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From the horse’s/ scientist’s / environmentalist’s mouth

Mark Mattox has also been following this saga closely and conducted interviews both with the AWI and the ETC for this week’s edition of Living Planet, now available online.
Interview with Ulrich Bathmann, AWI
Interviw with Jim Thomas of the ETC

Date

January 15, 2009 | 8:09 am

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German Ministries responding!!

AWI insists it has looked into potential effects on the environment and biodiversity.
But the German Environment Ministry is quoted in a German newspaper and news agencies as having expressed concern that Germany’s credibility as a leading power in the protection of biodiversity could be undermined by this experiment.
Yes indeed, Minister Gabriel.
One just wonders how this could get this far, with the ship already steaming ahead to the Antartic, without the concerns of environment groups and the Convention on Biodiversity issue being adequately addressed.
The Research Ministry (which provides a considerable amount of funding to the AWI), is now having the project examined by 2 independent scientific bodies.
Let’s see what happens next.
The official “Lohafex” position on the project and the controversy

Date

January 14, 2009 | 9:52 am

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Are we taking too big a risk?

A few more facts about the iron fertilization idea. Why am I talking about this now? It’s not new, but the increasing concern about the urgency of combatting climate change and the fact that this large-scale experiment is underway in nature, with as yet unresearched possible consequences, make this a good time to take a closer look.
First a bit more background:
Scientists believe “fertilizing” the ocean surface with trace amounts of iron will lead to blooms of phytoplankton, which soak up carbon dioxide in the marine plants. When the phytoplankton die, they sink to the depths of the ocean, with the carbon safely “locked” inside their cells, potentially storing it for decades or centuries in sediments on the ocean floor.
The trouble is we don’t know exactly how much carbon can be captured and stored this way, for how long, or, more crucially, what it means for the ecosystems of the ocean. This is being referred to as “geo-engineering” and sometimes seems to be taking us into the realms of science fiction stories. What does it mean for the species in the ocean, ocean acidity or the level of oxygen in the water?
Some scientists even fear it could lead to the release of nitrous oxide, another powerful greenhouse gas.
Interest in ocean fertilization is not driven by purely scientific or altruistic considerations. There is a commercial interest. Private companies have been working on the idea, because carbon credits can be sold.
It’s interesting that there is not a lot of big media coverage of it. The British Mail on Sunday did have a full page on it earlier this month. It outlines the questions – how much algae will sink to the bottom of the ocean, “safely” trapping Co2, and how long will it stay there? It also draws attention to the findings of a British scientist team that tiny particles of iron are released naturally into the sea, in the Southern Ocean, when icebergs melt. This proof that iron is occurring naturally in the region is, according to the paper, what led to the UN giving permission to move ahead with the experiment.
“Will green algae save the world from global warming?”
Nevertheless, the planned experiment is relatively large in scale and expected to produce a green algae bloom visible from space. Sceptical scientists say the negative effects may not become obvious until it’s too late to do anything about it.
More background on the Treehugger website

Date

January 13, 2009 | 9:47 am

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Fertilising the Ocean to Save the Climate?

I’m following with great interest a voyage by the German polar research vessel Polarstern to the Antarctic to conduct an experiment in “ocean fertilization” and the controversy over the project.
Some organisations are highly concerned about the experiment and feel it’s in breach of international agreements to protect biodiversity:
Background from the opponents, the ETC or “Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration
The project is a German-Indian venture. There’s more information in English on the website of the National Institute of Oceanography.
Project to fertilize the ocean with iron
I haven’t found much on this on the AWI website, that’s Germany’s Alfred-Wegener-Institute for Polar and Marine Research. I’ll try to contact them and follow this story up.
The trouble is a lot of people are very concerned about interfering with the oceans in this way without knowing the likely consequences. The idea is that the iron will lead to a bloom of algae, which will ultimately sequester Co2. But it is not without risk.
The ETC cites an online article on the 2008 Convention on Biodiversity meeting here in Bonn, Germany,and the strong concerns documented their about iron fertilization.
media coverage of CBD view, May 2008
If you have strong views on this or links to further information on the issue, I’d be pleased to hear them.

Date

January 9, 2009 | 3:39 pm

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