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Guardian: Geoengineering May Be Insurance Against "Arctic Amplifier" And Other Runaway Feedbacks
6 September, 2008 by Kevin

The Guardian has this piece on the role of geoengineering to prevent potential runaway feedbacks in the Earth’s climate system. The article talks about the vital need for reducing GHG emissions worldwide, and then writes,

"But even if we do all the above [emissions reductions], can we be sure of preventing climate catastrophe? No. The Earth’s climate system is characterised by feedback loops which can amplify even a small initial perturbation. And it seems that following an initial post-industrial warming of 0.8C, one major positive feedback process is already well under way, in the Arctic.

Geo-engineering should be developed strictly as a firefighting capability to maintain long-term climatic stability, not as a substitute for all the other actions we should be taking.

Link to article

Geoengineering Research Necessary Due To Political Inaction On Emission Reductions
3 September, 2008 by Kevin

The Guardian summarizes the motivation for geoengineering research:

"Political inaction on global warming has become so dire that nations must now consider extreme technical solutions - such as blocking out the sun - to address catastrophic temperature rises, scientists from around the world warn today.

The experts say a reluctance “at virtually all levels” to address soaring greenhouse gas emissions means carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are on track to pass 650 parts-per-million (ppm), which could bring an average global temperature rise of 4C. They call for more research on geo-engineering options to cool the Earth, such as dumping massive quantities of iron into oceans to boost plankton growth, and seeding artificial clouds over oceans to reflect sunlight back into space.

Link to article

Geoengineering Research Having Difficulty Finding Funding
3 September, 2008 by Kevin

Business Green discusses the challenge of funding geoengineering research projects, particularly from the commercial angle. This article refers to the Royal Society collection of geonengineering papers discussed below:

"Writing in the preface to the collection of papers, Brian Launder of the University of Manchester and Michael Thompson of the University of Cambridge argued that, "While such geo-scale interventions may be risky, the time may well come when they are accepted as less risky than doing nothing."

However, several of the scientists who contributed work for the Royal Society series have today admitted that with no commercial model currently in place to monetise geo-engineering projects, they are struggling to raise the funding required to move beyond the planning stages.

Link to article

Royal Society Focuses On Geoengineering
3 September, 2008 by Kevin

The latest issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society is focused on geoengineering.

"It is now recognised that the developed world is struggling to meet its carbon-reduction targets, while emissions by China and India have soared. Meanwhile, signs suggest that the climate is even more sensitive to atmospheric CO2 levels than was previously thought.

Frustrated by the delays of politicians, scientists (including some at the highest levels) have for a number of years been proposing major ‘last minute’ schemes that might be needed if it were suddenly shown that the climate was in a state of imminent collapse. These geo–scale interventions are undoubtedly risky: but the time may come when they are universally perceived to be less risky than doing nothing.

For these reasons, it seems a good time to draw together a collection of these macro–engineering options, and to subject them to critical appraisal by acknowledged experts in the field. Emphasis is given to strategies for carbon sequestration, and albedo management to reduce the net amount of solar energy impacting and being retained by the Earth.

Link to index of papers.

There are two papers on Ocean Iron Fertilization:

Swedes Criticize The CBD
26 August, 2008 by dan

In Nature today, 10 Swedish scientists have criticized the lack of scientific process and the over politicized nature of the CBD, the same group which pushed for restrictions on OIF earlier this year.

Biodiversity body ‘lacks science’

Swedish researchers criticize credentials of convention.

Daniel Cressey

Swedish researchers have launched a scathing attack on the scientific credentials of an international advisory body on biodiversity, warning that its effectiveness is being undermined by the increasing dominance of politicians and professional negotiators.

Their concerns about the work of the scientific body that advises the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) are widely shared, the convention’s own executive secretary, Ahmed Djoghlaf, has told Nature. The convention has been signed by 168 countries who pledge to significantly reduce the current rate of biodiversity loss by 2010. Article 25 of the convention states that government representatives shall be “competent in the relevant field of expertise”, but according to the Swedes, this is often not the case.

In a letter published in Conservation Biology, the ten scientists in the Swedish delegation to the CBD say that some parties to the convention are clearly trying to move away from science so that the convention does not interfere with trade and economic growth (L. Laikre et al. Conserv. Biol. 22, 814–815; 2008).

Per Wramner of Södertörn University College in Flemingsberg, who is one of the letter’s authors, says that the February CBD meeting in Rome pushed them to act after it became bogged down in political wrangling and semantics. “This last meeting was a disaster from the scientific perspective,” says Wramner, who chairs the Swedish government’s CBD advisory group.

“Mexico and the European Union also expressed concern that there are too many new issues of procedure and of a policy nature,” says Djoghlaf.

Conservation scientist Michael Stocking of the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK, says that the nomination system is “the core of the problem, in that these tend to be government nominees … not scientists who are up to date with the literature”. Countries that fund the CBD will have to insist on change for it to actually happen, says Stocking, who is vice-chair of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel for the Global Environment Facility, which administers the funding for the CBD.

The concerns come amid attempts led by France to create a new international science policy group on biodiversity. Modelled on the same independent framework as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, this new body could mitigate some of the recently raised concerns. A ‘concept note’ for the new group was circulated last month by France.

UK Guardian: Bob Watson Warns Of 4C Temp Rise
26 August, 2008 by dan

The UK should take active steps to prepare for dangerous climate change of perhaps 4C according to one of the government’s chief scientific advisers.

In policy areas such as flood protection, agriculture and coastal erosion Professor Bob Watson said the country should plan for the effects of a 4C global average rise on pre-industrial levels. The EU is committed to limiting emissions globally so that temperatures do not rise more than 2C.

“There is no doubt that we should aim to limit changes in the global mean surface temperature to 2C above pre-industrial,” Watson, the chief scientific adviser to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, told the Guardian. “But given this is an ambitious target, and we don’t know in detail how to limit greenhouse gas emissions to realise a 2 degree target, we should be prepared to adapt to 4C.”

New Articles In Geoengineering Roundtable
26 August, 2008 by kevin

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has two new entries in the Geoengineering Roundtable. This brings a total of ten articles by preeminent scientists in the geoengineering debate.


Designing a geoengineering research agenda should be a group effort
Dan Whaley and Margaret Leinen of Climos.

We should plan for the worst-case climate scenario
Ken Caldeira of Stanford University.

Popular Science Article On OIF
26 August, 2008 by kevin

Popular Science provides a nice post-mortem on Planktos, which ceased operations last February. The story of Planktos is a good example of the need for effective regulation of OIF activities under the London Convention.

The last page of the article has some nice coverage of Climos and the way forward with OIF. There are quotes by Dr. Ken Buesseler of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and by Dan Whaley and Margaret Leinen of Climos.

Popular Science: “Carbon Discredit

Sahara Dust Essential For Iron Fertilization Of Atlantic
26 August, 2008 by kevin

A new paper in Nature Geoscience highlights the importance of iron fertilization from dust storms blowing off the Sahara coast.  The dust “sustains life” in the tropical North Atlantic ocean by enhancing the growth of nitrogen-fixing phytoplankton that require iron.

Read the press release in Science Daily.

Read the abstract in Nature Geoscience.

Amazon River Powers Carbon Sequestration
26 August, 2008 by kevin

A new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academies shows that nutrient-rich discharge greatly enhances the biological pump mechanism of carbon sequestration. The sequestration happens as the discharge plume enters deep water off the continental shelf, where excess iron, phosphorous, and silica stimulate diatoms and nitrogen-fixing diazotrophs. The measured carbon sequestration rates are very high in the area of the discharge plume.

Read the paper in PNAS (free download).

Read an article from the National Science Foundation.

Ocean Alkalinity Modification Proposal Funded By Shell Oil
26 August, 2008 by kevin

Shell Oil has funded a proposal by Cquestrate to investigate atmospheric carbon removal by adding lime to sea water. This process is heavily energy intensive, but could still be cost-effective near oil fields that have un-utilized natural gas resources. Instead of flaring the gas, it could be harnessed to create lime from limestone. Notably, the company developing this proccess plans to use an “Open Source” development process so that anyone can use the technology.

Read a Wired article on the process.

Read about the open source methodology, and visit the company’s website.

Physics Today On Geoengineering
26 August, 2008 by kevin

In “Will desperate climates call for desperate geoegineering measures?“, Physics Today surveys the rationale for researching geoengineering, and discusses the prominent areas of research. Noteworthy is the opinion of Dr. Ralph Cicerone, President of the US National Academy of Sciences, who favors research before widespread implementation and highlights “the need for a qualified agency to oversee the design, implementation, and monitoring of experiments.”


Christian Science Monitor Covers Geoengineering
17 July, 2008 by Kevin

The Christian Science Monitor published this article, "Can we engineer a cooler Earth?", which discusses the need for geoengineering as a stop-gap approach until the world can implement meaningful CO2 emissions cuts. Also mentioned is the need to begin researching how geoengineering could be conducted responsibly. 

Earth2Tech On Planktos
7 July, 2008 by dan

Katie Fehrenbacher at Earth2Tech covers the relaunch of Planktos under "".

She notes: "If Planktos Science wants to be a serious company, they should get some serious PR help.

Read it here
Time Magazine Covers OIF And Climos
3 July, 2008 by kevin

The July 3rd edition of Time Magazine has a story on OIF and other technologies to actively remove CO2 from the atmosphere. The story goes into significant detail on the reasons why CO2 sequestration is important, and on how OIF would accomplish this. Climos is covered, including a quote by Dr. Margaret Leinen.

Time: “Picking Up A Mop

Popular Science Article On OIF
3 July, 2008 by kevin

Popular Science Popular Science provides a nice post-mortem on Planktos, which ceased operations last February. The story of Planktos is a good example of the need for effective regulation of OIF activities under the London Convention.

The last page of the article has some nice coverage of Climos and the way forward with OIF. There are quotes by Dr. Ken Buesseler of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and by Dan Whaley and Margaret Leinen of Climos.

Popular Science: "Carbon Discredit"

Dan Whaley Interview By The Sustainable Industries Journal
3 July, 2008 by kevin

The Sustainable Industries Journal is a monthly publication on green business innovation. The July issue is focused on Clean Tech.

Read the interview.

Council Of Biological Diversity Final Statement On OIF
3 July, 2008 by kevin

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) met in May at the Ninth Conference of the Parties. OIF was a hotly debated topic. The official statement on OIF has been posted online, pending final approval. The CBD statement recognizes that the London Convention is the primary UN body with regulatory capability OIF. The CBD also recommends that further OIF research only be conducted in coastal waters, and in the absence of any commercial activity.

Statement by the CBD on OIF (see section C.)

It is interesting to note that the International Oceangraphic Commission (IOC) amended their recent submission on OIF to the London Convention Scientific Group in response to the CBD statement. The IOC amendment addresses the scientific basis behind the CBD recommendations, suggesting that there is “no scientific basis for limiting such experiments to coastal environments,” and that “small scale” is a relative term.

IOC recommendation on OIF (see Section III)

Royal Society Paper On OIF As A Means Of Geoengineering Accepted
23 June, 2008 by dan

A review paper on ocean fertilization techniques, their ability to sequester carbon and their potential side effects was recently requested by UK policymakers.  Dr. Richard Lampitt of the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, UK and a group of coauthors from the ocean research community completed the review paper, which has been accepted for publication in The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society :

A copy of the accepted paper is available here.

Ocean Fertilisation: a potential means of geo-engineering?

Lampitt R.S., Achterberg E.P., Anderson T.R., Hughes J.A., Iglesias-Rodriguez M.D., Kelly-Gerreyn B.A., Lucas M*., Popova E.E., Sanders R., Shepherd J.G., Smythe-Wright D., Yool A.

The oceans sequester carbon from the atmosphere partly as a result of biological productivity. Over much of the ocean surface this productivity is limited by essential nutrients and we discuss whether it is likely that sequestration can be enhanced by supplying limiting nutrients. Various methods of supply have been suggested and we discuss the efficacy of each and the potential side effects that may develop as a result. Our conclusion is that these methods have the potential to enhance sequestration but that the current level of knowledge from the observations and modelling carried out to date does not provide a sound foundation on which to make clear predictions or recommendations. For ocean fertilisation to become a viable option to sequester CO2 we need more extensive and targeted field work and better mathematical models of ocean biogeochemical processes. Models are needed both to interpret field observations and to make reliable predictions about the side effects of large scale fertilisation. They would also be an essential tool with which to verify that sequestration has effectively taken place. There is considerable urgency to address climate change mitigation and this demands that new field work plans are developed rapidly. In contrast to previous experiments, these must focus on the specific objective which is to assess the possibilities of CO2 sequestration through fertilisation.

IOC Concerned About Recent CBD Statement On OIF
19 June, 2008 by dan

A Statement on Ocean Iron Fertilization (OIF) by the IOC Ad-hoc consultative group on OIF was released in advance of next week’s meeting

Next week the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) meets in Paris for the 41st session of the Executive Council.  The IOC is a part of UNESCO, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.  Approximately 230 Delegates from 53 nations will participate.

In preparation for this meeting,  the IOC Ad-hoc Consultative Group on OIF released a response to the recent statement by the Convention on Biological Diversity.   This is attached.


III. ADDENDUM (June 14, 2008): Response to the statement of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity on Ocean Fertilization Activities (30 May 2008)

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) ad hoc Consultative Group on Ocean Fertilization is concerned that the statement on ocean fertilization activities issued by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity in Bonn on 30 May 2008 places unnecessary and undue restriction on legitimate scientific activities.

The statement reads, in part, “[The Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biodiversity (COP of the CBD)] … 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 research studies within coastal waters.”

The IOC ad hoc Consultative Group on Ocean Fertilization notes that:

(1) The COP of the CBD recognizes “the ongoing scientific and legal analysis [of ocean fertilization] occurring under the auspices of the London Convention (1972) and the 1996 London Protocol.”

(2) The CBD proposes that “ocean fertilization activities do not take place until there is an adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities, …with the exception of small scale scientific research studies within coastal waters.” The restriction of experiments to coastal waters appears to be a new, arbitrary, and counterproductive limitation. The most useful ocean fertilization experiments to date have been performed in open ocean environments, as this is where marine productivity is most commonly limited by micronutrients. There is no scientific basis for limiting such experiments to coastal environments.

(3) There are good scientific reasons to do larger experiments, including diminishing dilution near the center of the experimental area and obtaining better data relating to vertical transport processes. “Small scale” is a relative term. A circle 200 km in diameter would cover less than one ten-thousandth of the ocean.

(4) We are concerned about the phrase in the CBD statement “global transparent and effective control and regulatory mechanism … for these activities”. We assume that “these activities” refers to ocean fertilization activities for the purpose of introducing additional carbon dioxide into the ocean, as distinct from purposes such as legitimate scientific investigation. It would be helpful if this phrase were clarified to make this important distinction evident

(5) Preservation of biodiversity in marine systems may require good scientific information from manipulative experiments in the open ocean. A careful science-based “assessment of associated risks” depends on knowledge that could be gained by further experimentation.

(6) It is essential for sound and unbiased scientific advice to be available to intergovernmental deliberations on the issue of ocean fertilization both to protect the marine environment and to ensure that marine scientific research is not unnecessarily hindered. The IOC should continue to provide scientific advice to the London Convention Scientific Group, as well as other international or intergovernmental deliberations, as requested.

The Ad-Hoc Group is:
Ken Caldeira (Chair), Carnegie Institute of Washington, Stanford, USA; Philip Boyd, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, New Zealand; Ulf Reibesell, Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences, Germany; Christopher Sabine, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, USA; Andrew Watson, University of East Anglia, UK.

As a part of the Executive Council meeting, Dr. Maria Hood of the IOC, will present an update to the delegates on the recent IMO London Convention Scientific Group meeting in Guayaquil, Ecuador.  The abstract for her session is as follows:

Report on the IMO London Convention Scientific Group Meeting on Ocean Iron Fertilization

IOC Programme Specialist in the Ocean Sciences Section, Dr Maria Hood, will introduce this item. Given the prominence and impact of the IPCC Assessment Report 4, the successful positioning by the UN of the Climate Change issue on top of the international agenda, and in view of the ongoing negotiations for a post 2012 agreement on the Climate Change regime under UNFCCC, ocean iron fertlization has received renewed attention. DECISION 4.3.5: The Executive Council will be invited to provide any guidance it deems desirable to the Executive Secretary to pursue the development of sound and unbiased scientific advice to support the London Convention Scientific Group’s work on ocean fertilization as requested, as well as any other general guidance with respect to this issue and to report on developments and environmental implications of ocean CO2 sequestration to the Member States.

  IOC/INF-1247: Report on the IMO London Convention Scientific Group Meeting on Ocean Fertilization

About the IOC

The IOC was created in 1960 to promote international cooperation and coordinate programmes in research, sustainable development, protection of the marine environment, capacity-building for improved management, and decision-making. It assists developing countries in strengthening their institutions to obtain self-driven sustainability in marine sciences. On a regional level, it is coordinating the development of tsunami early warning and mitigation systems in the Pacific, the Indian Ocean, the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean. It also facilitates interagency coordination through the UN-Oceans mechanism and works with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in establishing a process for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment. Through the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS)—the ocean component of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS)—the IOC helps improve operational oceanography, weather and climate forecasts and monitoring and support the sustained observing needs of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

About the 41st Session of the IOC Executive Council

The IOC Executive Council elected in 2007 will meet at the IOC Headquarters in Paris on 24 June – 1 July 2008. The forty Member States that will convene for the 41st session of the Executive Council will have in front of them a rich and challenging agenda. They will consider the results of the first session of the Working Group on the Future of IOC, tasked with identifying options for enhancing the role of IOC in terms of institutional arrangements, financial resources, and relations with other intergovernmental and international organizations. The Executive Council will also discuss and adopt a programme of activities for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of IOC in 2010 that will take stock of the achievements of the Commission as well as current and future needs in terms of ocean science, observations and capacity-building. Among other items on the agenda before the Executive Council include an Operational Plan for the 2008–2009 biennium, the identification of possible activities in the area of marine ecosystems, and the coordination of regional tsunami early warning systems.

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