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Obama Signals Rapid Action On Climate Change In 2009
12 November, 2008 by Kevin

Jason Grumet, the Obama campaign's lead energy and environment adviser, said that the Obama Administration would act quickly on implementing climate change and energy policies.

Grumet, who has been mentioned as a possible choice for the new U.S. administration's energy secretary, told the group of business and policy-making specialists: "My suggestion to all of you is to enjoy the holiday season ... and rest up because I think it's going to be a very, very busy 2009."

Dr. Ken Caldeira: Geoengineering Research Is Urgently Needed As Backup Plan
11 November, 2008 by Kevin

Dr. Ken Caldeira, in testimony to the British Parliament, says that we need to urgently study the potential of geoengineering to mitigate climate change.

"Only fools find joy in the prospect of climate engineering. It's also foolish to think that risk of significant climate damage can be denied or wished away," he said. "Perhaps we can depend on the transcendent human capacity for self-sacrifice when faced with unprecedented, shared, long-term risk, and therefore can depend on future reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. But just in case, we'd better have a plan."

Dr. James Hansen Says CO2 Levels Are Already Too High
11 November, 2008 by Kevin

In "Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?", Hansen et al. write:

"If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm."

This peer-reviewed article suggests that climate sensitivity is much greater than previously thought, and that our climate is on the verge of a tipping point that would radically alter climate.

Science Daily has the press release on this paper.

The paper is freely available for download at the Open Atmospheric Journal (click on "Year 2008") and scroll down to the Hansen et al. paper.

Cleantech Group Reports On The London Convention And Protocol Meeting
4 November, 2008 by Kevin

Emma Ritch writes on the results of the recent LC/LP meeting, "Murky waters for commercial ocean fertilization projects".

"The London Convention and Protocol (LCP) said "that, given the present state of knowledge, ocean fertilization activities other than legitimate scientific research should not be allowed."

The article also includes quotes from Dan Whaley (Climos), David Santillo (Greenpeace), and Dr. Ken Johnson, an oceanographer with MBARI.

"Climos's goal is to preserve opportunities for scientific research. Our goal is to bring private capital to these projects," Whaley said. "I think the question of commercialization is a question for the future."

"The next logical step is a big-scale experiment," Johnson said. "But you need funding to do that, and since the government isn't touching it, you have to look in the for-profit realm."

BBC Interviews Dr. Richard Lampitt On Ocean Iron Fertilization
30 October, 2008 by Kevin

Video interview of Dr. Richard Lampitt on the need for more research into ocean iron fertilization.

Royal Society To Study Feasibility And Effects Of Geoengineering
30 October, 2008 by Kevin

The Royal Society of the UK has announced the formation of Working Group to study the feasibility and effects of the various geoegineering techniques. According to the BBC's coverage of this new study:

"The aim of the study is to provide a useful first step in order to define the parameters and limitations of these approaches and to offer recommendations on which deserve more serious attention.

In many cases, some of the proposals are likely to have unintended harmful effects on the environment. The working group aims to investigate these potential side effects and establish what further research needs to be commissioned.

As a last resort, we could turn to some of these possible methods. If we haven't done the research and properly evaluated these methods, that option would not be on the table."

More coverage of this story by:

Reuters: 'Can Smoke And Mirrors Ease Global Warming?'
28 October, 2008 by Kevin

Reuters presents a somewhat stark review of the potential benefits and impacts of geoengineering.

"Among those hoping for approval for tests is Margaret Leinin, chief science officer of California-based Climos, a company that is looking at ways to use the oceans to soak up greenhouse gases.

"The world has not been able to get carbon emissions under control" Leinin said. "We should look at other options."

Climos is seeking to raise money to test adding iron dust to the southern ocean to spur growth of algae that grow by absorbing heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the air. When algae die, they fall to the seabed and so remove carbon.


Venture Beat: 'Eighty Years Until A World Run On Renewables'
28 October, 2008 by Kevin

Venture Beat posts this news article on a new report suggesting that renewable energy can account for 100% of the world's energy needs by 2090:

"For an idea of the convoluted logic of Greenpeace, consider a statement made by senior Greenpeace scientist David Santillo during a debate over whether ocean iron fertilization, a method to encourage plankton to absorb more CO2, is a good idea. While the technique, which is being researched by a venture-funded company called Climos, is still highly speculative, Santillo objected to iron fertilization not on scientific grounds, but because it would be “morally indefensible” to use a natural system to help absorb CO2 emissions, rather than forcing humans to reduce their emissions.

That view is consistent with the report’s assumed reduction in energy usage, but reveals a naive worldview, in which consumers of every sort can simply stop old practices at any given time and switch to a better way without the stunning economic damage such a fast switch would cause.


WWF Report: Climate Changing 'faster, Stronger, Sooner'
21 October, 2008 by Kevin

WWF has released this report, "Climate Chage: Faster, Stronger, Sooner", which highlights the apparent acceleration of climate change. The report discusses both observed impacts, such as the rapidly melting Arctic ice cap, and future impacts, such as diminished food production and sea level rise. It is a nice summary of the latest climate science published since the IPCC 4th Assessment Report in 2007.

Brookings Institution: Invest In Science And Technology For Climate Change, Including Geoengineering
16 October, 2008 by Kevin

The Brookings Institution has this piece on Setting the Right Green Agenda for the next US President:

Make serious investments in basic science and in technology research and development. Higher carbon prices will provide strong incentives for private companies to accelerate development technologies that are nearly ready for the market. However, basic research on the underlying science and engineering will also be needed and will not be undertaken by the private sector alone. Funding that research should be a top priority for the federal government. Priority research areas should include low-greenhouse-gas technology; large-scale carbon capture and sequestration; better means to adapt, such as improved crops and water management; and basic climate science to reduce uncertainty around the problem. In addition, much more research is needed on geoengineering, which could be needed if the climate begins to change rapidly.

BBC: Votes For Finding Whether OIF Works As A Carbon Mitigation Strategy
14 October, 2008 by Kevin

The BBC summarizes the IUCN panel on ocean iron fertilization:

Frankly, I would like to know whether iron seeding works, and I would like to know quite soon, please. ... If Ms Leiden and other entrepreneurs can get hold of investors' money, if the science is rigorous and the regulators satisfied, then I would vote for finding out whether it works once and for all.


Full text of "Iron Bound":

Could "polluting" the marine environment restrain rising temperatures and rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere?

According to Margaret Leinen, chief scientist of the company Climos, it could; and the magic pollutant is iron filings.

Placed in the oceans, the theory goes that they will stimulate the growth of phytoplankton, tiny marine plants, which will then photosynthesise more CO2 out of the atmosphere and down into the water column.

The idea has been around for a long time and studies date back at least a decade, without having given us a definitive answer to whether it will work.

At a seminar here on ocean geoengineering, as the approach is known, Ms Leinen told us of her company's plans to seed trial sites of ocean hundreds of kilometres across, and - under the auspices of independent scientists - conduct studies that would satisfy academics, regulators and investors.

Scientifically, the issue is not whether the mechanism works - it does - but what else happens afterwards.

How deep will the carbon be carried, through physical or biological paths? How long will it stay stored? Will the plants' decay produce methane or nitrous oxide, more potent greenhouse gases than CO2?

Investors will want to know simply whether it can turn a profit - which hangs on whether it is shown to work, and so whether it qualifies for carbon credits.

Greenpeace scientist David Santillo expressed the concerns of many.

When money is involved, how can we guarantee independent science? Won't this be a distraction for investors who might otherwise fund renewable energy projects? Will there be any negative impacts on ocean life?

These are important concerns. But the reality is that we are already producing huge changes in the oceans.

We are warming them, diminishing the water's natural alkalinity, fishing huge swathes of biological life out of them, creating lifeless zones with agricultural runoff, changing the dynamics of ice cover and freshwater input.

Frankly, I would like to know whether iron seeding works, and I would like to know quite soon, please.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last year suggested carbon emissions ought to be constrained within a decade and a half, and there is little sign in the real world that it is happening.

If Ms Leiden and other entrepreneurs can get hold of investors' money, if the science is rigorous and the regulators satisfied, then I would vote for finding out whether it works once and for all.


Dr. Leinen To Speak Oct. 9 At World Conservation Congress
8 October, 2008 by Kevin
Dr. Margaret Leinen, Climos Chief Science officer and former Assistant Director, Geosciences at the US National Science Foundation will speak at the IUCN World Conservation Congress on Thursday October 9th, Barcelona Spain. She is on a panel discussion ocean iron fertilization. The title of the panel is, "Climate change: Is marine geo-engineering a solution?"

In conjunction with Dr. Leinen's presentation we have assembled a list of related material:

Available here.

Agenda and abstract for the panel

Video archive of panel (appears sometime after the panel)

Main website for WCC


Carbon Offset Sales Growing While Economy Sags?
6 October, 2008 by Kevin

The Washington Post has this article on the growing market for offset sales despite the economic downturn:

"This is an issue that a lot of people care about," said Christina Page of California-based Yahoo!, which spent about $2 million to offset emissions from its electricity use and from employees' commutes and air travel. One motivation was marketing, Page said. "It does attract people," she said.

The NY Times' Green Inc. blog also comments on this article, primarily on the additionality issues raised in the WaPo article. Most interesting is the first comment of the blog post, which has an interesting opinion on why offset sales are surging:

The article is all about consumer “green guilt,” which — unsurprisingly — is not what’s really driving the market. Neither are corporate PR efforts, although, as the article notes, 80% of offset purchases are made by corporations.

Rather, prices are rising because of a growing “pre-compliance” market. Businesses expect that comprehensive climate change legislation will be passed soon. In fact, for many corporations, climate change legislation is already a reality. RGGI just came online in the northeastern states. WCI is moving ahead rapidly in the west. So business are looking at the regulatory landscape and getting a head start on managing their compliance efforts by purchasing offsets.
- Adam Stein, cofounder of Terrapass


Business Green: Climos Defends Ocean Fertilization Ambitions
24 September, 2008 by Kevin

Business Green posts this intereview with Climos CEO, Dan Whaley:

Dan Whaley, chief executive officer of geo-engineering specialist Climos, tells why concerns over the impact of ocean fertilization projects are overblown.

Dr. Margaret Leinen To Speak At IUCN World Conservation Congress
24 September, 2008 by Kevin

Dr. Margaret Leinen, Chief Scientist of Climos, will speak at a workshop on ocean iron fertilization. This is part of the ten day World Conservation Congress being hosted by the International Union for Conservation Nature.

This workshop seeks to present the current state of knowledge of selected marine geo-engineering technologies and to address their potential uses, abuses and ecological impacts (including any potential benefits and damages). It will host speakers from companies conducting geo-engineering projects, NGOs who are advocating caution, as well as expert scientists and lawyers. The Workshop will thus provide contrasting viewpoints on climatic, ecological, legal, ethical and technological pros and cons of marine geo-engineering schemes proposed as methods for combating climate change.

Full details of workshop available here (including speaker list and abstract).

NY Times: Blocking The Sky To Save The Earth
24 September, 2008 by Kevin

NYT Editorial on why we must engage in geoengineering research:

The important thing is to get scientists, environmentalists and global-warming skeptics alike out of the nonsensical all-or-nothing dichotomy that characterizes much current thinking about geo-engineering — that we either do it full scale, or we don’t do it at all. While we should all hope that we never need to play God with the earth’s climate, we must also have the best science at hand to do what might be necessary if melting polar ice leads to a far more dangerous future.

UK Independent: "The Methane Time Bomb"
24 September, 2008 by Kevin

The Independent "blows up" this story on catastrophic methane release in the Arctic:

The first evidence that millions of tons of a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide is being released into the atmosphere from beneath the Arctic seabed has been discovered by scientists.

The amount of methane stored beneath the Arctic is calculated to be greater than the total amount of carbon locked up in global coal reserves so there is intense interest in the stability of these deposits as the region warms at a faster rate than other places on earth.

This is interesting given the story below on accelerated research into abrupt climate change.

US Gov't Starts Working Group On Abrupt Climate Change
24 September, 2008 by Kevin

As ENN writes:

Abrupt and rapid climate change is a threat that the federal government has just decided to take seriously. Scientists from six national laboratories have been assigned to a new project that will undertake to define possible mechanisms of abrupt climate change well enough to build comprehensive computer models and make accurate predictions before the climate changes abruptly.

More info at Science Daily:

The IMPACTS team will initially focus on four types of ACC:

  1. instability among marine ice sheets, particularly the West Antarctic ice sheet;
  2. positive feedback mechanisms in subarctic forests and arctic ecosystems, leading to rapid methane release or large-scale changes in the surface energy balance;
  3. destabilization of methane hydrates (vast deposits of methane gas caged in water ice), particularly in the Arctic Ocean; and
  4. feedback between biosphere and atmosphere that could lead to megadroughts in North America.

Only half joking, Collins refers to these as “the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”

Economist: Ocean Iron Fertilization Should Be First Step In Geoengineering Research
6 September, 2008 by Kevin

In one of the most comprehensive articles yet on geoengineering, the Economist balances the need, and the drawbacks of research into geoegineering.

"Brian Launder of the University of Manchester, who edited the Royal Society papers, argues that the sort of geo-engineering schemes they describe might buy the world 20 to 30 years to adjust. That breathing space would be useful if something really bad, such as the collapse into the sea of part of the Greenland ice-shelf, was in imminent danger of happening, and the realisation of the danger led to a political agreement that climate change had to be stopped rapidly.

So what now? The answer is probably to carry out preliminary trials [of ocean iron fertilization] proposed by Dr Smetacek and Dr Naqvi. Correctly done, they should help to indicate what could work, what would not, and what the financial and environmental costs might be.

Link to article

Economist: Geoengineering Research Needed Even If We Never Use It
6 September, 2008 by Kevin

The Economist discusses the pros and cons of geogineering, and suggests that research is necessary just in case,

"The solution to climate change will probably involve an array of technologies, from renewables, nuclear, carbon sequestration, public transport to energy conservation. It is too early to say whether geo-engineering or anything else will be part of this mix. Geo-engineering may turn out to be too risky, however much is spent on researching it. Then again, there may come a time when it is needed. The world needs to be ready—and research is the only way to prepare. 

Link to article

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