This blog previously noted some contemplation of geo-engineering underway. And, in a Climate Progress post 2 months ago, Joseph Romm noted that some climate scientists have become increasingly desperate to prevent global warming (see “Desperate times, desperate scientists“).
I think that as a climate-saving strategy geo-engineering is largely somewhere between a dead end and a hoax — why would you choose chemotherapy that might make you sicker if your doctors told you diet and exercise would definitely work?
The [now] new science advisor, John Holdren, has written, “The ‘geo-engineering’ approaches considered so far appear to be afflicted with some combination of high costs, low leverage, and a high likelihood of serious side effects.”
And, the new head of NOAA is someone “who would put oceans first,” whereas absent a successful effort to stabilize at 450 ppm or below, most geo-engineering schemes would put oceans last, leaving them acidified and inhospitable to most current ocean life, possibly for hundreds of thousands of years. But do our children and their children and the next 5000 generations really need a livable ocean if it means we don’t have to reallocate about 1% to 2% of our wealth today (see “Absolute MUST Read IPCC Report: Debate over, further delay fatal, action not costly“)?
Whether desperate or not, some UK climate scientists have considered some of the possibilities. According to a recent report, researchers at UEA (University of East Anglia) have conducted “the first comprehensive assessment of the climate cooling potential of different geoengineering schemes.” They found that some geoengineering options, notably bio-char and reforestation, could complement mitigation. Geoengineering together with mitigation could cool the climate. The UEA researchers concluded that geoengineering alone cannot solve the problem of climate change.
The UEA researchers are to be commended for such research. Meanwhile, other research could be underway. The Big Gav has been tracking the on again – off again – on again status of some German and Indian scientists, who want to test seeding the ocean.
The experiment, known as LOHAFEX, is the world’s largest geoengineering project to date; scientists aboard the German research vessel Polarstern will create the bloom in a patch of sea about halfway between the southern tip of South America and South Africa using 6 tons of iron, roughly three times more iron than previous oceanography experiments have used in catalyzing the growth of algae.
The goal of the experiment, led by oceanographers Victor Smetacek of Germany and Wajih Naqvi of India, is to characterize how the ecosystem of the Southern Ocean, closely monitored for 2 months, would respond to such a massive dose of iron. Some scientists, including Smetacek, believe the technique could be an important way to sequester carbon into the ocean and even to restore harmed ocean ecosystems. But earlier this month, environmentalists attacked the experiment as reckless.
Independent scientific and legal reviews sought by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety concluded that the iron fertilisation experiment LOHAFEX is neither against environmental standards nor the international law in force. There are thus no ecological and legal reasons to further suspend the iron fertilisation experiment LOHAFEX.
MV Polarstern, Bremerhaven is a German research icebreaker operated by the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research. At present Research Vessel Polarstern is somewhere in the Antarctic Ocean to conduct iron fertilisation experiment LOHAFEX. The International Polar Foundation has T-shirts, caps and the like. I bet the Dr.
Evil Gauthier Chapelle bobblehead dolls are going like ice sheets!
Since the UEA climate scientists argue that such an approach may have insufficient efficacy, it could diminish the likelihood of many more, full-blown, potentially catastrophic experimentation such as LOHAFEX. Nevertheless, it is a good thing that further consideration is being given to the further need for “strong, enforceable rules to prevent rogue geo-engineers unilaterally tinkering with the planet.”
While the prospect of scientists and / or entrepreneurs using the planet as a laboratory basically terrifies this blog, reforestation is much more appealling. Although a little too wordy for a tee shirt, “Reforestation, Not Iron Fertilization” is this blog’s current motto. Why? Die back of the Amazon rainforest is one of the major tipping points and we presently are “terraforming the Amazon” in the worst possible way.
As previously noted, global warming and deforestation will probably reduce rainfall in the region by up to 30 percent. Lengthening of the dry season, and increases in summer temperatures would make it difficult for the forest to re-establish. Models project die back of the Amazon rain forest to occur under three to four degrees Celsius global warming within fifty years. Even land-use change alone could potentially bring forest cover to a critical threshold.