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Deutsche Welle: More On LOHAFEX Status
16 January, 2009 by Kevin

Deutsche Well has more information on the LOHAFEX cruise, which has 9-10 days left of transit time and survey work before fertilization was originally scheduled to begin. In the mean time, the environmental effects of the project are under review. There are 20+ years of prior research on the environmental effects of ocean iron fertilization and phytoplankton blooms upon which to base this assement. It is extremely unlikely that the sinlge small-scale experiment being planned with have any lasting negative environmental effects, considering that this is a natural process that happens continuosly on a much larger scale from melting icebergs.

LOHAFEX Suspended For 10 Days
14 January, 2009 by Kevin

Nature News reports that LOHAFEX has been suspended for 10 days while an independent environmenal impact assessment is produced. Hopefully this delay will not harm the capability to conduct an effective scientific research programme.

The institute plans to provide an independent environmental assessment of the experiment within the next ten days, and hopes that the science ministry will then give the go-ahead for fertilization to begin.

"We hadn't expected such an avalanche of protest, but I hope we can still keep to our schedule," says Ulrich Bathmann, a biological oceanographer at the AWI. "It's very unfortunate that LOHAFEX is lumped together in an undifferentiated way with industrial-waste-dumping activities, with which it has absolutely nothing in common."

Press Release From LOHAFEX
14 January, 2009 by Kevin

The Alfred Wegner Institute and the scientists from LOHAFEX have issued this press release defending the legality of their ocean fertilization experiment. As has been reported elsewhere, LOHAFEX is in compliance with the UN regulations under the London Convention, which is the primary regulatory framework for protection of the oceans.

The full press release is below:

LOHAFEX: An Indo-German iron fertilization experiment

What are the effects on the ecology and carbon uptake potential of the Southern Ocean?

 IMAGE: This is the German research vessel Polarstern.

Click here for more information.

Bremerhaven, January 13th 2008. The German research vessel Polarstern is currently on its way to the Southwest Atlantic Sector of the Southern Ocean. The team of 48 scientists (30 from India) on board left Cape Town on 7th January to carry out the Indo-German iron fertilization experiment LOHAFEX (LOHA is Hindi for iron, FEX stands for Fertilization EXperiment). About two weeks will be required to reach the area and carefully select a suitable location, after which a patch of 300 square kilometres will be fertilized with six tons of dissolved iron. This will lead to rapid growth of the minute, unicellular algae known as phytoplankton. These algae do not only provide the food sustaining oceanic life, but also play a key role in regulating concentrations of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. After about 45 days of interdisciplinary research, the expedition will end in Punta Arenas, Chile on 17th March 2009. LOHAFEX will provide more basic information to further our understanding of the role of ocean ecosystems in the global carbon cycle. It will help filling the gaps of knowledge mentioned by international conventions to classify the potential role of ocean fertilization as a means of reducing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere.

 IMAGE: These are scientists working on board of the German research vessel Polarstern.

Click here for more information.

The scientific experiment is in accordance with the resolution of the London Convention on the regulation of ocean fertilization from October 2008 and the Decision of the Convention on Biological Diversity on ocean fertilization from May 2008 that call for further research to enhance understanding of ocean iron fertilization. For LOHAFEX, the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), India, and the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association, Germany, have evaluated possible environmental impacts showing that this experiment will not cause damage to the environment. The level to which the surface-water iron concentrations will be enhanced during this experiment is an order of magnitude lower than natural iron levels in coastal marine waters. This concentration is so low that most analytical laboratories in the world cannot measure it. The fertilized waters, although located offshore, have been previously in contact with the coast of South America and South Georgia and contain coastal plankton species that are adapted to high iron concentrations. The size of the fertilized patch is considerably smaller than the impact of melting icebergs that may leave a swath of several hundred kilometers breadth of enhanced iron concentrations. Therefore LOHAFEX will contribute legitimate and much needed scientific research to the controversial discussions on ocean fertilization.

Alfred Wegener Institute and NIO are jointly conducting LOHAFEX, together with scientists from nine other institutions in India, Europe and Chile. Prof. Victor Smetacek (Germany) and Dr. Wajih Naqvi (India) are co-Chief Scientists. The experiment is part of the Memorandum of Understanding between the two Institutes signed by the heads of their respective parent organisations, the Helmholtz Association, Germany, and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, India, in the presence of the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany Dr Angela Merkel and the Prime Minister of India Dr Manmohan Singh in New Delhi on the 30th October 2007. Planning for the experiment has been underway since 2005.

The development and impact of the phytoplankton bloom on its environment and the fate of the carbon sinking out of it to the deep ocean will be studied in great detail with state-of-the-art methods by integrated teams of biologists, chemists and physicists. The design of the experiment is the same as that of previous experiments but more parameters will be monitored and the experiment will last longer. Five previous experiments carried out in the Southern Ocean, including two conducted from RV Polarstern in 2000 and 2004, have induced phytoplankton blooms of similar size and composition to natural blooms fertilized by iron in settling dust and from melting icebergs. However, in contrast to the remote oceanic regions previously fertilized, LOHAFEX will be located in a more productive region of the Southern Ocean inhabited by coastal species of phytoplankton. They grow faster and are more palatable to the zooplankton, including the shrimp-like krill, than their spiny open-ocean counterparts. Krill is the main food of Antarctic penguins, seals and whales but their stocks have declined by over 80% during the past decades, so their response to the iron-fertilized bloom (if they are present in the experimental area) will indicate whether the alarming decline is due to declining productivity of the region, for which there is evidence. The LOHAFEX patch will have a similar impact on the ecosystem as melting icebergs and is large enough to counteract the effects of dilution due to spreading over 45 days of the experiment.

Spending seventy days in a notoriously stormy stretch of ocean will be a strenuous experience for the scientists and crew on board Polarstern. Smetacek reports that bad weather was encountered shortly after leaving Cape Town, so many of the scientists are still adjusting to the movements of the ship. However, he is confident that this is a temporary phase and that soon everyone will be able to prepare the laboratories for the start of the experiments.

###

LOHAFEX is a contribution to POGO, the Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (http://www.ocean-partners.org).

Boston Globe: Challenging The Gaia Hypothesis
14 January, 2009 by Kevin

The Boston Globe has this article challenging the fundamental assumption of the "Gaia Hypothesis", which assumes that the Earth's ecology will heal itself if given time and respite from human activity. The new "Medea Hypothesis", proposed by Dr. Peter Ward, suggests that mass extinctions are also caused naturally by the Earth, and we need to now be proactive in preventing the next one.

"Ward himself believes that the only help for the planet over the long run is management by human beings - whether that means actively adjusting the chemical composition of the atmosphere or using giant satellites to modify the amount of sunlight that reaches us. As Ward sees it, the planet doesn't need our help destroying itself. It will do that automatically. It needs us to save it.

Discover: Summary Of LOHAFEX News
14 January, 2009 by Kevin

Discover Magazine post this blog article summarizing the last few days of media news on the LOHAFEX experiment.

New Scientist: Coverage On LOHAFEX
9 January, 2009 by Kevin

New Scientist covers the LOHAFEX cruise on ocean iron fertilization, and has some excellent analysis of the legal controvery around this cruise.

"Regardless of the CBD's recommendations, which are not legally binding, Smetacek's experiment is not in contravention of the IMO's London Convention on ocean pollution.

Its statement on ocean fertilisation (pdf) says "ocean fertilization activities other than legitimate scientific research should not be allowed" and adds that scientific experiments should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Smetacek insists his experiments have been approved by all necessary parties.

There is also a good quote from Dr. Ken Caldeira:

"Twenty tonnes of iron particles in the vast ocean is very much drop in the bucket and is unlikely to have a lasting effect," says Ken Caldeira of Stanford University. "The rational concern is that experiments will lead down some slippery slope - that small experiments could be scaled up without any regulation."


Nature News: Coverage On LOHAFEX
9 January, 2009 by Kevin

Nature News covers the LOHAFEX controversy. This piece also does not mention the decision by the London Convention legitimizing scientitic research on OIF and trumping the decision by the CBD. However it does have an interesting quote on the purpose of the study:

"The new study will address, among other things, marine biology, the flow of carbonaceous particles, and biodiversity questions that have barely been analysed during previous experiments, says Karin Lochte, the director of the AWI. "These are exactly the kind of data you need to assess whether or not large-scale ocean fertilization is justified," she says.

Wired: More Coverage Of LOHAFEX
9 January, 2009 by Kevin

Wired's piece on the LOHAFEX cruise has promotes the CBD's position on OIF, and has an update on the LC/LP position. There is also an interesting quote by Jamais Cascio:

"ETC is right that we need international standards and safeguards for these experiments, and hopefully this attempt will spur action in that regard," Cascio said. "I think they're wrong, however, to suggest that any look at geoengineering is inherently problematic."

 

Yale Interview With Dr. David Keith
9 January, 2009 by Kevin

Jeff Goodell interviews Dr. David Keith on geoengineering. Dr. Keith is a leading proponent of albedo modification techniques.

"The central argument has to do with the uncertainty that has persisted for decades and still does about just how bad the climate problem is. It comes down to a parameter that climate scientists call “climate sensitivity” — how much the climate will warm if we, say, double the amount of CO2 in the air. And the answer is that's still uncertain by factors of two or three, which is just gigantic. So if we are very lucky, it might be that we could double or triple the amount of CO2 in the air and have relatively small climate change, some of which might be beneficial.

On the flip side, if we're unlucky, we might see 5 or 6 degrees [Celsius] globally — and you can double that if you're in the middle of a mid-latitude continent — which is just stunning. That's as big as the change between the glacial and the interglacial state and that would certainly, over a few hundred years, melt big sections of the ice caps. It’s really quite horrific stuff. And we don't know which of those two it is, and we're not going to know in time.

So we're making decisions every day by continuing to put CO2 in the air — decisions that we cannot easily reverse. And so the culmination of the CO2 in the air, and that uncertainty about how dangerous it is, that means you need a backup plan.

Times Of India: Covers Upcoming OIF Experiment
6 January, 2009 by Kevin

The Times of India also covers the upcoming LOHAFEX ocean iron fertilization cruise. LOHAFEX is jointly run by Dr. S.W.A. Naqvi of India and Dr. Victor Smetacek of Germany, who recently published a scientific article on designing the next generation of OIF experiments in the Royal Society special issue on geoengineering.

Daily Mail UK: More Coverage Of LOHAFEX OIF Experiment
6 January, 2009 by Kevin

The Daily Mail UK also covers the upcoming LOHAFEX ocean iron fertilization cruise, which sets sail in a few days. Leading off the article is discussion of the natural iron fertilization effect of rock trapped in icebergs. The Daily Mail is somewhat sensational, since iron fertilization from icebergs has been known for a few years, and they neglect to mention the "other" UN regulatory body, the London Convention, which recently approved scientific research into ocean iron fertilization.

Spiegel Online: Slowing Global Warming With Antarctic Iron
3 January, 2009 by Kevin

Spiegel Online writes, "Slowing Global Warming with Antarctic Iron", which provides the rationale for the large scale ocean iron fertilization cruise planned in March by Dr. Victor Smetacek.

A unique new project now aims to close this knowledge gap. The German research icebreaker Polarstern will set out for Antarctica from Cape Town at the beginning of January. Leader of the project is Victor Smetacek from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI). An Indian-German team of 49 people will accompany him.

The plan is to create an artificial plankton bloom north of the island of South Georgia using several tons of iron sulfate. "It will be the largest bloom produced to date," Smetacek says. So large, in fact, that it will be possible to observe it from space with special satellites, and it will attract large swarms of krill from the south.

UK Independent: It's Time For Plan B
3 January, 2009 by Kevin

The Independent writes, "Climate scientists: it's time for Plan B". A poll of leading climate scientists says geoengineering may become necessary in the near future.

"This "geoengineering" approach – including schemes such as fertilising the oceans with iron to stimulate algal blooms – would have been dismissed as a distraction a few years ago but is now being seen by the majority of scientists we surveyed as a viable emergency backup plan that could save the planet from the worst effects of climate change, at least until deep cuts are made in CO2 emissions.

With the looming threat of climate tipping points, we need to conduct careful research to understand whether and how the various geoengineering proposals can help with the fight against climate change.

Audubon: Iron Fertilization Creates Life Around Antarctic Icebergs
3 January, 2009 by Kevin

Audubon Magazine published "Life on Ice", which describes in detail one mechanism of natural iron fertilization in Antarctic waters:  iron-rich dust released from melting icebergs. This is based on research published in Science, "Free-Drifting Icebergs: Hotspots of Chemical and Biological Enrichment", which shows that natural iron fertilization creates hotspots of life in a several kilometer radius. These scientists are continuing their research, so expect more results to be published soon.

Deutsche Welle: German Scientist Warns Climate Change Accelerating
3 January, 2009 by Kevin

Climate change is happening more rapidly than anyone though possible, the German government's expert, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, warned in an interview.

"The threats posed by climate change are worse than those imagined by most governments. We are on our way to a destabilization of the world climate that has advanced much further than most people or their governments realize.

USGS: Report On Abrupt Climate Change
29 December, 2008 by Kevin

The US Geological Survey has published a report on the threat of "Abrupt Climate Change". This report synthesizes recent research that suggests the IPCC has significantly underestimated the rate and severity of climate change negative impacts. In particular, Arctic sea ice will disappear more rapidly, ice sheet melting will cause much higher sea level rise, and sustained drought conditions will likely dominate the American Southwest. There has been plenty of news coverage: USGS Press Release, Washington Post, LA Times.

Official Report From The London Convention On Ocean Fertilization
29 December, 2008 by Kevin

The London Convention and London Protocol have officially posted the report from the meeting held in late October 2008. This includes a Resolution on the Regulation of Ocean Fertilization, which exempts legitimate scientific research on OIF from being considered "dumping" of pollution.  This is a postive step for those who want to see continued research into OIF as a potential climate mitigation technique. The Resolution also calls for the development of a scientific review panel to assess the legitimacy and safety of proposed ocean fertilization projects.


The full text of the Resolution is here:

RESOLUTION LC-LP.1 (2008) ON THE REGULATION OF OCEAN FERTILIZATION

(ADOPTED ON 31 OCTOBER 2008)

THE THIRTIETH MEETING OF THE CONTRACTING PARTIES TO THE LONDON
CONVENTION AND THE THIRD MEETING OF THE CONTRACTING PARTIES TO
THE LONDON PROTOCOL,

RECALLING the objectives of the London Convention1 and Protocol2;

NOTING 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,
remains valid;

NOTING decision IX/16 on 30 May 2008 of the 9th Meeting of the Conference of the
Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity which “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”;

NOTING United Nations General Assembly resolution 62/215, concerning “Oceans and
the law of the sea”, adopted on 22 December 2007, which in its paragraph 98 “encourages States
to support the further study and enhance understanding of ocean iron fertilization”;

NOTING that a number of other international organizations are considering the issue of
ocean fertilization;

NOTING that knowledge on the effectiveness and potential environmental impacts of
ocean fertilization is currently insufficient to justify activities other than legitimate scientific
research;

1. AGREE that the scope of the London Convention and Protocol includes ocean
fertilization activities;

2. AGREE that for the purposes of this resolution, ocean fertilization is any activity
undertaken by humans with the principle intention of stimulating primary productivity in
the oceans3;

3. AGREE that in order to provide for legitimate scientific research, such research should
be regarded as placement of matter for a purpose other than the mere disposal thereof
under Article III.1(b)(ii) of the London Convention and Article 1.4.2.2 of the London
Protocol;

4. AGREE 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;

5. AGREE that the aforementioned assessment framework should include, inter alia, tools
for determining whether the proposed activity is contrary to the aims of the Convention
and Protocol;

6. AGREE that until specific guidance is available, Contracting Parties should be urged to
use utmost caution and the best available guidance4 to evaluate the scientific research
proposals to ensure protection of the marine environment consistent with the Convention
and Protocol;

7. AGREE that for the purposes of this resolution, legitimate scientific research should be
defined as those proposals that have been assessed and found acceptable under the
assessment framework;

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;

9. AGREE that this resolution should be reviewed at appropriate intervals in light of new
and relevant scientific information and knowledge.

Reuters: Scientists Urge Caution In Ocean-CO2 Capture Schemes
15 December, 2008 by Kevin

David Fogarty writes, "Scientists urge caution in ocean-CO2 capture schemes", which discusses the environmental concerns of ocean iron fertilization. Also posted is a Q&A with Dan Whaley (CEO of Climos). At issue is whether OIF could be scaled up safely as CO2 mitigation technique, and Dan's Q&A addresses many of the concerns raised in the article. A key point: contrary to the tone of the first article, the environmental concerns of OIF have been a major focus of scientific research since the Iron Hypothesis was first proposed -- these concerns and the way forward are summarized nicely in the recent Royal Society journal article by Dr. Richard Lampitt.

Guardian: "Let's Get Real On The Environment"
15 December, 2008 by Kevin

David Appell of the Guardian UK writes a provocative piece: "Let's get real on the environment". He argues that emission reductions of greenhouse gases simply will not happen soon enough to make a difference, because the political realities are too harsh. Therefore we need to research geoengineering and think more seriously about adaptation to climate change.

Dr. Leinen's Editorial In Oceanography: "The Business Of Ocean Science"
11 December, 2008 by Kevin

The journal Oceanography published an editorial by Dr. Margaret Leinen titled "The Business of Ocean Science".  Dr Leinen shares her perspective on the evolution of oceanography to develop  relationships with the private sector in oceanography, in much the same way as in the biomedical, chemical, and engineering disciplines work closely with private entities.

"Because for so long our field has had
a basic-research focus, as opposed to an
applied orientation, students with entrepreneurial
inclinations have generally
neither been attracted to ocean science
nor recruited. We have few examples
of fellow faculty or graduates who have
been successful in the private sector, and
some of those who are successful moved
to other fields to apply their quantitative
training.

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