A controversial climate-engineering expedition – flying the German flag – set sail from South Africa, in defiance of a United Nations agreement signed by 191 nations and brokered by Germany last May. In response, civil society groups are calling on governments and United Nations to take action.
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ETC Group and our allies in Germany, India and South Africa reported on an Indo-German research expedition, codenamed LOHAFEX, which was about to breach the global moratorium on ocean fertilisation established through the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).(2) The LOHAFEX researchers plan to spread 6 tonnes of iron sulphate (in earlier statements, they said they had 20 tonnes of iron sulphate)(3) over a 300 square kilometre patch of ocean, in order to spur phytoplankton growth. This "ocean fertilization" experiment is just one example of proposed technologies to intentionally alter the climate, known collectively as geo-engineering. By targeting the high seas, the LOHAFEX researchers are clearly breaching the terms of the CBD moratorium.(4)
At the beginning of this week, ETC Group learned that the RV Polarstern, a German research ship with a crew of 32 geo-engineers was about to leave Cape Town in South Africa for a 70-day voyage to Punta Arenas in Chile. Their aim is to dump iron sulphate in 300 square kilometres of the Scotia Sea off the coast of Argentina. This is part of an ocean fertilization experiment, code named LOHAFEX, that is co-sponsored by the Indian and German governments.
Stalled at the eleventh hour by three isolated countries that are attempting to block consensus, most of the world’s environment ministries and others are on the brink of reaching agreement on a worldwide moratorium on commercial ocean fertilization – controversial proposals to dump nutrients in the ocean to artificially alter the climate. The three blocking countries, Australia, China and Brazil have spent several days manipulating the process to avoid discussion and prevent progress, much to the exasperation of delegates and observers. The clock runs out on negotiations at 6pm today (30. May 2008).
Today (21. May 2008) the world learned which corporations, governments, institutions and individuals earned a spot in biopiracy’s hall of shame when the Coalition Against Biopiracy (CAB) announced the winners of the 5th Captain Hook Awards at a lunch-time ceremony during the Ninth Conference of the Parties (COP9) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Bonn, Germany.
As the ninth meeting of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) draws to a close in Bonn, Germany the world’s governments are set to unanimously agree a wide-ranging “de-facto moratorium” on ocean fertilization activities. This first-ever global decision on a geo-engineering technology should spell the end of commercial plans to sequester carbon dioxide by dumping nutrients into the open ocean. Nonetheless, one ocean fertilization company, Climos Inc. of San Francisco, appears to be moving full steam ahead in defiance of international consensus.
“The message from the UN Biodiversity Convention is clear. The world does not want commercial ocean fertilization and companies like Climos should be looking for another occupation,” says Pat Mooney, Executive Director of ETC Group, who is in Bonn at the negotiations. “Ocean fertilization could lead to toxic tides, lifeless waters and disrupted ecosystems and livelihoods. There is unanimous agreement among the 191 countries here that it is absolutely the wrong way to tackle climate change.”
An intergovernmental scientific committee of the London Convention on ocean dumping agreed at its closing plenary in Spain, to a tough consensus “statement of concern” warning that iron fertilization of ocean surfaces – as an attempt at commercial carbon sequestration – has environmental risks and lacks scientific evidence of effectiveness. The statement was triggered by news that Planktos, Inc. a for-profit enterprise with offices in San Francisco, Budapest, and Vancouver is about to dump 100 tons of iron nanoparticles over a 10,000 km² stretch of Pacific Ocean in the vicinity of the Galapagos Islands. The company’s goal is to sell carbon offsets on the unproven assumption that the phytoplankton bloom created by the iron dumping could lead to the permanent sequestration of CO2 greenhouse gases. “Its a very strong statement – literally an emergency call for the full London Convention [of the International Maritime Organization] to take up the threat of ocean geoengineering when governments convene in London this November 5-9,” says Jim Thomas of ETC Group, en route to Europe. “By publicizing the scientific body’s concern now, governments are bluntly warning companies that there could be national and international regulatory repercussions from commercial iron dumping.” Planktos has already been advised by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that commercial iron dumping by a U.S. flagged ship could be in violation of EPA rules. In response, the company has told US officials that it will either find another flag or another ship. Although the company has said that it intends to dump 100 tons of iron particles in a stretch of ocean somewhere near the Galapagos Islands this month, the whereabouts of its vessel, the Weatherbird II, is not clear and ETC Group believes the boat to still be docked at Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Claiming to protect the planet from greenhouse gases, geo-engineer, Planktos, Inc., is poised to dump iron in waters off the Galapagos Islands and thumbing its nose at the International Maritime Organization and the US government
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) London Convention (dealing with ocean dumping) should urgently launch investigations into the activities of Planktos, Inc., a private climate-engineering firm, according to ETC Group (Ottawa, Canada) and the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA - Washington, DC). The two civil society organizations believe that the company may soon begin dumping iron particles in an 100 km. by 100 km. expanse of ocean near the Galapagos islands – if it has not already begun. Planktos may also have violated the U.S. Ocean Dumping Act during iron dumping experiments carried out in 2002. ICTA and ETC Group submitted a formal request to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency early today even as IMO member governments meet in Spain to consider the legality of such high-risk geoengineering experiments. The letter to EPA is available here.
The Galápagos National Park (entity in charge of managing and administering the two protected areas of the Galápagos Archipelago), is concerned with the US Company Planktos and its plans to experiment in waters near the Galápagos Marine Reserve. For this reason the park has been examining data to stop the Planktos experiment, which could affect the fragile ecosystems of the Galápagos Islands, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As the UN's top climate science panel, the IPCC, prepares to criticise the idea of geoengineering, one maverick geoengineering company, Planktos Inc, has announced it is about to dump several tonnes of tiny particles into the waters around the Galapagos Islands, covering an area larger than Puerto Rico. Doing so, they claim, will re-engineer the atmosphere, win them commercial carbon credits and perhaps a shot at the $25 million prize for greenhouse gas reduction put up by Richard Branson. Mainstream scientists are sceptical and environmental and social justice groups are crying foul.
On the day before the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sounds its loudest alarm yet, ETC Group warns that some OECD states, led by the United States, are betting on a pie-in-the-sky techno-fix to address climate change. “Geoengineering” refers to the intentional, large-scale manipulation of the environment to bring about environmental change. With no hope for Kyoto, little political will to ask industry or voters to change lifestyles and a growing recognition that carbon trading is a farce, some governments are concluding that massive earth restructuring is the only way out. The Guardian reported earlier this week that the US government is lobbying the IPCC to promote geoengineering activities, such as deliberately polluting the stratosphere to deflect sunlight and lower temperatures. (1)
Issue: Kyoto is fading and carbon trading is a farce. Recognizing this, OECD states can either “bite the bullet” and adopt socially-responsible policies to dramatically cut fossil fuel use and useless consumption or, they can hope for a “silver bullet” – some new techno-fix that might let them have their cake and eat it too. The silver bullet may be winning. At the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the US government is lobbying for “geoengineering” activities such as deliberately polluting the stratosphere to deflect sunlight and lower temperatures. At least 9 national governments and the European Union have supported experiments to spread iron filings on the ocean surface to nurture plankton and sequester carbon dioxide. At least a dozen additional countries are involved in stratospheric weather/climate modification. Commercial carbon traders are engaging in ocean fertilization as well. The scientific debate and the government/commercial experimentation is taking place, once again, in the absence of public discussion.