The Australia-based Ocean Nourishment Corporation (ONC) and the U.S. company Climos say that dumping "nutrients" such as iron, nitrogen and urea into sea water could lead to growth of new phytoplankton. Climos announced last month that it will undertake its first ocean fertilization project within the next 18 months.
Margaret Leinen, chief scientist at Climos, says research needs to be undertaken. "Climate change constitutes an enormous challenge for us, we cannot afford to do nothing."
Leinen said that if additional CO2 sequestration could be safely simulated (by scientific research on ocean fertilization), then the process "could assist in decreasing the carbon concentration in the atmosphere until our global energy economy can make the transition to fewer greenhouse gases emissions."
But such plans are "plainly illegal," Philomene Verlaan, professor of ocean policy at the University of Hawaii told IPS. "Under the United National Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC) all intentional actions aimed at polluting the sea are forbidden."
Environmentalists and scientists fear that ocean fertilization could also have negative side effects that would lead to further loss of marine biodiversity.
"We do not understand the full range of intended and unintended bio-geochemical and ecological impacts of artificial ocean fertilization," Ken Buesseler, senior scientist at the U.S.-based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, said at a workshop on ocean fertilization at the IUCN congress. Unintended consequences could include transformation of marine habitats by introducing alien species or destroying native ones, he said.
David Santillo, senior scientist at the Greenpeace research laboratories, and professor at the School of Biosciences at the University of Exeter in Britain, said that "scientific research can only be legitimate to understand natural processes, but not to prepare the field for commercial activities that would transform the environment in ways we do not understand and most certainly we cannot control."
Verlaan said that besides the illegality of 'fertilization' of the sea, under the Kyoto protocol the industrialized countries "are legally obliged to reduce (emissions) at the source. What we would do by 'fertilizing the oceans' would simply be to transfer pollution from one place to another."
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Albion Monitor October
11, 2008 (http://www.albionmonitor.com)
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