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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

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.

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