July 10, 2011
The alert on the Climate Ark website in January 2009 was marked urgent: “Take action: A rogue science ship is poised to carry out risky experimental fertilisation of the Southern Ocean. This is likely [to be] the first of many coming attempts to begin geo-engineering the biosphere as a solution to climate change. The chemical cargo is likely to provoke a massive algal bloom big enough to be seen from outer space…”
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
The response was immediate and vitriolic: “You morons,” fumed a woman from a Canadian university. “That isn’t a rogue ship… it’s one of the best marine science research groups in the world. You are no different than anti-science religious fanatics. You seek to keep the world ignorant. May you drown in your lies…”
Professor Peter Liss, then chair of Britain’s Royal Society’s global environment research committee and himself involved in research to see the effect of iron on phtyoplankton, stepped in: “The [intention] is to find out what role iron plays in marine biogeochemistry. In no way is it an attempt to geo-engineer the planet. Only by knowing the facts can you argue effectively against such geo-engineering proposals. Emotion and opinion will not win the argument; knowledge and understanding will.”
Some hope. Geo-engineering – artificial efforts to mitigate global warming by manipulating weather patterns, oceans, currents, soils and atmosphere to reduce the amount of greenhouses gases – evokes ideological, political and financial passions. For those who have more or less given up on UN climate talks, it is, along with nuclear power, the only practical planetary way to avoid catastrophic climate change; for others, it is an irresponsible move into the unknown by the rich world that will inevitably have unintended consequences, most probably for the poorest.