Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Forbidden experiments

John Martin once famously said '"Give me a half a tanker of iron and I'll give you the next ice age." As the proposer of the Iron Hypothesis he was only half joking - fertilizing the oceans with iron will trigger massive algal blooms and potentially reduces atmospheric carbon dioxide. This sort of global geoengineering program still has lots of unanswered questions though.

That's why reports that people are carrying out such experiments without any oversight are a little alarming.

Harvard’s David Keith calls it the “goofy Goldfinger scenario” – a rogue nation, or even an individual, would conduct an unsupervised geoengineering experiment — and he confidently predicted in a story I wrote last month that it would never happen.

It took about a month for him to be proven wrong. In mid-October, the Guardian reported that an American named Russ George had dumped 100 metric tons of iron sulfate into the waters off western Canada, triggering a bloom of algae. George claimed he did it with the knowledge of Canadian authorities, using equipment lent to him by NOAA (which said it didn’t know of his plans).

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