After last week’s post about plankton, I was intrigued to read a few articles about a recent geoengineering experiment that might impact our tiny carbon dioxide absorbing allies.
In July 2012 under the scientific guidance of business man, Russ George, the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation conducted an experiment wherein which they dumped 100 tons of iron sulfate into the Pacific ocean, several hundred miles west of the islands of Haida Gwaii, in northern British Columbia, Canada according to the New York Times and The Huffington Post. The goal of the experiment was to create a plankton bloom, a substantial amount of plankton gathered at the surface of the ocean which then change the color of the water. This bloom was intended to foster the restoration of the local fish populations and also reduce carbon as carbon is absorbed by plankton. Though the experiment immediately sparked outrage among many scientific communities for several reasons.
Geoengineering, the deliberate and large-scale manipulation of environmental processes in order to impact the earth’s climate, is very controversial in the scientific community. While some scientists view it as the inevitable way to manipulate our rapidly changing climate, and others believe that mitigation (the stoppage of carbon production) is the answer, both sides of the debate agree that this freelance approach to science is not the solution. In fact many scientists believe that this experiment should have been conducted by neutral scientists and in a more controlled environment.
To make matters more curious, it seems the Canadian environment ministry was not only unaware of the experiment but also forewarned the corporation twice as this experiment would violate two international agreements. Canada has signed two international agreements on geo-engineering: first the London Convention on the dumping of wastes at sea and second a moratorium declared by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity according to the NY Times.
The Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation has stated that at least 7 Canadian governmental agencies and the marine science community had known about the project, though this has been denied. What’s worse is that many scientists believe that it is “extremely unlikely” that the corporation can extract any clear results from this experiment.
While it remains to be seen what might be the effect of such a rogue experiment, it seems that what is certain is that science experiments such as this one intended to manipulate the environment for specific gains should be undertaken with extreme caution. There are many naturally occurring processes in the ocean and environment that remain a mystery and everything that we do impacts the future of our planet.