Ocean Geoengineering Experiment May Not Have Broken Laws After All

NASA/Public Domain

A quick update on Russ George's ocean iron fertilization experiment off the coast of British Columbia: Science Insider questions both the illegality and the scientific merit of the project, which dumped 100 tons of iron dust into the ocean in an attempt to stimulate a plankton bloom.

The ETC Group, an environmental watchdog organization, contends that the iron-fertilization scheme was a violation of international law, including the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the London convention on dumping of waste at sea, also known as the London Protocol. CBD did adopt two positions discouraging ocean fertilization, notes Edward Parson, a professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law. But these decisions are strictly advisory, and not legally binding, he adds. And while the London Protocol is binding, it only applies to the release of material intended to be dumped as waste, not released as part of a scientific experiment. Even if the quality of the science is dubious, as many ocean experts argue in this case, Parson says because the material was not dumped as waste, "there is no violation under international treaty." Canadian officials, however, are still investigating whether the experiment may have violated Canadian law.

As for the glowing success claimed by George, Science Insider quotes Kenneth Denman from the University of Victoria, who points out that the area in which the bloom observed by satellites (image above) occurred has eddies which trigger natural plankton blooms each summer, and because of this it's impossible to conclude from this experiment how much of the bloom was caused by the added iron.

Read more: Science Insider

Tags: Geoengineering

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