Ocean Geoengineering Experiment Likely Broke International Law

a.dombrowski/CC BY-SA 2.0

A geoengineering experiment conducted in July, off the coast of British Columbia, that dumped 100 tons of iron particles into the ocean to test ocean iron fertilization has been claimed both a success, and a gross violation of international law—not to mention apparently haven been authorized on seemingly fraudulent information.

The Guardian reports that Russ George, the former head of Planktos (a for-profit firm which tried to conduct similar experiments off the Galapagos, as well as the Canary Islands), had a team of scientists conduct the experiment, with the consent of a local indigenous council, who thought they gave the OK to a "salmon enhancement project" and not a geoengineering experiment.

Though George claims the experiment was the "most substantial ocean restoration project in history," and a glowing success ("The news is good news, all around, for the planet"), the project likely violates the UN Convention on Biodiversity and the London convention of dumping wastes at sea, according to the various legal experts quoted by The Guardian.

Ocean iron fertilization attempts to stimulate plankton blooms in open water, which then sequester carbon from the atmosphere and, upon sinking to the bottom of the ocean, store it away.

Previous experiments—above board ones, done by universities and other not-for-profit research institutions after getting the required permits—have yielded mixed results for the carbon storage potential of the geoengineering technique.

On a spectrum of risky to safe, slow to fast acting, and expensive to inexpensive, ocean iron fertilization was called by the Royal Society as having "high potential for unintended and undesirable ecological side effects" and not proven to be effective.

Obviously George would disagree with that assessment.

Tags: Geoengineering

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