Saturday, January 17, 2009

Marine Science Dictated by Politics

After successfully attacking Climos and Planktos, the anti-science fanatics, neo-luddites, and environomental fundamentalists of the world have begun their move to supress any scientific investigation of iron fertilization science. They have been harassing the German government, the Indian government, and any other politicians they can find, who are vulnerable to such mob hysteria. Their goal, now acheived: to stop the latest research cruise of the Polarstern, conducted by Prof. Victor Smetacek

Thus politics and political correctness are used to block the free investigation of science.

Congratulations to the marine scientists of the world. You have allowed ideologues to distort this science, so that now, your ability to collect data and freely investigate has been blocked. When the environmental fanatics first attacked Climos and Planktos, you ducked and allowed them to dominate the press and the publicity around this issue. You allowed a completely dishonest, scientifically inaccurate, fearmongering view of iron fertilizaton to be spread throught the world. Now that dishonest view has become the accepted gospel.

Instead of the scientifically accurate view:

"Mother nature fertilizes the oceans with billions of tons of iron every year, and has been doing so for billions of years; iron can be vastly beneficial to help the oceans and the planet, let's understand more."

The world now believes this lie:

"Putting iron in the ocean is dumping. It's pollution."

Please understand that this is just the beginning. The ideologues have now seen that they can stop scientists working in areas that do not fit the politics of the day. What is next? Certainly ocean science experiments, from this point forward, will be subject to rules and regulations, dictated not by reason or honest risk assessment, but political correctness.

This is a sad turn of event for the discovery of her late Dr. John Martin. What would have happened, one must wonder, if Professor Martin had lived a little longer, to defend his discovery against such distortion?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Where We Stand on Iron Fertilization

A few years back I wrote this comment in Treehugger. Still represents my views so here it is again:


People aren't giving iron fertilization fair chance. It's a promising technique and needs to be pursued.

The important thing to realize is that this technique, while it may be normally discussed in relation to carbon dioxide removal, is primarily an ocean restoration process...a potential "reversal" of damage we've already done (and are doing) to the oceans. We do such restoration every day, routinely, on land. We restore damaged ecosystems in fields, forests,and swamps.

Note that 30 years ago, there was actually similar opposition to such eco-restoration on land. People said the same thing "hey, just leave it alone."

Folks, I'm sorry to tell you this, but "just leave it alone" is equivalent to saying "just let it die". Luckily we got past such short-sightedness in the terrestrial ecorestoration field I hope we do the same in marine restoration.

The human race is far too big and too destructive a speciels to go back to this fake-innocent-sounding "just leave the oceans alone" nonsense. Our species is currently stripping the oceans clean of biologcal material, at an astounding rate. Nobody in the US or Europe has sufficient political power to stop this process. We are already destroying our oceans, and you can chant slogans about it all day long, but that won't stop it. So the second-best choice are techniques like iron fertilization.

Let the oceans die, or intervene with artificial support mechanisms. That may well be our choice.

So we'd better let the people doing these smaller-scale experiments proceed with their work, and see what they demonstrate. Give them a few years to try. If it doesn't work, then shut them down.

That's my view.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Breaking News: Planktos Restarts

The team from failed iron fertilization organization Planktos, led by founder Russ George, just announced they have re-started as Planktos-Science.

In an extensive and detailed exposition on the new web site, George makes the case that damage to the oceans due to a sudden spike in acidification is happening much faster than anyone is willing to admit, and that iron fertilization is the only solution that can stop it. From an email interview, George says:

“Even if society does not emit one single molecule more fossil CO2 the oceans will acidify to death from the CO2 already in the atmosphere... no amount of reducing our carbon footprint will suffice... Not even ceasing all fossil fuel use today…ONLY ecorestoration and replenished and renewed photosynthesis offers any hope at all.”
(If I may editorialize…George has stated many times his unwavering support for reduction of fossil fuel use as well. In the comment above he’s re-iterating that even if carbon usage is reduced, it’s still not enough.)

For those of us who are tempted to view such comments as extremism, well, just pick up a copy of the July 2008 Discover Magazine and look for an article called "Ocean Reflux" -- which highlights scientists saying exactly the same thing.

Also in the new Planktos site, we see the web site is focused specifically on the potential for restoration of ocean health – not carbon credits. George said that this was the intent all along.

“We always defined ourselves as being in the ecorestoration business… But those who attack this field used an age old tactic of defining Planktos as their Strawman and only about iron fertilization and carbon credit money and they attacked us for the characteristics of their Strawman, not for who we are. The sticking of the description of geo-engineering was also opposed by us … if anything we must engage in REVERSE geo-engineering… the hundreds of billions of tonnes of anthropogenic (manmade) CO2 now in the air is (already a form of) geoengineering…"

Strong stuff. If indeed the oceans are in as dire peril as the news seems to show, then George's advocacy of iron fertilization “therapy” makes sense. The planet earth deserves advocacy on both sides of this question, and it deserves people trying new solutions.
As I’ve said in prior commentary, people strongly opposed to iron fertilization have been dominating the debate for many, many years. Now Planktos and Climos and a few others are beginning to fight back, so that we will finally have a real debate on the topic. And even better, they are actually proposing to do something. Maybe it is just research, maybe it will take years or decades, but it's something.
There seem to be thousands of climate change people who consider do nothing to be an acceptable strategy. It's nice to see one person, or perhaps even two people, who are trying to do something. Hey, even with a thousand-to-one ratio of do nothing people to do something people, at least we have some chance for a valid scientifically accurate debate, right?
It is absolutely crucial that we have strong champions, and a full debate, on both sides. Only in this way will the general public and government leaders, as time goes on, develop a full understanding all sides of the question and have an opportunity to make reasonable decisions.
So thank you Planktos for trying again.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

One of the most valuable technologies in world today

I’ve had a few people ask “why are you working on iron fertilization when so many people are so violently opposed to it?” Good question. The answer is, I'm beginning to have a bit of a sense of history. Perhaps it comes with advancing age. I’d like to think that in my life I’ve made some contribution to the world.

From that perspective, there is no single technology on the planet, that I can think of, that is more important and more deserving of my attention than iron fertilization.

The fact that so many people are so violently and even hysterically opposed to it simply confirms for me that it is big, big, big. Assuming it can be made to work, and I think there is a very good chance it will, iron fertilization is probably one of the most potent techniques the human race has discovered in years.

It has the capability of making planetary scale improvements in the ocean. Just the increase in fish and ocean life, if valued in dollars, runs into the billions.

It has the capability of helping large swaths of the human population, people who depend on that sealife, who are often struggling to survive and are seeing their livelihoods die away, as the fish disappear.

If Climos and Planktos are to be believed, it has the potential to remove vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, a process that by any measure is worth many billions of dollars per year, at least.

Opponents of the technique have focused on the “carbon credit” aspect of the field, assuming that is the only money to be made (in this case, they hope to stop it completely by blocking carbon credits). As I stated in an earlier post, I don’t believe that will succeed; sooner or later, national governments will begin fertilizing regardless of what the environmentalists say. But even beyond the carbon credit value, there will be massive amounts of money, in the form of research funds and much more, flowing into the area of iron fertilization, and into the area of ocean science in general. Firms that have the scientific expertise, connections, and the reputation will be in a position to rake in the government contracts. That itself could be the basis of the next big environmental services company.

Does all this come without any risk whatsoever? Of course not. It's possible that it won't work, that it will fizzle out. But even the research required to arrive at that answer will be the fascinating scientific exploration.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

International Groups Grappling With Iron Fertilization Realities

A correspondent passed along the text shown below. It's government-talk, but what it essentially says is:

"One international study group claims that iron fertilization should only be allowed if it's near shore and small scale"

"Second international group points out this is silly. Iron fertilization doesn't work near shore. It is by definition a deep ocean phenomenon. "

That is a gross simplification, so please read it yourself. But in any case, this is a great example of the process that will eventually result in iron fertilization being authorized and accepted. People will slowly work their way through the various statements and positions, some intelligent, some nonsensical. Slowly the issue will resolve itself and the various regulators will begin to see whose opinions can be trusted. The press will eventually become a little less hysterical and a little more supportive. The public will eventually follow suit.

OIF Update: A Statement on Ocean Iron Fertilization (OIF) by the IOC Ad-hoc consultative group on OIF was released in advance of next week's meeting.

Next week the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) meets in Paris for the 41st session of the Executive Council. The IOC is a part of UNESCO, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Approximately 230 Delegates from 53 nations will participate.

In preparation for this meeting, IOC Ad-hoc Consultative Group on OIF released a response to the recent statement by the Convention on Biological Diversity. This is attached.

III. ADDENDUM (June 14, 2008):
Response to the statement of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity on Ocean Fertilization Activities (30 May 2008)

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) ad hoc Consultative Group on Ocean Fertilization is concerned that the statement on ocean fertilization activities issued by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity in Bonn on 30 May 2008 places unnecessary and undue restriction on legitimate scientific activities.

The statement reads, in part, "[The Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biodiversity (COP of the CBD)] ... urges other Governments, in accordance with the precautionary approach, to ensure that ocean fertilization activities do not take place until there is an adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities, including assessing associated risks, and a global transparent and effective control and regulatory mechanism is in place for these activities; with the exception of small scale research studies within coastal waters." The IOC ad hoc Consultative Group on Ocean Fertilization notes that:

(1) The COP of the CBD recognizes "the ongoing scientific and legal analysis [of ocean fertilization] occurring under the auspices of the London Convention (1972) and the 1996 London Protocol."

(2) The CBD proposes that “ocean fertilization activities do not take place until there is an adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities, …with the exception of small scale scientific research studies within coastal waters.” The restriction of experiments to coastal waters appears to be a new, arbitrary, and counterproductive limitation. The most useful ocean fertilization experiments to date have been performed in open ocean environments, as this is where marine productivity is most commonly limited by micronutrients. There is no scientific basis for limiting such experiments to coastal environments.

(3) There are good scientific reasons to do larger experiments, including diminishing dilution near the center of the experimental area and obtaining better data relating to vertical transport processes. "Small scale" is a relative term. A circle 200 km in diameter would cover less than one ten-thousandth of the ocean.

(4) We are concerned about the phrase in the CBD statement "global transparent and effective control and regulatory mechanism … for these activities". We assume that “these activities” refers to ocean fertilization activities for the purpose of introducing additional carbon dioxide into the ocean, as distinct from purposes such as legitimate scientific investigation. It would be helpful if this phrase were clarified to make this important distinction evident

(5) Preservation of biodiversity in marine systems may require good scientific information from manipulative experiments in the open ocean. A careful science-based "assessment of associated risks" depends on knowledge that could be gained by further experimentation.

(6) It is essential for sound and unbiased scientific advice to be available to intergovernmental deliberations on the issue of ocean fertilization both to protect the marine environment and to ensure that marine scientific research is not unnecessarily hindered. The IOC should continue to provide scientific advice to the London Convention Scientific Group, as well as other international or intergovernmental deliberations, as requested.

The Ad-Hoc Group is:

Ken Caldeira (Chair), Carnegie Institute of Washington, Stanford, USA; Philip Boyd, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, New Zealand; Ulf Reibesell, Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences, Germany; Christopher Sabine, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, USA; Andrew Watson, University of East Anglia, UK.

As a part of the Executive Council meeting, Dr. Maria Hood of the IOC, will present an update to the delegates on the recent IMO London Convention Scientific Group meeting in Guayaquil, Ecuador. The abstract for her session is as follows:

Report on the IMO London Convention Scientific Group Meeting on Ocean Iron Fertilization
IOC Programme Specialist in the Ocean Sciences Section, Dr Maria Hood, will introduce this item. Given the prominence and impact of the IPCC Assessment Report 4, the successful positioning by the UN of the Climate Change issue on top of the international agenda, and in view of the ongoing negotiations for a post 2012 agreement on the Climate Change regime under UNFCCC, ocean iron fertlization has received renewed attention.

DECISION 4.3.5: The Executive Council will be invited to provide any guidance it deems desirable to the Executive Secretary to pursue the development of sound and unbiased scientific advice to support the London Convention Scientific Group’s work on ocean fertilization as requested, as well as any other general guidance with respect to this issue and to report on developments and environmental implications of ocean CO2 sequestration to the Member States.

IOC/INF-1247: Report on the IMO London Convention Scientific Group Meeting on Ocean Fertilization

About the IOC

The IOC was created in 1960 to promote international cooperation and coordinate programmes in research, sustainable development, protection of the marine environment, capacity-building for improved management, and decision-making. It assists developing countries in strengthening their institutions to obtain self-driven sustainability in marine sciences. On a regional level, it is coordinating the development of tsunami early warning and mitigation systems in the Pacific, the Indian Ocean, the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean. It also facilitates interagency coordination through the UN-Oceans mechanism and works with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in establishing a process for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment. Through the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS)—the ocean component of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS)—the IOC helps improve operational oceanography, weather and climate forecasts and monitoring and support the sustained observing needs of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

About the 41st Session of the IOC Executive Council

The IOC Executive Council elected in 2007 will meet at the IOC Headquarters in Paris on 24 June – 1 July 2008. The forty Member States that will convene for the 41st session of the Executive Council will have in front of them a rich and challenging agenda. They will consider the results of the first session of the Working Group on the Future of IOC, tasked with identifying options for enhancing the role of IOC in terms of institutional arrangements, financial resources, and relations with other intergovernmental and international organizations. The Executive Council will also discuss and adopt a programme of activities for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of IOC in 2010 that will take stock of the achievements of the Commission as well as current and future needs in terms of ocean science, observations and capacity-building. Among other items on the agenda before the Executive Council include an Operational Plan for the 2008–2009 biennium, the identification of possible activities in the area of marine ecosystems, and the coordination of regional tsunami early warning systems.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Planktos Announces Resignation and Release of CEO and Employees

In the continued sinking of the S.S. Planktos, the company website now says that all employees, including Founder Russ George, have resigned and been released from all claims. Further it announces that they have abandoned all work. It's actually pretty interesting reading. Here is a copy, just in case the Planktos site is shut down.

March 31 2008

Russ George, Founder and CEO Resigns: Release and Settlement Agreement

Effective March 3, 2008, the Company's board of directors accepted the resignation of Russ George from the board of directors and accepted his resignation as the Company's chief executive officer, chief financial officer and principal accounting officer.

On February 22, 2008 Planktos Corp. (the "Company"), in concurrence with its wholly owned subsidiary Planktos, Inc., entered into a Settlement and Release Agreement with Russ George, Solar Energy Limited ("Solar"), and Nelson Skalbania for the purposes of separating the services and know how of Russ George, from each of the Company, Planktos, Inc., and Solar (the "Agreement").

The Company is a majority owned subsidiary of Solar. Planktos, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Company while D2Fusion, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Solar. Russ George was formerly the sole executive officer and a director of the Company. Nelson Skalbania is the chief executive officer and a director of Solar.

The Agreement provides that Russ George resign his positions as the Company's chief executive officer, chief financial officer and principal accounting officer, resign from the Company's board of directors and return to Solar for cancellation three million five hundred thousand (3,500,000) shares of Solar that were issued to him for his ownership interest in Planktos, Inc. and D2Fusion, Inc. in exchange for a return to him of the proprietary know-how associated with ocean fertilization concept. Parties to the Agreement further agreed to forego any possible claims against each other and to cooperate in resolving outstanding issues associated with the Company's business.

Effective March 3, 2008, the Company's board of directors appointed Robert Fisher as chief executive officer, chief financial officer and principal accounting officer.

Disposition of Assets

Offer to Purchase (Klimafa) On February 1, 2008 the Company and Planktos, Inc. executed an Offer to Purchase with Dr. David Gazdag to document the sale of Planktos, Inc.'s sixty percent (60%) interest in Klimafa S.A. ("Klimafa"), a company focused on the sequestration of carbon dioxide with the planting of new forests. The disposition closed effective February 21, 2008 with the execution of an Agreement on Transfer of Business Shares.

Dr. Gazdag was formerly a minority interest holder in Klimafa. The Offer to Purchase provides that Planktos, Inc. convey its interest in Klimafa to Dr. Gazdag in exchange for two hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($250,000) in the form of a convertible debenture with a repayment term being the earlier of ten years or Klimafa's generation of cash flow, bearing four percent (4%) per
annum, convertible into sequestered tones of carbon dioxide credits and the right to participate in any new financing arrangements for Klimafa.

Sale of the Weatherbird II

On January 21, 2008, the Company entered into a letter of intent with the St Petersburg Environmental Research Center ("SPERC") to sell its research vessel the Weatherbird II according to certain terms and conditions in exchange for a purchase price of $1,000,000 of which $100,000 was paid on acceptance of the letter of intent. Further to mutual agreement, the terms of the letter of intent were subsequently assigned to Sperc Explorer, Inc. The balance of the purchase price was paid to the Company on February 29, 2008 at which time title to the Weatherbird II passed to Sperc Explorer, Inc.

Other Events

The Company's Board of Directors has decided to abandon any future ocean fertilization efforts that were once intended to restore marine plant life and generate ecological offsets for the global carbon credit market. Due to \widespread opposition to plankton restoration in the environmental world, the Company has encountered serious difficulty in raising the capital needed to fund a series of ocean research trials. The result being that the Company has been forced to let all employees go and will close its Foster City, California office at the end of this month.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Climos Making Progress

Climos has made several positive announcements in recent weeks.

First, it's raised money. This is good because this money is needed to do the kind of solid science that will provide firm answers to questions and concerns, while (hopefully) uncovering a variety of really useful and ecologically beneficial ocean technologies.

Second, it's hired a California-based eco consultant to do some studies.