Monday, October 01, 2007

Kyoto Nations Should Provide Leadership on Iron Fertilization

I was much affected by the following email, received from a European correspondent who attended the Woods Hole conference:

While I found the conference informative scientifically, I question whether it is appropriate for the United States to take the lead in matters of iron fertilization policy. The US is not a Kyoto signatory. US public and policy makers are far behind in their understanding of the very complex challenges of carbon dioxide regulation. The US political system appears in chaos on the topic on global warming, with a good bit of partisan struggle over the topic, so that most likely iron fertilization will be kicked around like a partisan football instead of being dealt with intelligently.

The Kyoto Protocol has required decades of careful negotiation, compromise, and collaboration by thousands of international participants. Kyoto organisations possess the greatest degree of intelligence and maturity on the topic, and have existing structures well equipped to develop policy. The important questions of iron fertilization are primarily questions of policy. Therefore, early guidance and regulation of iron fertilization research should be undertaken by the Kyoto organisation, using existing structures or those created expressly for this purpose, or by a Kyoto signatory nation acting under the umbrella of Kyoto processes.

Interesting. As I highlighted in a prior post (Open Letter to the Marine Science Community) it seems the iron fertilization debate over the past few years has been driven more by ideology rather than science in the American science community. Prior conferences such as the 2001 ASLO conference on iron fertilization had such a strong ideological bent that their conclusions are scientifically untrustworthy. This is not a healthy situation.

However there is a cure, as suggested by the correspondent above. Could a Kyoto-signatory Annex I nation, hopefully one that has participated in iron fertilization studies or has existing scientific resources, "stand up" and offer leadership and guidance on this question? Such a leadership position would bring great international prestige, not to mention great research data, to the volunteering nation. This could then lead to a more formal submission of the question of iron fertilization to the Kyoto organization and the continuing negotiations for any post-2012 treaties.

There are significant research funds available from European sources...could these be used to fund some aggressive science and some policy proposals, accompanied by political sponsorship by appropriate governments?

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