Controversial scheme to ‘fertilize’ ocean to reduce global warning – temporarily blocked

January 26, 2009

(ChattahBox) — Scientists are looking to play God again this week, this time with our oceans in a highly controversial experiment in apparent defiance of international law.  The researchers mainly from Germany and India,  plan to add some 20 tons of iron sulfate to a 186-square-mile patch of ocean about half way between Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope, to demonstrate a way both of combating global warming and of saving the whale. The intentions are good but these types of human interventions often backfire. More...

Alarmed environmentalists, led by the Canada-based ETC Group, urged Germany’s Environment Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, to stop the experiment. The German government suspended the test while legal and environmental reviews were carried out, and the scientists expect to hear the result early this week. The experiment aims to create a bloom of plankton so big that it will be visible from outer space. The scientists hope that, when the plankton die and their bodies sink deep into the ocean, they will take the carbon with them, keeping it out of the atmosphere for centuries. Applied on a large enough scale, they believe this could help stave off climate change, while increasing food for whales. Commercial firms have already announced plans to make money from such schemes, which has to make one a bit cynical.

Some scientists are deeply concerned that the practice could have devastating unintended effects on the oceans, including killing off large areas of sea, and releasing methane and nitrous oxide, which are even more potent causes of global warming. They also fear that the plankton could absorb sunlight, heating up surface waters and hastening climate change. Last May the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity banned the practice, allowing exceptions only for “small-scale scientific research studies within coastal waters”. Nevertheless, the expedition jointly organized by the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven and the National Institute of Oceanography in Goa, India set off this month to run the experiment. The Alfred Wegener Institute accuses objectors of “indulging in disruptive activities merely to draw attention to themselves”.


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