nd Meeting of Contracting Parties to the London Protocol to consider the issue of large-scale ocean iron fertilisation operations with a view to ensuring adequate regulation of such operations. In particular, the Scientific Groups request that the following issues be addressed by the Parties:
      • 1. the purposes and circumstances of proposed large-scale ocean iron fertilisation operations and whether these are compatible with the aims of the Convention and the Protocol;
      • 2. the need, and potential mechanisms, for regulation of such operations; and
      • 3. the desirability of bringing to the attention of other international instruments and institutions proposals for such operations.
    • 6. Further, the Scientific Groups request the Secretariat to release paragraphs 1 to 3 above as the Scientific Group’s Statement of Concern and to invite Parties to the London Convention and the London Protocol to provide further information relating to proposed large-scale ocean iron fertilisation operations to the Secretariat and to the Scientific Groups as and when such information becomes available.

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    By Pepijn on 27 06 07 - 12:00 | five comments |



    five comments:

    The statements from the London Convention and EPA don't seem especially damning. They seem to be saying "we want more information before large scale operations". Since Planktos has stated that their project is a "pilot" and is only a hundred KM square (very small by oceananic standards) then their project qualifies as small-to-medium scale research. Based on that pilot cruise one assumes they will be able to answer the London Convention's questions. It seems they should proceed with their project, at least at this stage.
    Steve K (Email) - 28 06 07 - 16:55

    @Steve K: Please read over the statements again. What they're asking is basically a ground breaking EIA on ecosystem scale. These questions are exactly the ones most previous research (research as in actual research) asked and failed, by finding out the systems are just too complex, to address properly.

    This is a nice one that will take 'some' work to assess:
    "the nature and extent of potential impacts on the marine ecosystem including naturally occurring marine species and communities;"

    This is also interesting:
    "to ensure, among other things, that such operations are not contrary to the aims of the London Convention and London Protocol."

    It seems to me, and along with me people who have been involved in a number of real life CO2 sequestering experiments, that documenting their actions have changed the CO2 concentration of the atmosphere is sheer impossible for Planktos (and Climos, and whatever Silicon Valley investment opportunity jumps up next); in theory as well as practice. The same goes for effects on the marine ecosystem. Unless they've come up with a way to exactly model our worlds ecosystem their claims are misleading and based on unverifiable claims of sequestering atmospheric CO2. And even if they did come up with such a model this would not require new "research" (and btw Planktos CEO Russ George clearly stated this is not a test but a real, aimed at money making, run)

    Just wondering: are you the same Steve K who writes the weblog carbonsequestration @ blogspot?
    Pepijn - 28 06 07 - 19:12

    It seems to me that greenpeace is not interested in finding a solution to global warming as they consistantly discourage any alternative to returning the human race to the status of hunter gatherers of no fixed abode.
    It is well documented that the the mineral rich ocean currents bring with them a bounteous fich harvest,If we improve the broad oceans mineral status to that which supports the most marine life,we should be able to greatly increase the weight of living marine life in the oceans and fix perhaps billions of tonnes of CO2.There simply isnt time to do all the research needed to prove that this is a perfect solution.If more research is needed before any small scale field test are carried out ,the whole anthropogenic basis for global warming must be a sham ,;its main purpose being to fund environmentalists.
    col levy (Email) - 28 09 07 - 16:13

    I can't say much about the action, but there is one thing that makes me happy: the fact that people involve oceans in the climate discussions. Actually, at http://www.arctic-warming.com, there is an entire discussion about the oceans and they way they affected the climate in the 20th century and seem to afect the climate nowadays.
    Adrianne (Email) (URL) - 06 27 07 - 13:06

    Note regarding comments: please note that I delete the constant flow of PR-style comments by the -what I can only assume- Planktos PR department.
    Pepijn - 12 10 07 - 17:16




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