Brett Smith for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
In a plot that could have been yanked from the script of the upcoming James Bond film, American entrepreneur Russ George has released over 100 tons of iron sulphate into the Pacific Ocean in an attempt to foster a massive plankton bloom that would capture carbon dioxide and sink to the bottom of the ocean, thereby effecting climate change–U.K. news organization The Guardian has reported.
Besides having a potential impact on global warming, the supposed ℠experiment´ could net George valuable carbon credits that he could then sell on the open market for a hefty ransom.
Environmentalist groups are calling the dump a “blatant” violation of two international moratoria and warn that a massive plankton bloom could have unforeseen and irreversible effects.
George remained defiant and even optimistic about the project as he asserted that an unnamed team of scientists is closely monitoring his geoengineering experiment with equipment loaned from NASA and the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration.
“We’ve gathered data targeting all the possible fears that have been raised (about ocean fertilization),” he said. “And the news is good news, all around, for the planet.”
George is the former chief executive of Planktos Inc, a geoengineering firm dedicated to “removing CO2 from our oceans and atmosphere by healing the seas, growing new climate forests, and erasing carbon footprints,” according to a statement online.
The defiant businessman had previously attempted similar large-scale commercial dumps near the Galapagos and Canary Islands, but those efforts led to his vessels being banned from ports by the Spanish and Ecuadorean governments.
Scientists are currently debating the value of the types of ℠experiments´ George is conducting, but have warned that the long-term effects of uncontrolled dumping could produce toxic tides and acidify the ocean.
“It is difficult if not impossible to detect and describe important effects that we know might occur months or years later,” John Cullen, an oceanographer at Dalhousie University told The Guardian. “Some possible effects, such as deep-water oxygen depletion and alteration of distant food webs, should rule out ocean manipulation. History is full of examples of ecological manipulations that backfired.”
The iron sulphate dump allegedly took place near the islands of Haida Gwaii off the coast of British Columbia. George convinced the local council to allow him to perform his experiment after telling them that it would benefit the ocean. The council also agreed to spend $1 million of its own funds on the project.
The potential abuse of both the environment and a small local government has many observers sounding the alarm on what could be a disastrous recipe for future geoengineers.
Back in 2009, an article in Foreign Affairs magazine predicted just such a scenario, warning that smaller developing nations could act unilaterally.
“A single country could deploy geoengineering systems from its own territory without consulting the rest of the planet,” the authors wrote.
The article also warns against using geoengineering as a quick fix for what could be increasing effects of global warming.
“At some point in the near future, it is conceivable that a nation that has not done enough to confront climate change will conclude that global warming has become so harmful to its interests that it should unilaterally engage in geoengineering,” says the Foreign Affairs article.