October 22, 2012
I AGREE THAT THIS MIGHT BE A BAD IDEA, BUT WHO DECIDES WHAT’S A “ROGUE” EXPERIMENT? ARE WE GOING TO START LICENSING SCIENTISTS? A Rogue Climate Experiment Outrages Scientists.
A California businessman chartered a fishing boat in July, loaded it with 100 tons of iron dust and cruised through Pacific waters off western Canada, spewing his cargo into the sea in an ecological experiment that has outraged scientists and government officials. . . .
The entrepreneur, Russ George, calling it a “state-of-the-art study,” said his team scattered iron dust several hundred miles west of the islands of Haida Gwaii, in northern British Columbia, in exchange for $2.5 million from a native Canadian group.
The iron spawned the growth of enormous amounts of plankton, which Mr. George, a former fisheries and forestry worker, said might allow the project to meet one of its goals: aiding the recovery of the local salmon fishery for the native Haida.
Plankton absorbs carbon dioxide, the predominant greenhouse gas, and settles deep in the ocean when it dies, sequestering carbon. The Haida had hoped that by burying carbon, they could also sell so-called carbon offset credits to companies and make money.
Iron fertilization is contentious because it is associated with geoengineering, a set of proposed strategies for counteracting global warming through the deliberate manipulation of the environment. Many experts have argued that scientists should be researching such geoengineering techniques — like spewing compounds into the atmosphere to reflect more sunlight or using sophisticated machines to remove carbon dioxide from the air.
But tampering with the environment is risky, they say, so any experiments must be carried out responsibly and transparently, with the involvement of the scientific community and proper governance.
I’m inclined to agree, but I’d be more inclined if climate scientists had demonstrated more professional responsiblity themselves.
Meanwhile, we’ve learned at least that iron fertilization does in fact stimulate plankton growth on a large scale, haven’t we?