The geoengineering fallacy

By Barbara Unmüssig. Source: Project Syndicate

Photo: Eric Kayne

BERLIN – As the world struggles to rein in emissions of climate-changing gases and limit planetary warming, a new technological silver bullet is gaining supporters. Geoengineering –the large-scale manipulation of the Earth’s natural systems – has been popularized as a means of counteracting the negative effects of climate change.

Proponents of this science feed the illusion that there is a way to engineer an exit from the climate crisis, meet the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, and maintain a consumption-heavy lifestyle.

But this solution is not as simple as proponents would have us believe. Betting on climate engineering – either as a planetary insurance policy or as a last-ditch measure to combat rising temperatures – is not only risky; it also directs attention away from the only solution we know will work: reducing carbon emissions.

Each of the engineered technologies being discussed carries dangers and uncertainties. For example, the only way to test the effectiveness of solar radiation management (SRM) on a global scale would be to carry out experiments in the environment – either by spraying particles into the stratosphere, or by artificially modifying clouds. While such tests would be designed to determine whether SRM could reflect enough sunlight to cool the planet, experimentation itself could cause irreversible damage. Current models predict that SRM deployment would alter global precipitation patterns, damage the ozone layer, and undermine the livelihoods of millions of people.

Beyond the ecological risks, critics warn that, once deployed globally, SRM could spawn powerful weapons, giving states, corporations, or individuals the ability to manipulate climate for strategic gain (an idea that not even Hollywood can resist). But perhaps the most important criticism is a political one: in a world of challenged multilateralism, how would global ecological interventions be governed?

Similar questions surround the other major group of climate engineering technologies under debate – so-called carbon dioxide removal (CDR). Proponents of these technologies propose removing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it underground or in the oceans. Some CDR approaches are already prohibited, owing to concerns about possible environmental consequences. For example, fertilization of oceans with carbon-sequestering plankton was banned by the London Protocol on marine pollution in 2008. Parties to that decision worried about the potential damage to marine life.

But other CDR approaches are gaining support. One of the most discussed ideas aims to integrate biomass with carbon capture and storage (CCS) techniques. Called “bioenergy with CCS,” or BECCS, this method seeks to pair the CO2-absorption capabilities of fast-growing plants with underground CO2 storage methods. Proponents argue that BECCS would actually yield “negative” emissions.

Yet, as with other engineered solutions, the promises are simply too good to be true. For example, huge amounts of energy, water, and fertilizer would be required to operate BECCS systems successfully. The effects on land use would likely lead to terrestrial species losses, and increase land competition and displacement of local populations. Some forecasts even suggest that the land clearing and construction activities associated with these projects could lead to a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions, at least in the short term.

Then there is the issue of scale. In order for BECCS to achieve emissions limits set by the Paris agreement, between 430 million and 580 million hectares (1.1 billion to 1.4 billion acres) of land would be needed to grow the required vegetation. That is a staggering one third of the world’s arable land.

Simply put, there are safer – and proven – ways to withdraw CO2 from the atmosphere. Rather than creating artificial CO2-binding “farms,” governments should focus on protecting already-existing natural ecosystems and allowing degraded ones to recover. Rainforests, oceans, and peatlands (such as bogs) have immense CO2 storage capacities and do not require untested technological manipulation.

By pushing unproven technologies as a cure for all climate-changing ills, proponents are suggesting that the world faces an unavoidable choice: geoengineering or disaster. But this is disingenuous. Political preferences, not scientific or ecological necessity, explain the appeal of geoengineering.

Unfortunately, current debates about climate engineering are undemocratic and dominated by technocratic worldviews, natural science and engineering perspectives, and vested interests in the fossil-fuel industries. Developing countries, indigenous peoples, and local communities must be given a prominent voice, so that all risks can be fully considered before any geoengineering technology is tested or implemented.

So what conversation should we be having about geoengineering?

For starters, we need to rethink the existing governance landscape. In 2010, parties to the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) agreed to a de facto international moratorium on climate-related geoengineering. But today, with powerful advocates generating so much pressure to bring geoengineering technologies out of the lab, informal bans are no longer sufficient. The world urgently needs an honest debate on the research, deployment, and governance of these technologies; the CBD and the London Protocol are essential starting points for these governance discussions.

Among the technologies that require the most scrutiny are CDR projects that threaten indigenous lands, food security, and water availability. Such large-scale technological schemes must be regulated diligently, to ensure that climate-change solutions do not adversely affect sustainable development or human rights.

In addition, the outdoor testing and deployment of SRM technologies, because of their potential to weaken human rights, democracy, and international peace, should be banned outright. This ban should be overseen by a robust and accountable multilateral global governance mechanism.

No silver bullet for climate change has yet been found. And while geoengineering technologies remain mostly aspirational, there are proven mitigation options that can and should be implemented vigorously. These include scaling up renewable energy, phasing out fossil fuels (including an early retirement of existing fossil infrastructure), wider diffusion of sustainable agroecological agriculture, and increased energy and resource input into our economy.

We cannot afford to gamble with the future of our planet. If we engage in a serious discussion about ecologically sustainable and socially just measures to protect the Earth’s climate, there will be no need to roll the dice on geoengineering.

UN Convention still says “No” to manipulating the climate

Kevin Gill/Flickr CCby ETC Group

UN Convention on Biological Diversity reaffirms its moratorium on climate-related geoengineering

CANCUN, MEXICO – The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which gathered at its 13th Conference of the Parties (COP 13) in Mexico from December 4-17, decided to reaffirm its landmark moratorium on climate-related geoengineering that it first agreed to in 2010.

Geoengineering refers to a set of proposed techniques that would intervene in and alter earth systems on a large scale – recently, these proposals have been gaining traction as a “technofix” solution to climate change. Examples include solar radiation management techniques such as blasting sulphate particles into the atmosphere as well as other earth systems interventions grouped under a second broad umbrella of ‘carbon dioxide removal.’

The reaffirmation of the CBD moratorium is even more relevant in the light of the Paris Agreement on climate change, in which governments agreed to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. Geoengineers quickly interpreted the Paris Agreement as allowing or encouraging geoengineering to meet that ambitious goal.

“The decision to reaffirm the global moratorium on geoengineering is an important message for those who are now promoting it as shortcut to achieve the Paris Agreement goals. Geoengineering schemes will impact the global commons and will have transboundary impacts that could be worse than climate change,” said Silvia Ribeiro, Latin America Director of ETC Group. “The CBD made a landmark decision on 2010 to halt the deployment of geoengineering because of its potential widespread negative impacts on people and biodiversity, and that decision holds firm.”

“Climate change and biodiversity erosion are both acute interrelated global problems that demand urgent attention and action,” said Neth Daño, Asia Director of ETC Group. “However, climate geoengineering proposals are a set of unproven techno-fixes that do not address the root causes of either climate change or biodiversity loss, and could deviate attention and resources from real, affordable, safe, and globally much more fair alternatives.”

The CBD decision noted also that the potential impacts of geoengineering on biodiversity and ecosystem functions, as well as on socio-economic and cultural/ethical issues have not been studied. This is one of the main conclusions in the updated report on the impacts on geoengineering on biodiversity that was organized by the CBD. “Taking the precautionary approach is the least the UN can do,” said Silvia Ribeiro.

In a 2016 article in Nature, Phil Williamson, the coordinator of that report, highlighted that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which released the largest climate change report to date in 2014, “[…] leaves out one crucial consideration: the environmental impacts of large-scale CO2 removal. This omission is striking because the set of IPCC emissions scenarios that are likely to limit the increase in global surface temperature to 2C by 2100 […] mostly relies on large-scale CO2 removal.”[i]

Specifically, the IPCC did not look at the environmental or biodiversity impacts of their favoured technique: BECCS (bioenergy with carbon capture and storage) or of other so called “negative emissions” technologies. Furthermore, recent scientific studies also show that these proposals are not technically or economically viable, but would imply large impacts on biodiversity and traditional livelihoods.[ii]

“The reaffirmation of the CBD moratorium on geoengineering, taken by consensus of 196 governments, is a wake-up call for the governments considering these dangerous proposals” said Jim Thomas, Programme Director at ETC Group. “It was a mature decision not only to protect biodiversity, but also to prevent the few and powerful actors that want geoengineering from taking control of the global thermostat.”

The decision also emphasised that indigenous peoples and local communities’ knowledge must be taken into account. “There are plenty of proven viable, sustainable, culturally and economically viable solutions to stop both the erosion of biodiversity and climate change, such as peasant agriculture, that need attention and support instead of high-tech, high-risk false solutions such as geoengineering” said Silvia Ribeiro.

Geoengineering has been a topic of discussion in the CBD for almost a decade and in 2008, the CBD issued a moratorium on ocean fertilization. Therefore, the geoengineering decision in COP 13 was preceded by longer debates in the CBD’s subsidiary scientific body (SBSTTA) and previous COPs creating high level of agreement, and as such was not a hotly debated topic in Cancun.

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Note to editors:

The full decision of the CBD can be found here: https://www.cbd.int/doc/meetings/cop/cop-13/in-session/cop-13-l-04-en.pdf

An eight-page briefing on geoengineering and the CBD can be found here: http://www.etcgroup.org/sites/www.etcgroup.org/files/files/final_geoengineering_brief_cop_13_web.pdf

Expert Contacts:

Silvia Ribeiro: +52 1 55 2653 3330, silvia@etcgroup.org

Neth Dano: +63 917 532 9369, neth@etcgroup.org

Jim Thomas: +1 (514) 516-5759, jim@etcgroup.org

Communications Contact:
Trudi Zundel: +1 (226) 979-0993, trudi@etcgroup.org

[i] Williamson, Phil. “Emissions reduction: Scrutinize CO2 removal methods.” Nature. 530, no. 7589 (2016): 153. http://www.nature.com/news/emissions-reduction-scrutinize-co2-removal-methods-1.19318

[ii] Kevin Anderson and Glen Peters, “The trouble with negative emissions.” Science, October 2016.

Almuth Ernsting and Oliver Munnion, “Last Ditch Climate Option or Wishful Thinking? Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage.” Biofuelwatch report, November 2015. http://www.wri.org/publication/avoiding-bioenergy-competition-food-crops-and-land

Tim Searchinger and Ralph Heimlich, “Avoiding Bioenergy Competition for Food Crops and Land.” January 2015. Creating a Sustainable Food Future, Installment Nine. http://www.nature.com/news/emissions-reduction-scrutinize-co2-removal-methods-1.19318

 

Sign-on letter: No to 1.5°C with geoengineering!

contaminacionParis, 11 December 2015

Seemingly out of the blue (or rather, out of the black smog of the UNFCCC process), some of the largest historical culprits for climate change, countries including the United States, Canada and the European Union, have decided to back an “ambitious goal” of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C. To achieve this, radical emissions cuts would be needed from now, but in the case of these countries, that’s not their real intention.

Instead, behind the smokescreen of a more ambitious goal, there is a set of Trojan Horse technologies being proposed, collectively called “geoengineering”.

The new proponents of the 1.5°C goal include also the largest oil companies. (*) They tell us that they can continue to burn fossil carbon and protect their assets because they are inventing something called Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) that will eventually capture CO2 emissions and store them “safely” in deep geological formations.

And, further still, they say that they can develop bioenergy with CCS (BECCS), a so-called “negative emissions” technology that will burn carbon that is locked up in the soils and forests, and bury this underground too. These are false “solutions” proposed by the oil industry, that will allow it to keep polluting in the false hope that future technological innovation can bring down emissions at a later date.

These phantom technologies won’t function, but they will bring vast new subsidies to the industry, and allow it to access even more oil through Enhanced Oil Recovery, where CO2 is pumped into aging oil fields to squeeze even more out of them. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) was called Enhanced Oil Recovery before, but it has been renamed as a “climate technology”.

The expansion of large scale plantations for bioenergy will be devastating for ecosystems, and displace forest and peasant communities from their territories. This will destroy many of the real alternatives to climate crisis, alternatives that really cool the planet.

In a few years, when efforts to reduce emissions and the technological quick-fixes have failed, with the temperature continuing to rise, industry and government will tell us that the only way out is “solar radiation management”, an even more dangerous geoengineering technology.

The terminology underpinning this cover-up is changing rapidly: from “net zero” to “climate neutrality”, to “net GHG contributions” and now in the latest COP21 draft to “greenhouse gas emissions neutrality”. They are all the same trap designed to open the door to false climate solutions and geoengineering.

 

No to 1.5°C with geoengineering!

No to the lie of “GHG neutrality”!

 

(*) See Shell’s position on 1.5°C and geoengineering at COP21: http://blogs.shell.com/climatechange/category/paris-cop21/

 

International Organizations

ETC Group

Biofuelwatch

Corporate Europe Observatory

Focus on the Global South

Food and Water Watch

GRAIN

Grasroots Global Justice Alliance

Heinrich Böll Foundation

Transnational Institute

Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF)

Women’s earth and climate action network (WECAN)

World Rainforest Movement

 

National organizations
Acción Ecológica, Ecuador

ATTAC, France

Centro Ecológico, Brasil

Ecologistas en Acción, Spain

Fairwatch, Italy

Friends of the Siberian Forests, Russia

Fundación Solon, Bolivia

Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Nigeria

NoGeoingegneria, Italy

Plataforma Freskiemos el ambiente, Colombia

Polaris Institute, Canada

The Corner House, UK

 

To add your signature, please send a message to silvia@etcgroup.org

“Geoengineering is unjust, unproven and risky”: Friends of the Earth

Friends of the Earth

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Tuesday, the National Academy of Sciences released two reports on climate intervention through geoengineering. These reports assess two categories of geoengineering: carbon dioxide removal and sequestration and albedo modification. Although the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity agreed upon a moratorium on geoengineering in 2010, reports such as these indicate that momentum has not slowed and that some continue to grasp at these techno-fixes as viable options to combat climate change.

Geoengineering is the intentional, large-scale technological manipulation of the Earth’s systems, including systems related to climate. These technologies generally fall under three broad areas: albedo modification (solar radiation management such as cloud whitening and covering deserts with reflective plastics), carbon dioxide removal and sequestration (such as ocean fertilization, biochar, and carbon extraction machines), and weather modification (such as cloud seeding and storm modification).

The following is a statement from Friends of the Earth Climate and Energy Program Director Ben Schreiber:

Friends of the Earth is committed to fighting climate change through sustainable and just solutions. While we agree that the current level of greenhouse gas emissions leaves us vulnerable to climate chaos, geoengineering will take us in the wrong direction. It serves as a dangerous distraction from the crucial discussions and actions that need to take place to mitigate and adapt to climate disruption.

Geoengineering presumes that we can apply a dramatic technological fix to climate disruption. Instead of facing the reality that we need to drastically reduce our carbon emissions, lower our consumption levels and rapidly transition to renewable energy, some hope to simply reengineer the climate, the land and the oceans to theoretically slow down and reverse climate disruption.

Geoengineering is an attempt by those most responsible for climate disruption to continue polluting instead of committing to the necessary actions and funding needed to help those countries and communities that will be most harmed by climate change.

The side effects of geoengineering interventions are unknown and untested. In order to have any noticeable impact on global temperatures, geoengineering projects would have to be deployed on a massive, global scale. These “experiments” would not only take action in the absence of scientific consensus, hence violating the precautionary principle, but could also easily have unintended consequences due to mechanical failure, human error, inadequate understanding of ecosystems, biodiversity and the Earth’s climate, unforeseen natural phenomena, irreversibility or funding interruptions.

These experiments also violate the 2010 moratorium established by the 193 countries who are parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity due to uncertainty around geoengineering’s environmental, social, cultural, and economic risks. The UN Environmental Modification Treaty has prohibited the hostile uses of environmental modification since 1976.

Only the few wealthy nations, elite citizens and corporations with immense funding and technology at their disposal could conduct geoengineering experiments. One country’s experiments, therefore, could have devastating effects on other countries and the global climate system.

Geoengineering conflicts with sustainable and just solutions to the climate crisis. Real climate justice requires dealing with root causes of climate change, not launching risky, unproven and unjust schemes. Friends of the Earth supports the current moratorium agreed upon through the Convention on Biological Diversity and would condemn any proposals to move geoengineering towards real world experimentation.

Plan B? What Happened to Plan A?

Why we shouldn’t fund geoengineering experimentation, and what we still need to learn about the climate

by Pat Mooney (ETC Group)

The US National Academy of Sciences has released two reports on geoengineering that recommend investments in solar radiation management (SRM) and carbon capture and storage (CCS). Geoengineering has become known as the US government’s “Plan B” response to climate change. Geoengineering proponents have recently pushed for government funding of geoengineering research in Nature and the Washington Post.

At first glance, this seems prudent: of course we should have more information about all of the options. Most geoengineering backers insist that these are only extreme measures of last resort. SRM (now rebranded as “albedo management” by the NAS report) which proposes blowing sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere to block sunlight and lower global temperatures or CCS, which proposes to stuff billions of tonnes of CO2 into defunct mines and oil wells, are Plan B: only to be considered if governments can’t agree on emission targets in Paris later this year. Is geoengineering deplorable or deployable? We won’t know, backers argue, unless we do the research.

Plan B?

Saying we need more information sounds reasonable, but geoengineering research that involves experimentation and builds actual hardware is a clear and present danger to the climate for two reasons. If the US or other powerful governments accept geoengineering as a plausible “Plan B,” Plan A will evaporate faster than Congressional bipartisanship. The fossil fuel industry is desperate to protect between $20 and $28 trillion in booked assets that can only be extracted if the corporations are allowed to overshoot GHG-emissions. The theoretical assumption that carbon capture and storage will eventually let them recapture CO2 from the atmosphere and bury it in the earth or ocean provides the fossil fuel industry with the best way to avoid popping the “carbon bubble” other than outright climate denial. Spraying sulfates in the stratosphere can – theoretically – lower temperatures until carbon capture and storage techniques are viable. In other words, geoengineering research is becoming the only tool the fossil fuel industry has left to undermine the political and corporate will to lower actual emissions now.

Geoengineering could justify continued emissions, but it may also do direct damage to the climate. The two NAS reports are quiet about budgets and don’t define the scale of field studies. Most scientists concur that geoengineering is extremely risky, but also say that only very large field trials will yield useful data. Experimentation, in other words, equals hardware development and effective deployment. We already have examples: between 1993 and 2009, 11 governments conducted a dozen geoengineering experiments in international waters to see if spreading iron particles on the surface of the ocean could lead to the sequestering of carbon dioxide on the ocean floor. The first experiments dumped iron into 50-60 km² of ocean. When that didn’t work, they increased the surface area six-fold until the final 2009 dump was 300 km². It still failed. The geoengineers wanted bigger experiments, but three different UN conferences intervened and have effectively banned ocean fertilization. Sagely, the NAS report now concludes that ocean fertilization “is an immature technology whose high costs and technical and environmental risks currently outweigh the benefits.”

NAS also talks about the need for governance but only in the context of the United States. Stratospheric aerosol spraying can be undertaken by one country or a “Coalition of the Willing,” even though the impact will be global. For this reason, the United Nations must be in charge.

What about Plan A?

There is much that scientists don’t know about planetary systems. The acknowledged gaps in Plan A research have widened from a crevice to a chasm to a canyon. It would be extraordinarily foolhardy for policymakers to advance Plan B before Plan A’s research issues are addressed.

It is difficult, for example, to establish Plan A emission targets (or, for that matter, Plan B’s levels of stratospheric aerosol spraying) when governments don’t disclose their current emissions. China underreported its annual GHG emissions by about 20%, while the USA’s recent emission reductions aren’t quite what they’re fracked up to be. America cut back its emissions to 1992 levels because fracking lowered the demand for coal – but the coal was still burned overseas. The UK’s 14% reductions (between 1990 and 2008) in greenhouse gas emissions were erased by its 20% increase in emissions from outsourced manufacturing. With the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian emissions dropped 10 – 14% but only because farmland was temporarily abandoned.

How can we pursue “climate interventions” and call them scientific if governments don’t get the data right?

Governments have also had difficulties keeping track of their biomass, with implications for Plan B’s carbon capture and storage strategies. According to a UNEP report, up to 30% of all timber exports are mafia-controlled and 90% of tropical deforestation is due to illegal trade – making biomass calculations problematic. Meanwhile, India overestimated its forest cover by about 10%.

Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand have all flip-flopped on their emission commitments while the UK has cut back its renewable energy support. The EU’s carbon credit scheme is a laughingstock. This makes Plan A’s emission goals – or the levels of Plan B’s stratospheric aerosol interventions – subject to unexpected and dangerous changes.

Plan A and Plan B both need cutting-edge monitoring of planetary systems. However, by 2020, the number of civilian US climate monitoring satellites could drop from 23 to 6 and the number of monitoring instruments from 90 to 20. Monitoring is weakest over the Indian subcontinent and apparently deteriorating throughout the tropics. In 2014, for example, scientists discovered that an important swath of the Brazilian Amazon has been completely missed by satellites. The Economist called this “willful blindness.”

Recently, science has uncovered a vast deep-ocean “river”, a bacterial prairie the size of Greece beneath the Humboldt current, and reconsidered the impact of sulphates on cloud formation in polar regions that could significantly alter Plan B proposals for carbon sequestration or solar radiation management.

Money is indeed needed for climate change research. Governments should pony up and scientists should get to work. But the NAS needs to flatly condemn the deployment or hardware testing of dangerous technologies that have consequences for the whole planet.”

NAS support for geoengineering research creates a political space that could lead multinational oil companies and their governments off the hook. Precisely at the moment when climate denial is losing steam, it’s crucial to prevent it from being replaced with unicorn-like fantasies of magical technologies that allow the status quo to continue.

Pat Mooney is the Executive Director of ETC Group.

B.C. village’s ocean fertilization experiment probed

Environment Canada investigating after iron-rich dust dumped off coast

Fifth Estate (CBC)

U.S. businessman Russ George, chief scientist and CEO for the HSRC, has been a proponent of the controversial idea of iron fertilization for years. (CBC/HSRC)

Environment Canada’s enforcement branch has executed search warrants in British Columbia as part of an investigation into a controversial iron-fertilization experiment that took place off the coast of Haida Gwaii, B.C., last summer, CBC’s the fifth estate has learned.

In July 2012, the Haida village of Old Massett and an American businessman dumped 100 tonnes of iron-rich dust into the ocean off Haida Gwaii, sparking international controversy.

In an exclusive interview, Ken Rea, chief councillor of the village, told the fifth estate’s Gillian Findlay that despite two UN resolutions banning iron fertilization and anti-dumping legislation in Canada he would like to do it again and make it sustainable

Ken Rea, chief councillor of the village of Old Massett in Haida Gwaii, says that he would like to bring iron fertilization back to Canada and make it sustainable, despite anti-dumping legislation. (CBC)

“After all the uproar, based on a whole bunch of inflammatory mischaracterized words, after calling it illegal, calling it dumping, calling it rogue and not having any of the evidence to back up their statements, none of it, they had no evidence to back all these statements up, we have it,” Rea says in an interview that airs on the fifth estate Friday at 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. in N.L.

Old Massett residents invested $2.5 million to start the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation (HSRC) and initiate the iron-fertilization project in hopes that it would boost the salmon population.

U.S. businessman Russ George, the chief scientist and CEO for the HSRC, has been a proponent of the controversial idea of iron fertilization for years.

Scientists say iron promotes the growth of plankton, microscopic organisms that provide a food source for salmon and other sea life. George based the experiment on the theory that growing artificial plankton blooms can remove carbon from the atmosphere and help reduce global warming.

Plankton absorb carbon dioxide from the sea and the air; the theory is that when plankton die they take carbon to the bottom of the ocean. Countries or companies that produce a lot of carbon could then buy carbon credits from the company that created the artificial plankton bloom.

There have been more than a dozen studies on iron fertilization in oceans with varying results, but there is no conclusive evidence plankton can remove substantial amounts of carbon from the environment in the long-term.

Some scientists say putting iron in the ocean is dangerous, because it could create “dead zones” where nothing can live. John Cullen, a professor of oceanography at Dalhousie University in Halifax, says unregulated experiments, such as the one off the coast of Haida Gwaii, should not be allowed.

“If those consequences cannot be predicted with confidence and verified with measurements then the activity should not be permitted,” he said.

George first gained media attention when he tried to do an iron-fertilization project off the Galapagos Islands in 2007. His company, Planktos Inc., attempted to dump 100 tonnes of iron-rich dirt near the World Heritage site before he was stopped by governments and environmentalists.

Jim Thomas, of the environmental action organization the ETC Group, says a UN moratorium on iron fertilization was passed with George in mind.

“It was prompted by what Russ George was planning to do, so we then had two international moratoria in place. And since then there has actually been even further agreements through other bodies,” Thomas told the fifth estate.

Old Massett residents said three meetings were held in 2011 before the community voted to approve the project. April White, a local artist and geologist, told the fifth estate the project was pitched by the village’s economic development officer, John Disney.

Iron fertilization involves dumping iron-rich soil into the ocean. Scientists say iron-rich dirt promotes the growth of plankton, microscopic organisms that provide a food source for salmon and other sealife. (CBC/HSRC)

“He said this project would bring in so much money. Everybody would have jobs because he had customers already lined up to buy the carbon credits from rich industries in Europe,” White said.

There is currently no regulated market for carbon credits based on fertilizing the ocean. Since there is no proof that plankton actually removes carbon in any significant way, there is no market.

White says Old Massett residents were also told the project would bring back salmon. That convinced them to vote in favour of the project, she said.

“Salmon is very much a part of the culture — I like to say we’re salmon people. It’s what connects us to nature. For the salmon not to come back in the same numbers is a real trauma. It really is a heartfelt thing.”

According to Rea, the salmon have all but disappeared and the loss has hit his fishing community hard. He said unemployment in Old Massett is about 70 per cent.

George declined to speak with the fifth estate. The HSRC website says that through this project the company is “working to learn how to replenish and restore the ocean plankton blooms, the ocean pastures, and salmon.”

The iron-fertilization experiment has split the Haida nation.

Residents of Skidegate First Nation, a Haida community 100 kilometres south of Old Massett, told the fifth estate they believe their reputation as stewards of the environment has been tarnished by what the village of Old Massett has done.

In an email to the fifth estate, Environment Canada said ocean fertilization is not allowed under Canadian law unless it qualifies as legitimate scientific research. Environment Canada says it did not receive an application from the village of Old Massett and is still investigating.

Greatest risk of ocean experiment is that it will spawn more

by Dene Moore (Postmedia News)

Handout satellite image provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA via Getty Images

VANCOUVER – A small British Columbia First Nation making waves around the world with a controversial experiment in the Pacific Ocean is on the front lines of climate change, even critics admit.

And as the fears of global warming grow, there is a risk that potentially dangerous geoengineering experiments like the ocean fertilization carried out off the islands of Haida Gwaii will be unleashed as a quick fix, warns Jim Thomas, spokesman for Montreal-based ETC Group, a geoengineering watchdog.

“In desperate times desperate people do sometimes rather stupid things,” said Thomas.

A spokesman for the Haida Salmon Restoration Corp., which arranged funding for and carried out the experiment, said the organization is no longer doing media interviews about the issue.

John Disney, head of the salmon restoration corporation and economic development officer for Old Massett, said the corporation’s intentions have been misinterpreted, and the experience has been very trying.

“You have to understand that caught up in some big international … whatever, this little Haida community has had their whole integrity and their character totally assassinated,” Disney said.

The Haida people have relied for centuries on the world around them for survival, in particular on the salmon. The fish play a central role in not only the Haida diet, but the culture of Haida Gwaii, an archipelago 80 km off the northwest coast of B.C., that is home to a UNESCO world heritage site.

Like fishermen throughout B.C., they watched salmon stocks decline for decades until a near collapse in 2009. That year, the largest run in the province — the Fraser River run — plummeted to 1.7 million fish. The federal government announced a public inquiry, but many felt it was too late to save the run.

Then the following year, returns defied all predictions. Rivers ran red with the backs of spawning salmon as the Fraser River run hit 34 million.

There is no shortage of scientific speculation that a 2008 volcanic eruption on the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, which spewed iron-laden ash over thousands of kilometres of the North Pacific, was the cause for the large return.

A 2010 study of the Mount Kasatoshi volcano by Institute of Ocean Sciences, within the federal Fisheries and Oceans Ministry, concluded that the ash was a contributing factor.

“…the volcanic emission of iron-rich dust in 2008 caused a massive late summer bloom of diatoms that enhanced the food chain for young sockeye salmon in the Gulf shortly after they migrated into the oceanic habitat,” it said, though the ash was not exclusively responsible.

And it was not the first time. In 1956, the study noted, a volcanic eruption in Kamchatka, Russia, was believed to cause a sockeye run 20 million-strong in 1958.

“This is about the fish,” Ken Rea, chief councillor for the village of Old Massett, said when news first broke of the experiment. “This is about providing sustainable opportunities for our future generations.”

Over several days in late July, from a leased fishing vessel called the Ocean Pearl, almost 200 metric tons of iron dust, iron sulfate fertilizer and iron oxide were dumped over an area of about one square kilometre 300 kilometres west of Haida Gwaii, just outside Canadian territorial waters.

Satellite images suggest the fertilization resulted in a 10,000-square kilometre plankton bloom. The Haida will have to wait two years to see if they achieved the desired effect on salmon returns.

But if the village of Old Massett entered into the experiment in an effort to restore salmon, critics aren’t saying the same of its partner in the project.

Russ George is listed as the CEO and chief scientist of Planktos Inc., a defunct company dedicated to “carbon remediation and creative eco-restoration.” George has made several attempts to sell carbon credits for ocean fertilization.

“This is a village project. They started it, they own it, they run it. It’s not the Russ George rogue geoengineering story,” George told Scientific American magazine this week.

“You’ve seen the vile and vehement twisting of this story. You can probably imagine how I feel. (It) was the faith and trust and hopes and dreams of a village whose environment is dying, whose culture is dying because the salmon are dying. And now the world is saying they were duped.”

George is pursuing the Holy Grail of environmental entrepreneurship: a profitable process to address the current global climate crisis.

A phytoplankton bloom does capture carbon, trapping it at the bottom of the ocean as the organisms that feed off the algae die and sink. Previous, smaller-scale tests show the effect was short-term.

“It’s not divided,” said Roberta Hamme, an oceanographer at the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria who studied the fallout from the 2008 volcanic eruption in Alaska.

“Almost every experiment has said that it’s not an efficient way. You can take up some carbon, but it’s not an efficient way to go about it and, if it were done on a large scale, would likely have significant impacts on the ecosystem.”

George’s critics suggest long-term carbon capture is environmental snake oil.

“Our concerns are nested in wider concerns about geoengineering … We are concerned about any move towards deploying or testing geoengineering schemes,” said Thomas, of ETC, which stands for Erosion, Technology and Concentration.

“We’re concerned about what this means in terms of moving toward more geoengineering tests.”

International negotiations have failed to address climate change, he said, and there are people who “are reaching for these quick fix, very risky approaches such as geoengineering.”

As far as salmon restoration, Thomas said stakeholders should wait for the report expected later this year from the public inquiry into the 2009 collapse.

“The particular hypothesis that they were trying to examine is interesting but it’s not an excuse to try a large-scale ocean fertilization.”

Iron Ocean Dump Greatest Risk Is Haida Salmon Boom: Critic

by Dene Moore (Canadian Press)

VANCOUVER – A small British Columbia First Nation making waves around the world with a controversial experiment in the Pacific Ocean is on the front lines of climate change, even critics admit.

And as the fears of global warming grow, there is a risk that potentially dangerous geoengineering experiments like the ocean fertilization carried out off the islands of Haida Gwaii will be unleashed as a quick fix, warns Jim Thomas, spokesman for Montreal-based ETC Group, a geoengineering watchdog.

“In desperate times desperate people do sometimes rather stupid things,” said Thomas.

A spokesman for the Haida Salmon Restoration Corp., which arranged funding for and carried out the experiment, said the organization is no longer doing media interviews about the issue.

John Disney, head of the salmon restoration corporation and economic development officer for Old Massett, said the corporation’s intentions have been misinterpreted, and the experience has been very trying.

“You have to understand that caught up in some big international … whatever, this little Haida community has had their whole integrity and their character totally assassinated,” Disney said.

The Haida people have relied for centuries on the world around them for survival, in particular on the salmon. The fish play a central role in not only the Haida diet, but the culture of Haida Gwaii, an archipelago 80 km off the northwest coast of B.C., that is home to a UNESCO world heritage site.

Like fishermen throughout B.C., they watched salmon stocks decline for decades until a near collapse in 2009. That year, the largest run in the province — the Fraser River run — plummeted to 1.7 million fish. The federal government announced a public inquiry, but many felt it was too late to save the run.

Then the following year, returns defied all predictions. Rivers ran red with the backs of spawning salmon as the Fraser River run hit 34 million.

There is no shortage of scientific speculation that a 2008 volcanic eruption on the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, which spewed iron-laden ash over thousands of kilometres of the North Pacific, was the cause for the large return.

A 2010 study of the Mount Kasatoshi volcano by Institute of Ocean Sciences, within the federal Fisheries and Oceans Ministry, concluded that the ash was a contributing factor.

“…the volcanic emission of iron-rich dust in 2008 caused a massive late summer bloom of diatoms that enhanced the food chain for young sockeye salmon in the Gulf shortly after they migrated into the oceanic habitat,” it said, though the ash was not exclusively responsible.

And it was not the first time. In 1956, the study noted, a volcanic eruption in Kamchatka, Russia, was believed to cause a sockeye run 20 million-strong in 1958.

“This is about the fish,” Ken Rea, chief councillor for the village of Old Massett, said when news first broke of the experiment. “This is about providing sustainable opportunities for our future generations.”

Over several days in late July, from a leased fishing vessel called the Ocean Pearl, almost 200 metric tons of iron dust, iron sulfate fertilizer and iron oxide were dumped over an area of about one square kilometre 300 kilometres west of Haida Gwaii, just outside Canadian territorial waters.

Satellite images suggest the fertilization resulted in a 10,000-square kilometre plankton bloom. The Haida will have to wait two years to see if they achieved the desired effect on salmon returns.

But if the village of Old Massett entered into the experiment in an effort to restore salmon, critics aren’t saying the same of its partner in the project.

Russ George is listed as the CEO and chief scientist of Planktos Inc., a defunct company dedicated to “carbon remediation and creative eco-restoration.” George has made several attempts to sell carbon credits for ocean fertilization.

“This is a village project. They started it, they own it, they run it. It’s not the Russ George rogue geoengineering story,” George told Scientific American magazine this week.

“You’ve seen the vile and vehement twisting of this story. You can probably imagine how I feel. (It) was the faith and trust and hopes and dreams of a village whose environment is dying, whose culture is dying because the salmon are dying. And now the world is saying they were duped.”

George is pursuing the Holy Grail of environmental entrepreneurship: a profitable process to address the current global climate crisis.

A phytoplankton bloom does capture carbon, trapping it at the bottom of the ocean as the organisms that feed off the algae die and sink. Previous, smaller-scale tests show the effect was short-term.

“It’s not divided,” said Roberta Hamme, an oceanographer at the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria who studied the fallout from the 2008 volcanic eruption in Alaska.

“Almost every experiment has said that it’s not an efficient way. You can take up some carbon, but it’s not an efficient way to go about it and, if it were done on a large scale, would likely have significant impacts on the ecosystem.”

George’s critics suggest long-term carbon capture is environmental snake oil.

“Our concerns are nested in wider concerns about geoengineering … We are concerned about any move towards deploying or testing geoengineering schemes,” said Thomas, of ETC, which stands for Erosion, Technology and Concentration.

“We’re concerned about what this means in terms of moving toward more geoengineering tests.”

International negotiations have failed to address climate change, he said, and there are people who “are reaching for these quick fix, very risky approaches such as geoengineering.”

As far as salmon restoration, Thomas said stakeholders should wait for the report expected later this year from the public inquiry into the 2009 collapse.

“The particular hypothesis that they were trying to examine is interesting but it’s not an excuse to try a large-scale ocean fertilization.”

A Brief Primer on Ocean Fertilization in the CBD and the London Convention and Protocol

by Duncan E.J. Currie LL.B. (Hons) LL.M.

This briefing outlines the principal decisions and resolutions of the Convention on Biological Diversity and London Convention/Protocol relating to ocean fertilization in the context of the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation’s “Haida Salmon Restoration Project”.

The CBD Moratorium

In May 2008 the Parties at COP-9 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) decided in Decision IX/16 that the Parties noted the 2007 Statement of Concern of the London Convention and Protocol,[1] urged Parties and other Governments to act in accordance with the decision of the London Convention, recognized the current absence of reliable data covering all relevant aspects of ocean fertilization, without which there is an inadequate basis on which to assess their potential risks, and put into place what is now known as the CBD moratorium:

“4. Bearing in mind the ongoing scientific and legal analysis occurring under the auspices of the London Convention (1972) and the 1996 London Protocol, requests Parties and urges other Governments, in accordance with the precautionary approach, to ensure that ocean fertilization activities do not take place until there is an adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities, including assessing associated risks, and a global, transparent and effective control and regulatory mechanism is in place for these activities; with the exception of small scale scientific research studies within coastal waters. Such studies should only be authorized if justified by the need to gather specific scientific data, and should also be subject to a thorough prior assessment of the potential impacts of the research studies on the marine environment, and be strictly controlled, and not be used for generating and selling carbon offsets or any other commercial purposes.”

So, this means that the governments (such as the Canadian government, which is a Party to the CBD) have been requested to “ensure” that ocean fertilization activities do not take place until:

1. there is an adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities, including assessing associated risks, and

2. a global, transparent and effective control and regulatory mechanism is in place for these activities;

with the exception of small scale scientific research studies within coastal waters. Such studies should only be authorized if justified by the need to gather specific scientific data, and should also be subject to a thorough prior assessment of the potential impacts of the research studies on the marine environment, and be strictly controlled, and not be used for generating and selling carbon offsets or any other commercial purposes.

Ocean fertilization was also the subject of negotiations at UNCSD Rio+20 in June this year, and in the outcome documentThe Future We Want,[2] States in paragraph stated that:

“167. We stress our concern about the potential environmental impacts of ocean fertilization. In this regard, we recall the decisions related to ocean fertilization adopted by the relevant intergovernmental bodies, and resolve to continue addressing with utmost caution ocean fertilization, consistent with the precautionary approach.”

It should be noted that to ‘recall’ the decisions in this context means to reiterate or draw attention to them, and so confirms that the decisions of the CBD and the LC/P are still of good standing, as well as that States are still concerned about the potential environmental impacts of ocean fertilization.

London Convention and Protocol

2007

In 2007, the governing bodies of the London Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (1972) and the 1996 London Protocol (LC/P)[3]

  • endorsed the “Statement of Concern” of their Scientific Groups, taking the view that knowledge about the effectiveness and potential environmental impacts of  ocean iron fertilization currently was insufficient to justify large-scale operations and that this could have a negative impact on the marine environment and human health;
  • agreed that the scope of work of the London Convention and Protocol included ocean fertilization, as well as iron fertilization, and that these agreements were competent to address this issue in view of their general objective to protect and preserve the marine environment from all sources;
  • agreed that they would further study the issue from the scientific and legal perspectives with a view to its regulation;
  • developed specific terms of reference for the Scientific Groups to discuss ocean fertilization in May 2008 and established the Legal Intersessional Correspondence Group (LICG) to summarize the legal views by Contracting Parties as to whether, and how, the legal framework of the London Convention and Protocol applies to key scenarios on ocean fertilization (LC 29/17, paragraphs 4.14 to 4.29 and annex 6); and
  • stated that “recognizing that it was within the purview of each State to consider proposals on a case-by- case basis in accordance with the London Convention and Protocol, urged States to use the utmost caution when considering proposals for large-scale ocean fertilization operations.  The governing bodies took the view that, given the present state of knowledge regarding ocean fertilization, such large-scale operations were currently not justified.”

2008

Resolution LC-LP.1 (2008) on the Regulation of Ocean Fertilization adopted on 31 October 2008 noted that the Statement of concern’ on large-scale ocean fertilization by the Scientific Groups in June 2007 endorsed by the 29th Consultative Meeting and the 2nd Meeting of Contracting Parties in November 2007, and expanded on by the Scientific Groups in May 2008, remained valid, and noted COP-9 decision IX/16 on 30 May 2008, and provided that Parties:

“2.      AGREE that for the purposes of this resolution, ocean fertilization is any activity undertaken by humans with the principal intention of stimulating primary productivity in the oceans[3]; [3] read: ” Ocean fertilization does not include conventional aquaculture, or mariculture, or the creation of artificial reefs.”

8.       AGREE that, given the present state of knowledge, ocean fertilization activities other than legitimate scientific research should not be allowed.  To this end, such other activities should be considered as contrary to the aims of the Convention and Protocol and not currently qualify for any exemption from the definition of dumping in Article III.1(b) of the Convention and Article 1.4.2 of the Protocol.”

The Contracting Parties agreed that scientific research proposals should be assessed on a case-by-case basis using an assessment framework to be developed by the Scientific Groups under the London Convention and Protocol.

2010

That assessment framework was developed in 2010 in the “Assessment Framework for Scientific Research Involving Ocean Fertilization” (adopted on 14 October 2010). The Framework provides a tool for assessing proposed activities on a case-by-case basis to determine if the proposed activity constitutes legitimate scientific research that is not contrary to the aims of the London Convention or Protocol.

In essence,

1. An Initial Assessment determines whether a proposed activity falls within the definition of ocean fertilization and has proper scientific attributes, and thus is eligible to be considered and evaluated in this framework. Upon completion of the Initial Assessment, the Secretariat of the London Convention and Protocol should be informed. Contracting Parties may also inform the Secretariat after receiving a proposal, prior to the completion of the Initial Assessment;

2. An Environmental Assessment is carried out, including Problem Formulation, Site Selection and Description, Exposure Assessment, Effects Assessment, Risk Characterization and Risk Management; and

3. The Environmental Assessment then feeds into the decision-making process, which is a determination that a proposed activity is legitimate scientific research, and is not contrary to the aims of the London Convention and Protocol, should only be made upon completion of the entire Framework. There is provision for monitoring: the collection and use of information resulting from monitoring informs future decision making and can improve future assessments.

A decision that a proposed activity is legitimate scientific research and is not contrary to the aims of the London Convention and Protocol should only be made if all earlier steps of the Framework, including the appropriate consultation and communication, have been satisfactorily completed and conditions are in place that ensure that, as far as practicable, environmental disturbance and detriment would be minimized and the scientific benefits maximized.

Consent should be sought from all countries with jurisdiction and/or in the Region of Potential Impact. If the risks and/or uncertainties are so high as to be deemed unacceptable, with respect to the protection of the marine environment, taking into account the precautionary approach, then a decision should be made to seek revision of or reject the proposal. Authorization of the project includes the duration and location of the activity, the requirements for monitoring and reporting, and any other conditions required by Contracting Parties. This authorization should be communicated to the Secretariat and relevant countries.

Conclusion

It is beyond the scope of this summary to conclusively analyze the activities undertaken under the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation’s “Haida Salmon Restoration Project” and assess it against the CBD and LC/LP resolutions. If the “The Haida Salmon Restoration Project: The Story So Far September 2012” is correct, and the activity did, or was intended to, “replenished vital ocean mineral micronutrients, with the expectation and hope it would restore ten thousand square kilometers of ocean pasture to health,” then this certainly would appear to be an “activity undertaken by humans with the principal intention of stimulating primary productivity in the oceans” and thus qualify as ocean fertilization under LC-LP.1(2008).

The Canadian Environment Minister reportedly told Parliament[4] that “Environment Canada did not approve this non-scientific event. Enforcement officers are now investigating … This government takes very seriously our commitment to protect the environment and anyone who contravenes environmental law should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.” Based on this statement, it appears that LC-LP.1(2008) and the Assessment Framework were not followed. It would therefore follow that the activity should be considered as contrary to the aims of the Convention and Protocol and not currently qualify for any exemption from the definition of dumping in Article III.1(b) of the Convention and Article 1.4.2 of the Protocol. The application of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (EPA 1999) to the activity is a matter for Canadian law and Canadian lawyers.

Given the position under the LC/P, it is unnecessary to assess the Project’s activities under the CBD moratorium, but on the facts known to date it seems clear that (1) the activities did not constitute small scale scientific research studies within coastal waters; (2) they were not authorized; (3) they were not justified by the need to gather specific scientific data; (4) were not subject to a thorough prior assessment of the potential impacts of the research studies on the marine environment; and (5) were not strictly controlled by the Canadian government. Clearly they can not be used for generating and selling carbon offsets or any other commercial purposes.

Originally posted by ETC Group.


[1] The LC/P (i) endorsed the June 2007 “Statement of Concern regarding iron fertilization of the oceans to sequester CO2” of their Scientific Groups, (ii) urged States to use the utmost caution when considering proposals for large-scale ocean fertilization operations and (iii) took the view that, given the present state of knowledge regarding ocean fertilization, large-scale operations were currently not justified.

[2] 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro (Rio+20) in The Future We Want, confirmed in General Assembly resolution 66/88. United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro (Rio+20) in The Future We Want, confirmed in General Assembly resolution 66/88 (2012). Athttp://www.un.org/en/sustainablefuture/.

[3] See LC 30/4 25 July 2008, Report by the Legal and Intersessional Group on Ocean Fertilization (LICG)

[4] “Experiment to seed Pacific defended, “Globe and Mail, October 19, 2012.

 

Haida company facing controversy over Pacific Ocean iron dust dump says it’s “creating life”

Jorge Barrera (APTN National News)

SOCKEYEEXTINCTThe head of a Haida-owned company at the centre of an environmental controversy after its fishing boat dumped 100 tonnes of iron sulphite to seed the Pacific Ocean says the experiment is not a potential ecological disaster, but one that has “created life.”

The Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation launched the $2.5 million experiment to boost the level of available plankton for salmon and create a carbon sink to tap into the potentially lucrative carbon credit market. The experiment was carried out under the direction of Russ George, a maverick businessman who has been hounded by environmentalists for years.

The experiment, the largest geoengineering project in the world, was carried out in July more than 320 kilometres west of the Haida Gwaii islands off British Columbia’s coast. It has been roundly criticized by some environmental groups who say it violates at least two UN moratoria and that it plays a dangerous game trying to artificially alter ecosystems.

John Disney, head of the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation and economic development officer for the Old Massett Village, said the experiment is simply recreating natural conditions to boost the survival rates for Pacific salmon which form one of the cornerstones of Haida diet and culture.

“We just created a big area of life where there wasn’t life,” said Disney. “It wasn’t done half-hazardly. It was done scientifically and we have many, many systems monitoring.”

Disney also dismissed charges the experiment violated UN resolutions on ocean dumping. He said “three sets of lawyers” have reviewed the project and found it didn’t go against any UN positions.

Disney has also met several times with Environment Canada officials who have known about the project for several months. Because the experiment took place in international waters, there is little Environment Canada can do about it.

“We have lawyers watching our back,” he said. “I kept (Environment Canada) in the loop on this.”

Environment Canada issued a statement stating that it was investigating the issue. The department, however, did not respond to questions about how long it knew about the experiment.

Disney also said the depiction of George, who is the “chief scientist” for the experiment, has been misleading.

“He is amazing at taking a scientific theory and applying to the bush or the ocean and adjusting it adapting it so it really works in the real world,” said Disney. “These (type of) guys are geniuses and they are frowned upon on the academic world.”

Described as a controversial businessman, George once ran a geoengineering company called Planktos Corp. which previously failed to execute similar projects in other parts of the world, including the Canary Islands.

In 2007, several environmental groups wrote the Securities Exchange Commission in the U.S. accusing George of issuing misleading statements to investors.

“Planktos proposes that its iron fertilization project will trigger oceanic phytoplankton blooms that will absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide through photosynthesis,” states the letter. “Prominent international scientific bodies with expertise in ocean dumping, ocean health and climate change…have questioned the scientific underpinnings of projects like Planktos’ and expressed grave concern.”

The letter was signed by Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, ETC Group and Fishwise, among others.

APTN National News could not reach George for comment. However, George defended himself against attacks from environmentalists in an Op-Ed piece published in the Ottawa Citizen in 2007.

“Perhaps it is a kind of fundamentalism that drives this, where all for-profit companies are intrinsically evil,” said George, whose company was based in California. “Perhaps they fear that if the patient, in this case Mother Earth, is somehow brought back from the edge of death, their raison d’etre will disappear.”

Disney said he has known George since 2003 and the two have worked on projects over the years, including a study on shaving down the time it takes to reforest logged-out old growth forests by 150 years. Disney said he’s upset with the portrayal of his community as being duped by George.

“Has he ever lied to us? Is he a ruthless American businessman? No he isn’t,” said Disney. “We wanted him for his marine science knowledge.”

Disney said the 750 residents of Old Massett Village were extensively consulted and they voted in March 2011 66 per cent in favour of allowing council to finance the $2.5 million project.

He hopes the project will eventually turn a profit on the carbon credit market because plankton consume carbon dioxide.

Disney said plankton levels have been dropping for years and it has had a severe impact on salmon population which depends on it as a main source of food. As a result, young salmon can’t bulk up quick enough in the ocean to avoid natural predators, he said.

Disney said the plankton have been starving to death as a result of dropping iron levels in the ocean triggered by climate change.

The experiment took pulverized dirt dug up from a high-iron zone in Alberta and dumped it into an eddy far off Haida Gwaii’s coasts.

The iron dust dump has created a 10,000 square kilometre plankton bloom that has been captured by satellite.

“We haven’t found one negative side affect,” said Disney. “I talked to every single scientist involved in this…and they said…it was 100 per cent positive.”

Using an array of high-tech equipment, Disney said the experiment is under constant monitoring.

Disney said he believes the surprise 2010 sockeye salmon run which saw 40 million of the fish return to the Fraser River was primarily caused by an increase of iron in the ocean caused by the eruption of a volcano in 2008 that spread ash over the North Pacific.

Environmental organizations, in particular Ottawa-headquartered ETC Group, have been critical of the experiment.

“We have been watching ocean fertilization and geoengineering for five or six years, there are clear environmental risks,” said Jim Thomas, a spokesperson for ETC. “Our concern is that it is a set of new techniques that will allow the pollution industry to sidestep their commitments to reduce carbon emissions.”

Thomas said the type of artificial ocean seeding can have unexpected consequences.

“Studies seem to show that when you have an artificial plankton bloom it’s a whole different story,” he said. “You get different species being favoured and it grows in a different way.”

Charles Miller, an oceanography professor at the University of Oregon, said he did not have enough facts to comment on the issue.

“We do not have all the facts in the public sphere where we can review them,” he said, in an email to APTN National News.