A new article published in Environmental Research Letters has made media headlines such as “Burning trees ‘may help global warming”. It is not unknown for the media to hype up and even misrepresent announcements by scientists, but in this case, the authors’ own press release indeed promises amazing prospects from Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS): “What we demonstrate in our paper is that even if we fail to keep temperature increases below 2°C, then we can reverse the warming trend and push temperatures back below the 2°C target by 2150.”
Yet another study questions shows how dangerously simplistic the assumption that dumping iron filements into oceans will sequester carbon is. This latest study, by Ellery D. Ingall et al, published in Nature Communications, looks at a particular type of phytoplankton, a diatom which soaks up iron from oceans and stores it in its skeleton and thus, when the phytoplankton dies, on the ocean floor. Continue reading
Amongst geoengineering methods, ‘afforestation’, Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) and biochar are commonly promoted as ‘safe’, benign’ or ‘soft’ options – unlike, say, shooting sulphur particles into the stratosphere.
by Almuth Ernsting and Rachel Smolker
Will declaring a ‘climate emergency’ help to finally prompt radical action to address climate change? A growing number of campaigners as well as scientists think so and hope that a major wakeup call about unfolding climate disasters will spur governments and people into action.
(written by L. Jim Thomas, from the Huffington Post Blog – original article here)
The press release had a pretty stark headline: “Haida Announce Termination of Russ George.” If the name sounds familiar its because he is the Californian businessman who last year led the world’s largest, and unapproved, geoengineering (climate manipulation) scheme to dump over 100 tonnes of iron into the Pacific ocean west of Haida Gwaii in British Columbia. Dubbed a “geo-vigilante” by The New Yorker and a “rogue” geoengineer by almost everyone else (including the World Economic Forum and Canada’s environment minister Peter Kent), George was the guy who persuaded the small impoverished indigenous community of Old Massett on Haida Gwaii to part with over $2.5-million. He did so under the pretense that dumping iron in the ocean to stimulate a plankton bloom would net lucrative profits in the carbon credit market and maybe even bring back salmon stocks.
As countless press articles and a CBC documentary subsequently exposed, this rogue “ocean fertilization” scheme was not the first time Mr. George had misled well-meaning people. On one occasion he even led the Vatican into accepting carbon credits backed by a forest that never existed. Despite massive opposition from oceanographers, the environmental community, and an international treaty, and strong concern from residents of Haida Gwaiitself, including the Council of Haida Nations, the chief councillor of Old Massett bizarrely stood by Russ’s ocean dumping dream – until it seems last week when, unexpectedly, George was “terminated.”
Not “Termination” of the killer robot variety – just a summary sacking as a director and officer of the corporation. Curiously Russ George contends they can’t really fire him,claiming that he owns 48% of the company – a telling detail for a company that always claimed to be a wholly indigenous enterprise. According to the other 52% of the Haida Salmon Restoration Corp. (HSRC), the termination is to be accompanied by an internal restructuring of the company that George previously ran from his Vancouver office. There is also an upcoming closed meeting for Old Massett community residents (Monday evening) – presumably to finally explain what really happened to the $2.5-million taken from them and how they will get it back.
“The board and our community has decided to recalibrate this business so that it moves forward in a constructive fashion and effectively responds to legitimate concerns raised by various stakeholders around the world” explains the corporation’s press release.
It is interesting to speculate about why the remaining 52% of HSRC finally decided to admit that the global chorus of concern was after all legitimate – having previously dismissed it as “black propaganda.” Russ George may be a master storyteller, but maybe they finally saw through the fictions he seems to weave around himself; or maybe it’s just a prudent business move to dump a toxic asset in advance of upcoming court cases.
Either way, it’s an incomplete move. In booting out George, HSRC has crowned Old Masset bureaucrat John Disney in his place as the leader of the company – in effect replacing tweedledum with tweedledee. Disney, who like George is also not Haida, appears to have been Russ George’s right-hand man on the islands for some years now. Together they proposed a $4.5-million carbon credit scheme back in 2006 that never got off the ground. It was Disney who actually sold the ocean dumping scheme to Old Massett council, and when news of the dump hit the headlines it was Disney who stood up in front of the world’s presswhile George himself hid from the spotlight. But Disney also did some creative storytelling of his own. He told villagers that they would receive $8.5-million from carbon credits in the first year - even though no credible carbon credit broker would ever truck in ocean fertilization. Disney told CBC Radio’s “As it Happens” that the UN’s Rio+20 conference had reversed the international moratorium on Ocean fertilization. It did nothing of the sort. Disney also claimed that seven different Canadian government departments knew about the iron dump and were fine with it – which they all deny.
His elevation to company leader also perpetuates what appears to be an unsettling conflict of interest. Disney is a public official whose salary is paid for with Canadian taxes. He used his public salaried position as Economic Development officer to set up a private company which we now know was largely controlled by an off-islands American businessman and of which he was then President and now CEO. There should be an investigation into how government funds were spent to prop up this company and what monies Disney and George received.
Most worryingly though is that HSRC haven’t yet dumped what they most need to offload: namely, their support for geoengineering. Their business plan is still to seed the ocean with iron. Despite all the outcry and an ongoing Environment Canada investigation, HSRC’s lawyer Joe Spears told media last month that the company plans to be back out on the water this June to dump again.
Before ETC Group unmasked HSRC’s activities in October last year, the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation had spun a good line to government agencies that it was simply an indigenous science project investigating the health of the ocean – all the while concealing its ocean fertilization plans. It’s a shame that wasn’t what HSRC really was doing. A genuine indigenous-led ocean science team dedicated to understanding the ocean (rather than manipulating it for profit) would be a very welcome development. Maybe in their upcoming “re-calibration,” HSRC’s chastened management can consider that as a better and more honest mission. Losing the rogue geoengineer may be good for optics, but it is a meaningless step unless they also jettison his junk visions to manipulate the oceans and climate.
UPDATE: Old Massett Chief Councillor Ken Rea has now told the Victoria Times Colonistthat HSRC may indeed consider abandoning ocean fertilization altogether:
“The strategic review means that the second iron fertilization test, planned for June, will not take place, Rea said. “I can’t say if it will be done again ever. I won’t know until we get the results of the strategic review,” he said.
It’s clear from the tweets on HOME’s homepage that the news is already known: SPICE is out; the ‘Trojan Hose’ won’t spout.
But in case you missed it: On May 15, the Principal Investigator (PI) for the Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering project announced that a planned field trial associated with the project won’t happen. The intention had been to test hardware that could be used to inject aerosols into the stratosphere to block sunlight as a way to artificially cool the planet, a form of “solar radiation management.”
Everyone who voiced opposition to the geoengineering experiment since last September – including those who signed the HOME campaign’s open letter to the funders of SPICE asking for its cancellation – should feel heard. (The open letter, signed by more than 70 organizations from around the world, can be found here.)
SPICE’s PI cited both governance issues and potential conflict-of-interest as the principal reasons for cancelling the field trial – no argument here, though there are plenty more reasons to oppose SPICE. Namely, the entire geoengineering enterprise is dangerous, wrong-headed and counter-productive. What is certain, however, is that the cancellation of SPICE doesn’t signal the end of geoengineering or of field trials to test its feasibility. Other real-world experiments are already in the works. There will be lots of HOMEwork in the near future!
View + Comment at this link:
The Karl Polanyi Institute of Political Economy presents the Jack Nissenson Dialogue at Concordia University, Montréal, Canada
The Politics of Climate Change:
Climate Technofixes: Rio +20 or Silent Spring -50
By Pat Mooney, ETC Group
Having the “proof of principle” that industry can change the climate, the folks who caused the problem are proposing new technological solutions. Unfortunately, there is no “proof of principle” that they can do it right. Pat Mooney, author and award-winning director of ETC Group will provide an overview of the politics behind some of the most critical issues facing the planet today: unsustainable agriculture, corporate concentration in the life industries and geoengineering.
Desirée McGraw (Co-founder, Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project in Canada and Canadian delegate to the Rio Earth Summit)
William Marsden (Author of Fools Rule: Inside the Failed Politics of Climate Change)
Patrick Bonin (Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique (AQLPA))
Diana Bronson (Programme Manager, ETC Group)
Date: February 8, 2012
Time: 6 pm- 8 pm
Venue: Hall Building, 1455 de Maisonneuve West, Room H-767 Concordia University, Montréal, Canada
Organized in collaboration with ETC Group and the Institut des sciences de l’environnement de l’UQAM.
N O T I F I C A C I Ó N : Foro de discusión en línea para las Comunidades Indígenas y Locales sobre los posibles impactos de las técnicas de geoingeniería sobre la diversidad biológica y las consideraciones sociales, económicas y culturales asociadas
By Joe Romm on Jan 26, 2012 at 4:55 pm
Bill Gates is one very confused billionaire philanthropist.
He understands global warming is a big problem — indeed, his 2012 Foundation Letter even frets about the grave threat it poses to food security. But he just doesn’t want to do very much now to stop it from happening (see Pro-geoengineering Bill Gates disses efficiency, “cute” solar, deployment — still doesn’t know how he got rich).
He love technofixes like geoengineering and, as we’ll see, genetically modified food. Rather than investing in cost-effective emissions reduction strategies today or in renewable energy technologies that are rapidly moving down the cost curve, he explains that the reason invests so much in nuclear R&D is “The good news about nuclear is that there has hardly been any innovation.” Seriously!
His Letter includes the ominous chart at the top, and he warns of the dire consequences of climate change:
Meanwhile, the threat of climate change is becoming clearer. Preliminary studies show that the rise in global temperature alone could reduce the productivity of the main crops by over 25 percent. Climate change will also increase the number of droughts and floods that can wipe out an entire season of crops. More and more people are raising familiar alarms about whether the world will be able to support itself in the future, as the population heads toward a projected 9.3 billion by 2050.
And yet, as the AP reported this week, the wealthiest of all Americans gets very prickly if you don’t wholeheartedly endorse his techno-fix adaptation-centric approach to dealing with this oncoming disaster:
Bill Gates has a terse response to criticism that the high-tech solutions he advocates for world hunger are too expensive or bad for the environment:Countries can embrace modern seed technology and genetic modification or their citizens will starve….
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has spent about $2 billion in the past five years to fight poverty and hunger in Africa and Asia, and much of that money has gone toward improving agricultural productivity.Gates doesn’t apologize for his endorsement of modern agriculture or sidestep criticism of genetic modification. He told The Associated Press that he finds it ironic that most people who oppose genetic engineering in plant breeding live in rich nations that he believes are responsible for global climate change that will lead to more starvation and malnutrition for the poor.
Resistance to new technology is “again hurting the people who had nothing to do with climate change happening,” Gates said.
The real irony is that most people who diss efficiency and renewables and aggressive greenhouse gas mitigation, like Gates, live in rich nations that are responsible for global climate change that will lead to more starvation and malnutrition for the poor.
Where is the story that says, “countries to embrace existing technology to reduce emissions or their citizens will starve” or resistance to aggressive low carbon technology deployment is “again hurting the people who had nothing to do with climate change happening”?
This is not a blog on genetic modification, so I’ll just quote the AP story:
Bill Freese, a science policy analyst for the Washington-based Center for Food Safety, said everyone wants to see things get better for hungry people, but genetically modified plants are more likely to make their developers rich than feed the poor. The seed is too expensive and has a high failure rate, he said. Better ways to increase yields would be increasing the fertility of soil by adding organic matter or combining plants growing in the same field to combat pests, he said.
The biggest problem with those alternatives, Freese said, is the same one that Gates cited in high-tech research: A lack of money for development.
I will say that while you can make drought tolerant crops, I seriously doubt that you can make Dust-Bowl-tolerant crops — and so without mitigation, Gates’ efforts will likely have only a marginal impact on reducing the utterly preventable catastrophe (see “Nature Publishes My Piece on Dust-Bowlification and the Grave Threat It Poses to Food Security“).
I applaud Gates for warning people about the threat that climate change poses to billions of people. Here’s another chart his Letter has on who will be harmed most by rising food prices:
But the fact is, as Oxfam and others have made clear, global warming is poised to make food vastly more expensive, which will be devastating to the world’s poor know matter how much money Gates dumps into GM crops — see Oxfam Predicts Climate Change will Help Double Food Prices by 2030: “We Are Turning Abundance into Scarcity”: