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    LOHAFEX - If You Mean Well, Are You Allowed To Screw Up The Ocean?
    By Hank Campbell | January 11th 2009 07:16 PM | 66 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0® and co-author of "Science Left Behind".

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone...

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    In the good old days, when I lived in Florida, if you had a completely ridiculous idea but convinced someone else who had some authority, you could get it implemented.   There being no Internet, it didn't have to be a great idea, if it went bad you could just make it go away.   

    But in the Internet Age, every dumb thing you do is permanent, so we can laugh at the idea of using 2 million tires to make an artificial coral reef today but in the Florida of my youth, this made complete sense to environmentalists - and they found data to back it up.  The clean-up would be left to future generations.

    'Future generations' are used by both side of the global warming debate.   Alarmists say there won't be a world left if we don't do something...anything...now while Denialists say that future science will easily solve any problems we create.    It's odd logic.   Skeptics of global warming tend to be conservative and insist kids today are much dumber due to the influence of the liberal agenda in universities so why they think those dumb kids will fix the planet in the future is a mystery.   Meanwhile, many proponents of global warming make statistical mistakes that second year undergraduate students ridicule so why people should believe that huge snowstorms are caused by global warming is also a mystery.

    Like those tires sitting in big piles, the activists behind it created a sense of urgency, only the issue then was that we were running out of landfill space.    What well-meaning activists were not asking is, "Are we solving an actual problem?"  If Republicans were against it, it must be a real issue, just like with global warming.     But it turned out they were solving a problem we actually didn't have.   Landfill doomsday scenarios went out of fashion with pet rocks (and a new ice age) though for a time everyone was convinced we would have our houses filled with garbage.

    So why did a ship named the Polarstern leave Cape Town, South Africa a few days ago with 50 scientists and 20 tons of iron sulphate?   The word 'theory' is used too colloquially these days so I won't say the scientists in the LOHAFEX expedition have a theory - it's more like a wild guess - but they think if they dump a lot of iron sulphate in the ocean, it will create an algal bloom and suck a lot of evil carbon down into the bottom of the ocean.

    How much carbon?   A billion tons of carbon per year if applied across the Southern Ocean, some say.   In true "Austin Powers" Dr. Evil fashion, they seem to have kept coming up with higher numbers until it sounded impressive.

    I'm not an activist or a geologist or an oceanographer so I have this crazy notion that the environment is actually a very complex system and that doing one thing to mitigate one problem might not be a great idea if it leads to 10 more problems.    Dumping a lot of iron sulphate would seem to be worth considering in more detail - no "we only have 10 years" or we're doomed hysteria but instead actual data based on small experiments.     Yet there are two things working against that sort of common sense.    

    First, we have well meaning activist scientists in the LOHAFEX group who think they have found a loophole in international law and therefore are rightfully disregarding the wishes of 191 signators to the United Nation's Convention on Biological Diversity that put a moratorium on widespread experimentation with the ocean, precisely so this could not happen.  Second, we have a 'carbon sequestration' industry that desperately needs there to be a CO2 global warming problem, else they have spent a lot of money on lobbyists and not gained anything. 

    I have no issue at all with private industry solving problems, of course.    And a school with an agenda has no problem at all looking for loopholes, namely the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) in Bremerhaven, Germany, who provided the ship and a chief scientist for LOHAFEX, along with some funding.   

    AWI says they are on our side.   Their work will help distinguish legitimate, necessary science (their research, naturally) that can only get done by dumping iron sulphate in 300 square KM of ocean, from quack people out to make a buck (other groups obeying the moratorium) which is all well and good.  Obviously I am not against science experimentation.

    But are they solving the right problem?    Pollution has gone up but global warming has not matched the rise in CO2 levels so we can probably solve the issue of greenhouse gases and warming without ecological tinkering.    Like those tires in the ocean 3 decades ago, before we rush to implement a solution that may not work, let's take time and make sure we are solving a problem we really have.

    Comments

    Nicholas Horton
    Alright, that just freaks me out.  Dumping huge amounts of anything in the Ocean sounds like a bad idea.  You're right.  The climate system is a complex adaptive system.  Who knows what the consequences will be.  We may be in for a wild ride.
    The carbon sequestration industry is a pipsqueak compared to the carbon emission industry.

    It's not all about warming, either. Excess CO2 is increasing ocean acidity to the point that major food chains are at risk.

    Hank
    Nicholas - any time well-meaning people fall back on the 'we have to do something, anything, now' argument rather than the more methodical scientific approach that says data, data, data, small test, large test, etc.   we could be in for trouble.    If 191 groups agree that this is too risky and 1 does it anyway, I think that's generally a mistake, unless AWI is saying this consensus is one they don't believe.

    Anonymous, exactly.   If adding unnatural things to the ocean is having as yet unknown ramifications adding more stuff in is not a great idea - unless we know it will work.    They don't know it will work which is why people who are their 'allies' in the climate change fight tried to stop them in court.
    Please take a look at www.lohafex.de

    Best regards

    Manfred Schloesser

    Hank
    Hi Manfred,  the site is just a press kit.   We already know the size of the experiment, I wrote it in the article, and what you/they hope to accomplish but at some point you have to listen to environmental critics who have cautionary concerns, lest you be surprised when everyone else starts ignoring all cautionary concerns about the environment from large groups who reach a consensus and make policy recommendations.

    If the LOHAFEX scientists say everyone should be restricted but them, it seems a little hollow.
    COMMENTS FROM AN OCEANOGRAPHER

    Dear Hank (and others commenting here)
    This morning was the first time I saw a big oceanographic expedition making an entry on the newspages. As with all new things they can be incredibly misinterpreted and misreported but the comments I saw I found really disappointing and disturbing. I saw your blog because it is the 5th result when I googled Lohafex looking for the official site. I have never replied to a blog before but this made me feel quite sad so I feel I have to say something here especially when so many people can see this.
    As you said you are not an oceanographer and I can see that you, as so many others, have seen 'the bad press'. I am a biological oceanographer (from a large institution but not from any of the directly involved ones) and can tell you some things from the other side.
    Lohafex is not going there to fertilize the ocean to solve our climate problem. You say you are not against experimentation and this is just an experiment...many have been done before (and they ARE safe!) and this is the last of its kind. And it is small scale! 300 square km is a small area when you consider you big the ocean is and it is a scale that is needed to also to look at how mixing processes are affecting the fate of the CO2. These numbers are not chosen at random and believe me oceanographic budgets are so stretched (not like the medical sector) that nobody would waste money on extra ship time or buying more iron if it is not required.
    There is evidence that iron addition stimulates a phytoplankton bloom in areas where phytoplankton growth is limited or colimited by iron. Obviously this bloom will absorb lots of CO2. Unfortunately past experiments have not shown if this CO2 is even exported below surface water or if it recycled on the spot mostly because the ships could not stick around to monitor it for long enough (ships are usually booked 3-4 years in advance) and also because scientists were never satistisfied that every single parameter has been measured. The general consensus is that that it may well not work at all but even if it does the oceans capacity to turnover things like iron and carbon is so huge that the changes this experiment might cause will be temporary on the scale of a few months...as it has been the previous 10 times or maybe more by now. I'm sure we didn't get any disastrous effects all the previous times and anyway this process occurs naturally e.g. at Crozet Islands (look up Crozex for more info) which makes it though more complicated for us to understand.
    This is the first time they will stay for long enough though and see what happens and will probably not have to repeat this experiment at all. They have the capacity to make many measurements of many processes hence finally a good dataset that will provide answers. Many are hoping to disprove it just so that people stop considering it as an option but nobody will jump to conclusions. Actually many people do laugh about it (as with tyres for artificial reefs) but we need the knowledge to close this chapter and the media would never tell you this bit. We also need the knowledge to understand past natural climate shifts (ice ages) where natural iron inputs (dust, sediments etc) had played a big role.
    I am personally against the idea even if it does work. I don't like the idea of tampering with nature. We have done it already with our greenhouse gases. Lowering our carbon emissions and using clean energy is the best thing we can do.
    AWI has been at the forefront of climate research for years now and together with all the other leading institutions have been providing the data and telling our governments they need to do something with their emissions. Do you really think such an institution would go out and do this if there was the slightest chance of harming the environment? Or that the scientists who study it to protect who be a part of this? Unlike what people may think scientists have a conscience! We are normal people with normal worries about the future of our planet. And by the way these experiments are not usually privately funded. It just happens that we as oceanographers have much more knowledge about our oceans than anyone else so it is normal that misinformed people even on official media pages go and make articles talking about disasters happening. I understand your frustration and if I was reading the news without knowing what is behind this I would react the same.
    About the UN convention I really think that if the UN had a problem they would say it. The must have given clearance for the expedition to go ahead if it was breaking the rules.But maybe it was anyway planned from many years ago and decided the convention would not affect it? Instead an organization in Africa starts causing problems even though the experiment is not taking place in their waters. Why didn't the UN make a statement on the news? And why don't the Aregentines cause problems even though the experiment is closest to them? I would imagine this probably has to do with the usual science misreporting from the media which has actually cost lives in the past (take the MMR vaccine causing supposedly causing autism...nobody came out to say that this has been disproven because its not interesting to make a headline). Don't believe everything you hear...go to the site of Lohafex and look at the scientific background and the objectives of the expedition! Its really not as bad as you think. And nobody is in danger because it has been done before and it is safe!
    Especially be careful before trashing the reputation of institutions like AWI who are doing so much for all of us with their climate research. It makes me sad that the few times oceanography makes the news it has to be like this. We are all trying to protect our world but to do this you need accurate information. Believe me its not easy to be at sea for so long but it is necessary. Imagine yourself being stuck with people from work in a big house for a month or longer, working 20 hour days, not having a single day off, being sea sick a lot of the time and as for some of us not even getting paid extra. We do it because we love our job which is to bring knowledge about the 2/3 of our planet which we know practically nothing about and use this knowledge to help protect our planet from our own destruction.
    I really hope this gets you thinking a bit about this and maybe changes your mind! And I really hope the media come out and correct this mess they have made again...but of course when did that ever happen before?

    Hatice Cullingford
    Thanks for this reply, Anonymous. You say:


    And nobody is in danger because it has been done before and it is safe!
    without evidence! Nasa claimed similarly before the Challenger disaster. Now we should know better. You also write:


     We are all trying to protect our world but to do this you need accurate information.
    and how are you trying to protect our world? Information is not protection. What rules do you follow to protect my planet? We have not discussed the rules, Anonymous. I have no idea what they might be.

    One thing certain my planet is not for spoil and plunder
    Hank

    I'm certainly no Luddite but if Germany led the push for this restriction it seems strange that they don't halt one of their own from doing the experiment.    Ocean fertilization is restricted, not banned, but this is not 'small scale' and it is not in 'coastal waters' as the law says it needs to be until there is more data.    

    You don't want me 'trashing' AWI on this issue because they have done terrific work in other areas but that is exactly why we should criticize them - 'meaning well' is exactly what the problem with AWI is.   They are so convinced that their research is for the good of mankind they are ignoring every scientist and environmentalist who would like to not undertake this risk without better data.    But, oops, the workshop on this topic last year estimated the value of ocean fertilization at $100 billion - so AWI is 'trashing' itself by violating international law while everyone knows there is a $100 billion industry at the end of this rainbow, meaning a whole lot of potential funding to  justify it.

    The consensus of the scientific community is that this will not work at all (just like making new coral reefs out of old tires) so this kind of large scale (and it is large scale, 300 KM2!) ocean fertilization is both not scientifically justified and, due to the potential system impact on ecology, a bad idea.
    Anonymous, your comments are so fatuous that it is difficult to know where to start to reply to them, or even if it's worth wasting the time replying. But you made me so angry that I will anyway.

    Nobody questions the idea that adding iron to the ocean will stimulate blooms under certain conditions. The bloom may even help to sequester CO2. The problem is, what then? The benthic CROZEX experiment you cite showed that the benthic fauna is significantly different in areas where such blooms persist. In other words, the evidence points to a measurable effect of surface blooms on deep ocean ecosystems. Now increases in atmospheric or oceanic CO2 are not the only global changes we need to worry about. A major crisis that you may not be aware of involves radical and rapid, human-induced changes in the Earth's ecosystems, simultaneous with world-wide loss of biodiversity. There is no point in solving one problem – CO2 concentrations – in a way that provokes a cascade of other problems. For this reason, the Convention on Biological Diversity decided to ban all such experiments until certain conditions had been fulfilled. If your country is on this list http://www.cbd.int/information/parties.shtml then your state has agreed that ocean fertilization experiments should stop. That means that whatever you may think about it, the people on that ship are acting in defiance of the governments of almost every nation on Earth, including their own. That is not brave. That is stupid.

    You state that in previous similar experiments scientists were never satisfied that every single parameter was been measured. And "every single parameter" includes what, this time? Are they going to do a thorough examination of the ecosystems in the entire water column, including how they function, before and after they dump all this iron sulphide into the water? They'll get a good dataset that will provide answers, you claim, but to what questions?

    You say AWI has been at the forefront of climate research for years now and ask whether "such an institution would go out and do this if there was the slightest chance of harming the environment". So how much, exactly, does AWI know about deep-sea biodiversity? As far as I know their biological research is confined to shelf and coastal waters. Would they do it if it had a chance of harming the environment? Apparently yes, since this will without doubt change the ecosystems in the areas where they dump their iron. Or don't you agree that change is, in this case, harm? What would your answer be if you were one of the organisms that will suffer, rather than benefit, as a consequence of this ill-considered action?

    You say you "really think that if the UN had a problem they would say it". Do you have any idea how the UN works? Do you have any notion how long, and how difficult it is, to get 191 sovereign states to agree? You say, "they must have given clearance for the expedition to go ahead" but you can be 100% certain that the Convention of the Parties of the CBD has never discussed this experiment, and that the scientists on that ship are, indeed "breaking the rules," as you put it. There is a clear and unequivocal agreement among all the 191 states that participate in the CoP that such experiments should not be carried out. This agreement was reached, after the usual long negotiations, during the CoP hosted, oh irony, by the German state.

    It would make no difference at all if it was planned many years ago. If the law changes today, you can't go ahead and break it just because you planned to do so before the law came into force. The scientific background and the objectives of the expedition have nothing to do with it. This is an act in defiance of the will of the elected governments of 191 countries. And that means, in defiance of almost everyone on the planet.

    I'd have to research the information, but taking tons of ANYTHING and dumping it the ocean does not sound like a good idea, especially if the intent is to change the way the ocean is. You know, I"m with that margerine ad from decades ago : "It's not nice to fool with mother nature." Instead of creating carbon sinks, fix the problem - stop the pollution. It'll be tough but we can't keep polluting the planet forever.

    20 tonnes is a pinprick compared to the aeolian iron deposition in the Tasman sea from the predominately Westerly winds that blow over the arid Australian continent. Here tens of thousands of tonnes of dust in a single event is unremarkable , given the position of the Hammersly Ranges, the iron content can be highly significant. As it is, iron as oxide, is still a major component. I would be surprised if there were not similar dust plumes from the Sahara extending ove the Indian ocean.
    See http://imos.org.au/fileadmin/user_upload/shared/IMOS%20General/Review_pa...
    Another interesting interaction between climate and marine ecosystem processes is
    created through dust deposition. Aeolian dust is enriched in iron which is often a key
    limiting nutrient in waters that are otherwise rich in nitrogen and phosphorous. The potential
    for dust export from continent to ocean will increase as the Australian continent becomes
    drier and more prone to bush fires (McGowan, 2000; Murphy & Timbal 2007). Dust from
    central Australia typically exits the continent over Victoria and across the Tasman,
    sometimes being deposited on NZ shores. This transport may significantly reduce solar
    radiation, increase nitrogen and iron inputs, increase phytoplankton growth and carbon drawdown

    Dear all,
    First of all you even have the insitution wrong. The institute running the expedition is the National Institute of Oceanography of India in Goa. They are just using the AWI ship and actually AWI just have a few scientists on board. Maybe if you look on their web pages you will find out more.
    If they are really breaching a UN convention they I will agree with you on your commnets. But I'm sure they must have been allowed to do it otherwise they would not be there now. Until there is evidence about this I will stick to my belief that these people are not stupid. It is not even so important to do this to put an institutions reputation at risk. And has it even occured to you that scientists are there to disprove the theory so that industry stops even thinking about it?
    About the scientific part I will say no more as you have they internet in front you and so can use it.
    About the rest all I can say is that a horse that wears blinders all its life can never see wide angle. This is particularly for Kalense who finds a difference of opinion on the issue something to get angry about. Obviously you have no clue about what conversation means. No wonder nobody takes people like you seriously if you express yourselves like this.
    Anyway, some of us actually have work to do so will not spend more time talking to close minded people that think scientists want to destroy the world. These conspiracy theories for people like you to worry about.
    No need to reply as I won't waste time logging onto this page ever again!

    Hank
    First of all you even have the insitution wrong. The institute running the expedition is the National Institute of Oceanography of India in Goa. 
    Focusing on AWI is not wrong.  They provided the ship, which is the primary expense, they co-funded the cruise  and Victor Smetacek, biological oceanographer at AWI, is co-chief scientist of the cruise.   India just paid for its own scientists, as did Italy, Spain, Chile, France and Britain.   'Running' the expedition is an honorary designation for India, which is why an AWI person is co-chief.

    Germany was a leader in the moratorium on dumping iron into the ocean so a German research institution should be looked at more critically.   If an American group were flouting international law this way, it is unlikely German researchers at AWI would say it is okay.
    Dear readers,

    please take a look at the natural chlorophyll production and make up your own mind:
    http://oceancolor.gsfc.nasa.gov/cgi/browse.pl
    The Lohafex experiment will leave a tiny green spot hardly visible against the background of natural blooms. Please also note that this experiment is the first one to study the complete evolution of a bloom. I think ecological scientists need these data.

    PLease also take a look at www.awi.de and search for the press release.

    Best regards

    Manfred

    Hmm. It's a bit difficult to argue with someone who's just flounced out of the room. But for the record, I have no problem with differences of opinion. I do have problems with denial of the evidence, well-meaning or not.

    Why O' why?
    I have a few questions... Why is everyone flogging a scientific expedition that:
    a) Is claiming to check an idea that will solve some of the CO2 emission problems? Don't you want to find out if it works?
    b) that only affects 300km(sq) (near Antarctica that too) where even the sea where life, though highly diverse, is still sparse. (note: compared to the size of the world's ocean that IS a small area)
    If its environment your worried about, there seem better causes to rally against
    This does not put, say Right Whales, into trouble as much as say mechanized fishing that takes place in these waters. From what I read about this experiment, at the minimum, any stray whales in the area are going find an unexpected feast!
    And shouldn't you flog this experiment (and the institute's involved) AFTER they have conducted it? and only if they couldn't get the data they want??
    They are scientists! Scientist ALWAYS want data... there life is one big quest for it. Why stop them from collecting more?
    If you are convinced that Climate Change IS a problem then why hamper scientists looking for solutions?
    And what is the connection between the rubber-tire-reef disaster and this experiment?
    There is a fallacy to the argument; that since experiment A was a disaster, experiment B should not be allowed since it is expected to be a disaster!

    Hank
    Why is everyone flogging a scientific expedition that:
    a) Is claiming to check an idea that will solve some of the CO2 emission problems? Don't you want to find out if it works?
    b) that only affects 300km(sq) (near Antarctica that too) where even the sea where life, though highly diverse, is still sparse. (note: compared to the size of the world's ocean that IS a small area)

    Because 191 signators to the United Nation's Convention on Biological Diversity put a moratorium on this kind of experimentation with the ocean because the science is suspect and the repercussions are unknown and this group decided to violate the law anyway.    

    Finding out 'if it works' can be done without violating international law or cautious science principles, by doing it on a small scale in coastal waters, as per the agreement.   Like the 'coral reefs made from tires' example that ended up going very badly, just because one group thinks it's a good idea does not mean we should allow an ecological free-for-all in the name of science.  

    By your rationale we should get rid of the FDA and just allow human trials on people, as long as it isn't too many and they are in a remote part of the third world.   Or let Exxon drill wherever they want.   191 countries disagree with that too, I bet.

    This isn't a new idea, it has been in the works this whole decade, and the science benefit is so unconvincing and the possible effects so great the restriction was created by the UN.   So if they want to continue to try and prove this has value they should do small experiments within the law.

    Because 191 signators to the United Nation's Convention on Biological Diversity put a moratorium on this kind of experimentation with the ocean because the science is suspect and the repercussions are unknown and this group decided to violate the law anyway.

    From what I gather this group has done its homework and is not violating any treaty agreement. I got this para from AWI webpage explaining this project here:

    "The scientific experiment is in accordance with the resolution of the London Convention on the regulation of ocean fertilization from October 2008 and the Decision of the Convention on Biological Diversity on ocean fertilization from May 2008 that call for further research to enhance understanding of ocean iron fertilization."

    It seems like the very same people(191 countries!) who called for a moratorium are now spooked enough about climate change to allow such research :)
    My rational is that projects like these should not be blindly put down because of what some people fear or past experience with unrelated projects. So I still fail to see how this project can be compared to rubber tube reefs, let alone Exxon's shenanigans in search of crude and human drug trials.
    This is not a 'ecological-free-for-all in the name of science' type of project at all!

    Hank
    From what I gather this group has done its homework and is not violating any treaty agreement. I got this para from AWI webpage explaining this project here:
    But this is just a statement that says 'we aren't violating any agreement.'  I don't see how this constitutes homework, it's just a denial.   They decided 300 KM^2 is not small and that their location is coastal waters - which is fine, provided we let everyone invent definitions for what 'small' and 'coastal waters' mean.
    It seems like the very same people(191 countries!) who called for a moratorium are now spooked enough about climate change to allow such research :)
    They are not okay with it because of climate change a few months later, it's that the UN has no enforcement authority and a UN biology commission even less.   They rely on the integrity of their members, which in this case was a mistake.
    I don't know which decision AWI is talking about when it says "The scientific experiment is in accordance with ... the Decision of the Convention on Biological Diversity on ocean fertilization from May 2008 that call for further research to enhance understanding of ocean iron fertilization."

    What, in the following, is so difficult to understand?

    The Conference of the Parties,

    ...requests Parties and urges other Governments,... to ensure that ocean fertilization activities do not take place until there is an adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities,... and a global, transparent and effective control and regulatory mechanism is in place for these activities; with the exception of small scale scientific research studies within coastal waters. ...

    COP 9 Decision IX/16 paragraph C
    Bonn, 19 - 30 May 2008

    So COP 9 asks for an adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities. LOHAFEX is planned to gather such scientific evidence. Futhermore, these experiments will give you only data, if the growth is limited by iron.

    Hank
    The concern is that the rules don't seem to apply to these scientists, since the very first chance to violate it they took.   AWI is basically the George Bush of science - there's little to be gained, there are risks no one knows about, there are rules against doing it, but they will do it anyway.

    I have supported AWI in every project they've ever done except this one - because this one is wrong and all of the legal wrangling over words will not change it.
    I appreciate your concern, but you should trust these scientists. On Thursday, January 22 there will be a meeting of AWI scientists with the NGO in Berlin at the Helmholtz Center. The AWI will present their data and hopefully will convince the critics.

    Hank
    I appreciate your concern, but you should trust these scientists.
    It's not a matter of trust - obviously we have a thousand scientists here as members and contributors so I am not ant-science - it's a matter of law.     If the law does not count for AWI it shouldn't have to count for anyone.

    Would your trust be so unequivocal if the scientists doing the experiments in violation of both international law and the concerns of the science community consensus were working for Exxon?
    You cannot compare scientist with the US-American Bush administration. Before you condemn these scientists remember that scientists were the ones who found out the global warming effect and its cause: the rising of the carbon dioxide level due to an increasing global industry.
    They did an excellent job. They did this by sampling and analysis of arctic ice cores. With these data they could look back into earth´s carbon dioxide history. And they published their results in journals.
    The scientist from AWI and many other institutes from all over the world are doing an excellent job in collecting these data. And LOHAFEX is part of solving this climate puzzle.
    --- So if you think that we need to listen to the lawyers, let´s hope and prey they will solve this global problem. Or do you think that it is better to leave this problem to commercial companies?
    I think that you are fighting the wrong people.

    Whaat? ....are we still talking science? What kind of blog is this? It is not acceptable that someone from the internet can damage a real person´s reputation by calling him a terrorist. Please explain this.

    German terrorist spreading Chinese and Albanian propaganda material in hilly Bhimtal, Uttarakhand?! Very amusing dude; albeit in the wrong blog...

    Hank
    I agree this took me by surprise too.   I don't mind criticizing anyone if they put their experiments ahead of the entire world consensus and ocean ecology but a fight among family members is not really valid data.
    Dear Hydkat,
    Please excuse the delay in replying, but I was travelling and had only sporadic access to the internet.
    Victor is a born and bred Indian. He acquired German citizenship later in life. At the time you refer to, he was an Indian student studying in Germany.

    Hank,
    That post must be from a impostor... it sounds credulous.

    Hank
    I unpublished the comment from Peter Smetacek above though the website and name are legitimate - http://www.himagni.com/ - because I agree with the emails and the comments here that we can all go after each other and disagree about the legitimacy of this particular Polarstern expedition but personal attacks (and one that is apparently a family matter) aren't really what we are about on Scientific Blogging.  

    I know that seems like censorship but there are plenty of other science sites that engage in personal attacks from writers and commenters and if this comment had been going after me it would be fine but it goes after Victor Smetacek, who is off on a boat and can't defend himself.
    Dear Mr. Campbell,
    I am sorry that my comments were upsetting to you. I suppose I owe an explanation: the reason I put the information on your website was exactly because it is not a site that engages in personal attacks. The information i put up was more of an expose rather than an attack. I am aware that Victor is off on a ship but I was not aware that they were off the internet, since previous Polarstern expeditions to the high southern latitudes have posted daily bulletins on the net.
    Since my blog has been removed, there is little point in saying much more about it. I shall, however, state that I gleaned the information contained therein the hard way. I hoped that it would prove useful in reining in what one blog described as a rogue experiment, by providing background information.
    You will agree that it requires a great deal of confidence to fly in the face not only of 191 countries but even your very own minister, who is/was commited to the diametrically opposite course.

    This is an excerpt from an Indian newspaper "The green activists, however, say the 20 tonnes of iron sulphate that LOHAFEX intends to dump into the ocean could adversely affect the marine ecology of the region.

    ``This is rubbish,'' said Naqvi. ``Iron concentrations even after enhancement at our site will be by a factor of 10 lower than those found in many coastal waters. This concentration is so low that most laboratories in the world cannot even measure them. The same applies to phytoplankton bloom. The chlorophyll levels will still remain well within the natural range. They are scaring and misleading people.''

    Can someone explain to me
    1) how the effects of the iron will be measured if the iron that is dumped cannot be measured?
    2) How the effects on krill whose life cyclesspan several months will be established from a 40 day experiment>
    3) How will the effects on whales be established?
    4) If melting ice-bergs release iron whose concentrations are greater than the LOHAFEX then why don't we wait for nature to take its own course? As the planet warms, icebergs will break away from the Antarctic at a faster rate. With the increase in the rate of melting due to warming, will we not expect an increase in iron naturally?

    This is from the Institute of Oceanography india website http://www.nio.org/projects/narvekar/narvekar_NWP.jsp
    The whole project can be found here. Fellow bloggers you can make your own judgment about the purpose of this experiment.Here are a few culled from the research objectives
    * develop expertise in India for induced CO2 sequestration by the ocean;
    * study the effect of enhanced carbon production on surface carbon chemistry, food web-structure, and particulate export to the deep sea;
    * determine the fate of carbon exported from the oceanic surface layer;
    * investigate the adverse effects, if any, of enhanced carbon production on ecosystem (e.g. obnoxious blooms) and biogeochemical cycling (e.g. production of greenhouse gases other than CO2);
    * assess the socio-economic impact and techno-commercial viability of iron fertilization as a possible mechanism of mitigation of greenhouse warming;
    * develop nanomaterials using low cost biogenic and non biogenic materials as carriers and test them for slow release of iron in HNLC regions;
    * characterize the dynamics of microbial communities in the oceanic waters prior to and after fertilization; and
    * develop biogeochemical models for simulating carbon production and processing in the euphotic zone, its export to deep sea and its alteration by iron fertilization.

    Hank
    It's a terrific write up, thus my title "If you mean well ...", but we can't complain if one side of the environmental issues ignores the UN and the overwhelming consensus of scientists but let it go when another group decides to ignore their fellow scientists, all environments and 190 countries just because they are getting some money. These experiments were determined by their peers to have a lot of risk and little value (so should be contained to small sizes) but they have chosen to proceed anyway - that is the definition of the sort of narrow-minded self interest we expect from Big Oil, not scientists who claim to care about the environment.
    Can someone help us establish what is the $ amount being spent on the cruise by each country?

    Stellare
    I do not understand why you give this project all this heat.



    Scale: Dumping large amount of stuff in the ocean randomly doesn't
    sound good. However, what is large? Just because we're talking tons
    doesn't mean that it is a large amount relative to the ocean. We are
    perhaps talking about the same psychological effect as connected to the
    becquerel units for radioactivity - thousands sound a lot more than
    .0001, it all depends on how we define units and scales.



    Theory: I also noted that it is more than a theory, it is a tested
    theory (in Europe) that they are continuing on a larger scale.



    Global warming: Is CO2 the reason or not the reason why the planet is
    heating up? Just the fact that we, the humans, are producing a
    significant amount of CO2 is reason enough to try to balance it out.
    Why is it acceptable to produce large amounts of CO2 and thinking it
    doesn't effect the large Earth system, but scream up when a few tons of
    another material is dumped in the ocean? It is a logical breach to me.
    That is my only point, not arguing pro or against either action.



    I base my comments solely on the article on this site and the Indian
    project site. The reason why I comment is simply that I do not
    understand the negativity directed towards this particular project. Are
    there hidden agendas and information undisclosed to the public?
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    Hank
    It's intellectual honesty, since it violates the law in both size and location.   If Germany was not a signatory this would be no problem - America does not have to obey laws it does not sign either - but the fact that Germany is a signatory and one of the drivers behind the guidelines and then AWI ignores them is both hypocritical and dangerous.

    This is not considered valid science by a much larger consensus than even agrees with global warming.   It is considered a hypothesis, and not a theory, by everyone except the people getting grant money to do it.

    Environmentalists don't agree with this - and that's just one group.   I couldn't find any environmentalists who do agree with it.

    German Environment ministry spokesman Matthias Machnig says the Environment ministry in Germany doesn't agree with it and they aren't even sure how it was ever allowed.    From an article a few days after I published this:

    According to regional daily the Maerkische Allgemeine, Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel has also written to Research Minister Annette Schavan, saying the experiment "destroys Germany's credibility and its vanguard role in protecting biodiversity".

    However, the research ministry told AFP that it believed the German institute in question, the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), "had prior agreement with the environment ministry" for carrying out the experiment.
    Scientists don't agree with it - A scientific critique of oceanic iron fertilization as a climate change mitigation strategy. Again, just one paper out of many.

    This is not a legitimate global warming strategy, though AWI representatives have written me multiple times to tell me my argument is 'emotional' rather that scientific.   Yet the scientists in 190 countries and the entire environmental community is on the same side I am.

    Greenpeace can't drive a boat there to stop them, though, because AWI refuses to say where the FeSO4 is being dumped.    So much for the transparency of science.
    I am repeating my earlier post as no one has answered my questions as yet:
    This is an excerpt from an Indian newspaper "The green activists, however, say the 20 tonnes of iron sulphate that LOHAFEX intends to dump into the ocean could adversely affect the marine ecology of the region.
    ``This is rubbish,'' said Naqvi. ``Iron concentrations even after enhancement at our site will be by a factor of 10 lower than those found in many coastal waters. This concentration is so low that most laboratories in the world cannot even measure them. The same applies to phytoplankton bloom. The chlorophyll levels will still remain well within the natural range. They are scaring and misleading people.''
    My questions are as follows:
    1) how will the effects of the iron be measured if the concentration of the iron that is dumped, cannot be measured (as per chief scienist from the cruise)?
    2) How will the effects on krill whose life cycles span several months be established from a 40 day experiment?
    3) How will the effects on whales be established over this experiment?
    4) I have read elsewhere that melting ice-bergs release iron whose concentrations are greater than the LOHAFEX so t don't we wait for nature to take care of the problem. As the planet warms, icebergs will break away from the Antarctic at a faster rate. With the increase in the rate of melting due to warming, will we not expect an increase in iron naturally?t. So why my question is why do we need to rush with geo-engineering solutions whose long term consequences cannot be established from LOHAFEX type expeditions
    We are being told time and again that the purpose of the experiments is purely scientific, but to me these two objectives listed below suggest a hidden agenda.
    *develop expertise in India for induced CO2 sequestration by the ocean;
    * assess the socio-economic impact and techno-commercial viability of iron fertilization as a possible mechanism of mitigation of greenhouse warming;

    Hank
    On questions 1-4, you have hit on the exact problem.  No one knows and that's why the entire civilized world agreed not to do this until we do know.    The fact that the German government has announced they did not approve this and the Research Ministry believed it had approval from the Environment ministry before authorizing it is either German politicians covering their butts or a sign that AWI is, as they are being called by environmental organizations, a 'rogue' group with an agenda we aren't being told about.
    What is the Indian Govt/'s position on this experiement or were they taken for a ride as well? 6M dollars is a lot of money to throw into the sea.

    I've been watching this discussion for a while: it is a good, lively discussion!

    Hank, I think, now realises that the Polarstern experiment is small-scale, is valuable research by bona-fide scientists, and is likely to be harmless.

    His argument against now seems to boil down to the issue: is it legal? There are two legal documents discussing this issue: the Biodiversity Convention and the more recent London Convention resolutions on this issue. The London Convention apparently, takes legal precedence. Their ruling, which advocates "utmost caution" noted the CBD text which restrictedf experiment to "coastal waters" but did not repeat the restriction.

    Hank: you should maybe note that there appears to be a BIG difference in the quality of the science behind the two conventions. The London Convention has access to scientific advisory groups who have studied such issues for years, and appreciate both the risks and the Law of the Sea. The CBD appears to have been negotiated in a hurry,, with less scientific input and, probably, with a great deal of political input...

    There are numerous problems with the CBD restriction to "coastal waters".
    First of all no-one knows how to define "coastal waters". (They move around a lot! ..). It is not a legal term.
    Second: experiments in coastal REGIONS really can be risky. Partly because, the experiments would probably involve nutrients other than iron (e.g. urea or ammonium) as iron is usually not limiting in coastal waters. Adding nitrogen in coastal REGIONS is maybe not a good idea: there is strong scientific evidence that this can induce toxic blooms and alter biodiversity. There is no such evidence for iron additions to the Southern Ocean (because it is diatoms which grab the iron and prior experiments showed no change in plankton biodiversity as a result).

    Shallow coastal REGIONS sometimes have restricted circulation: the organic carbon may not get respired before hitting the sea floor. The benthos can be quite rich and sensitive in coastal REGIONS.

    So It is unclear to most scientists as to why the CBD had the "coastal waters" text in it. Maybe it was not scientific but more political. Maybe it was an effort to force the issue to be decided by coastal states. Well...why not just say so?. But note that many coastal states already sell their coastal biomass to fishery companies and foreign governments for surprisingly small amounts of money. This has a massive negative effect on biodiversity but goes on all the time. So I don't see why one of these countries, which needs the cash, would not allow geoengineering companies in as well . (Especially if they promise to feed the fish like Planktos did).

    The CBD wording was reallly vague, not scientific, and potentially dangerous to coastal ecosystems of poorer nations. The London Convention text, as I see it, supercedes it, is much more scientifically justified and says that any scientific experiment must be conducted "with utmost caution" and be evaulated on the basis of the "best scientific guidance". These words are much more rigourous and protective of the marine environment, including those of poor coastal states, than the vague CBD text ("small scale, in coastal waters").

    The next step should be to ban commercial or geo-engineering use of ocean fertilization. There are a number of scientists pushing for this who nevertheless support the Polarstern experiment..

    Hank
    Hank, I think, now realises that the Polarstern experiment is small-scale, is valuable research by bona-fide scientists, and is likely to be harmless.
    No, I am inclined to agree with German Environment ministry spokesman Matthias Machnig who says the Environment Ministry knew nothing about it and blasted the Research Ministry for approving it, a group that then claimed they assumed the Environment Ministry had approved AWI doing this.  I agree furthermore that this rogue experiment "destroys Germany's credibility and its vanguard role in protecting biodiversity" as the German Environment Ministry phrased it.

    The only people who think this is small scale, in coastal waters, or of any value are the scientists getting paid to do it.

    If it were small and harmless, there would be no controversy but in the two weeks since I wrote this plenty of other people have written on it also, which is why the Research Ministry and AWI are scrambling their public relations people to lessen the damage.   I am also betting AWI now realizes this is not something they should have attempted to do in defiance of the overwhelming consensus of scientists who think the experiment is quackery.
    The krill-whale story was one aspect of LOHAFEX that was touted as different from the previous experiments. It is clear (given the period the ship is expected to be out at sea)) that this is an unattainable goal. So my question is what more are we going to learn from this experiment than we already know from the 13 earlier experiments conducted before? Given the funding crunch scientific agencies are facing, this money could have been better spent.

    For your information: Monday 26 January 2009
    The German Ministry of Research and Education (http://www.bmbf.de/press/2453.php) has approved the LOHAFEX experiment after evaluation by independent research institutes. The Minister Ms Schavan regrets the confict between scientists and environmental groups.

    There is only a German version of the statement: (This is the last paragraph from http://www.bmbf.de/press/2453.php)
    "Wie auch andere bedauere ich es, dass es zu einem Konflikt zwischen engagierten Klimaschützern aus der Wissenschaft und ebenso engagierten Umweltschützern gekommen ist. Deshalb ist die Wissenschaft gut beraten, bei potenziell konfliktträchtigen Forschungsthemen frühzeitig und proaktiv mit größtmöglicher Transparenz auf Kritiker zuzugehen. Ziel muss es sein, dass Forschungsarbeiten zum Klimaschutz als Basis für konkretes politisches Handeln größtmögliche Akzeptanz finden."

    Best regards

    Manfred Schloesser

    Hank
    Hi Manfred, thanks for the update, though one would expect them to approve it, since it's already done and the conflict is embarrassing.    Now you only have to convince 190 other countries!  :)
    Dear Hank,
    your argument If it were small and harmless, there would be no controversy but in the two weeks since I wrote this plenty of other people have written on it also, which is why the Research Ministry and AWI are scrambling their public relations people to lessen the damage.
    is what I call a "Zirkelschluss" = You are guilty because you are argueing.
    Let us hope that in future the climate activists and climate scientists are respected. This LOHAFEX fight is not good and the question remains : Cui bono?
    Regards Manfred

    Hank
    This LOHAFEX fight is not good and the question remains : Cui bono?
    Obviously for everyone's benefit.    I am not some environmental crazy person who is anti-science, since I started this site specifically to allow scientists to write directly to the public without any kind of editorial or ideological agenda.  And if you search this site you will find plenty of articles extolling the work of AWI and we even carried the “Exploring Ocean Iron Fertilization: The Scientific, Economic, Legal, and Political Basis” conference at Woods Hole here in a live webcast in 2007.  If AWI does 10 correct things and we write about it, we also have to write about it when they do something wrong.

    You should welcome the attention.   It accomplishes one of two things;  it allows you the chance to clear up misconceptions and therefore reaffirms your belief that what you are doing is correct or it allows society the opportunity to voice their concerns the same way 191 UN countries already did.    That kind of transparency is good for science.    But you refuse to even disclose where you are doing the dumping and the concerns of the overwhelming scientific consensus have been ignored.

    Like I wrote above, we're an open society so you're welcome to write an article on the benefits of iron fertilization.
    Dear Hank, aren´t you are getting too personal?"But you refuse to even disclose where you are doing the dumping and the concerns of the overwhelming scientific consensus have been ignored."
    Dear Hank, I am not from the AWI.

    Hank
    Dear Hank, aren´t you are getting too personal?"But you refuse to even disclose where you are doing the dumping and the concerns of the overwhelming scientific consensus have been ignored."
    Dear Hank, I am not from the AWI.
    I didn't say you were.   Are you not from LOHAFEX?   If you are not from LOHAFEX it seems odd you would use it as your URL.   If you are not from LOHAFEX then by all means mentally change the word 'you' to 'they' but if you are, my possessive pronoun seems to be apt.
    I am helping these guys and set up this website www.lohafex.de for the scientists so they can publish their daily reports for the rest of the world. You can even see where POLARSTERN is cruising. No secrets.

    Hank
    Yep.  PolarStern ship position.  Though where they are actually dumping is still a secret.   I sort of understand why they might not want to say, given Greenpeace's penchant for ramming into boats, but with the controversy it has brought and the embarrassment for the German Environment Ministry they might want to try for more transparency.  Plus, Greenpeace only has so many boats and they can't be everywhere at once.
    Dear Hank, I believe you are not anti-science.
    But please consider:
    CUI BONO? (Who is getting the benefits from this fight?)

    Assume somebody is for certain reasons against these global ecologist movements and also does not believe the scientists who claim the relationship between carbon dioxide and rsising temperature: What would be the most effective strategy to win against them?

    Hank
    Manfred, are you suggesting that the other 190 countries and all of the scientists who disagree with doing this large experiment at risk to the ecology are being manipulated by some vast, Exxon-funded, right wing conspiracy?

    It's certainly more benefit to Exxon to find a way to mitigate CO2 and temperature increases without cutting fossil fuel usage.   In that light, it is more likely that Exxon is the only group outside LOHAFEX supporting this experiment.

    Thus, it may be LOHAFEX that is being manipulated and not the rest of the world.
    Hank, no way, I do not believe in world wide conspiracies, that was just hypothetical. But the basic idea how this works is outlined here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divide_et_impera. (Get your enemies to attack each other.)

    Ok Hank, let us see if the outcome of this experiment will be convincing. Let the scientists do their work and publish it. That is their job.

    Dear Anonymous:
    Your questions:
    1) how will the effects of the iron be measured if the concentration of the iron that is dumped, cannot be measured (as per chief scienist from the cruise)?
    The chief scientist is right. If you still do not believe him, calculate yourself and look up the detection limit for Iron. But the scientists will see the effect on the algae.

    2) How will the effects on krill whose life cycles span several months be established from a 40 day experiment? Reply: They have only limited shipping time, and meanwhile they are running out of it.

    3) How will the effects on whales be established over this experiment?
    Reply: If they are lucky they have plenty to eat.
    4) I have read elsewhere that melting ice-bergs release iron whose concentrations are greater than the LOHAFEX so t don't we wait for nature to take care of the problem.

    Reply: Scientists want to determine the process parameters of the impact of iron. This does not work if you do not know the initial state (who is living there, how many etc). LOHAFEX is a controlled small scale experiment and the oceans are vast: looking for natural blooms is difficult, because you have to be either a clearvoyant or really lucky to be in the right spot, measure all parameters and then wait for the iron to come along.
    I hope this informations helps.

    1) how will the effects of the iron be measured if the concentration of the iron that is dumped, cannot be measured (as per chief scientist from the cruise)?
    The chief scientist is right. If you still do not believe him, calculate yourself and look up the detection limit for Iron. But the scientists will see the effect on the algae.
    You haven't understood my question well. When something is not measurable, how can you assess its effect. It could be due to other contaminants in the iron that is being dumped or due to the phospate

    How will the effects on krill whose life cycles span several months be established from a 40 day experiment? Reply: They have only limited shipping time, and meanwhile they are running out of it.

    This is exactly my point - why give the impression to the public that this goal is attainable, when it really is not true.

    3) How will the effects on whales be established over this experiment?
    Reply: If they are lucky they have plenty to eat.

    I do not understand what you mean, luck and science are different aren't they.

    4) I have read elsewhere that melting ice-bergs release iron whose concentrations are greater than the LOHAFEX so t don't we wait for nature to take care of the problem.

    Reply: Scientists want to determine the process parameters of the impact of iron. This does not work if you do not know the initial state (who is living there, how many etc). LOHAFEX is a controlled small scale experiment and the oceans are vast: looking for natural blooms is difficult, because you have to be either a clearvoyant or really lucky to be in the right spot, measure all parameters and then wait for the iron to come along.
    I hope this informations helps.

    I thought that the baseline information is already available at least from the literature that is available in the public domain. A cruise ship could easily follow an ice berg and investigate nature's way of doing things.

    Dear anonymous ( I really like to talk to people who hide their real names :-)

    Your question: 1) how will the effects of the iron be measured if the concentration of the iron that is dumped, cannot be measured (as per chief scientist from the cruise)?
    my answer The chief scientist is right. If you still do not believe him, calculate yourself and look up the detection limit for Iron. But the scientists will see the effect on the algae.
    Your reply You haven't understood my question well. When something is not measurable, how can you assess its effect. It could be due to other contaminants in the iron that is being dumped or due to the phospate

    My reply The iron from the LOHAFEX will be diluted to ca. 2.8 nMol per Liter = 2.8 exp-9 mol/l . If somebody really wants it they can measure it with huge effort. But that is not the point. The scientists know the amount and the volume, then they calculate the concentration. The coastal waters have something like 60 nMol /Liter. In the Antartic Circumpolar Current (ACC) there are some islands giving off iron giving rise to natural blooms you can even detect via satellite, much more than LOHAFEX. But as you have obviously the internet in front of you: Look it up in WIKIPEDIA http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antarctic_Circumpolar_Current and some more reading here http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2008/2007JC004329.shtml and also http://oceancolor.gsfc.nasa.gov/cgi/browse.pl

    ... And it is not as easy as you might think to set up a scientific expedition to find out the basic facts about the impact of iron on the blooms.
    I repeat myself: These scientists found out the rise of carbon dioxide and the subsequent rise in temperature. Now they want to understand the effect of iron on carbon dioxide fixation. This biological pump (please google it) is working worldwide and literally pumps carbon compounds (dead plankton etc) down the water column. Mankind needs to know the effect of iron because it is vital for our future to understand the Global Warming of the Planet Earth.

    Hank
    UPDATE:

    According to this news report today,  the experiment has been halted. 

    German scientists have been ordered by their government to halt a controversial 'ocean fertilisation' experiment off the coast of Antarctica.

    The researchers want to drop iron into the sea to encourage plankton growth and hopefully reduce global warming.

    But Germany says that might be in breach of an international treaty.
    Hank, I think this is a hoax.

    another comment:
    This whole discussion misses one point: If this carbon dioxide trading was internationally banned, there would not be anybody interested in commercial large scale experiments.

    The Federal Ministry for Research issued a press release yesterday: http://www.bmbf.de/press/2453.php

    (free translation from German into English by someone for whom German is still a bit of a mystery.)

    Statement by Federal Research Minister Annette Schavan concerning the German-Indian LOHAFEX Experiment in the South Atlantic.

    Having evaluated the available assessments I am convinced that there are no scientific and legal reasons to stop the German-Indian LOHAFEX experiment. I therefore agree to the AWI proposal to begin the experiment. The AWI and its international partners will carry out the experiment on their own responsibility.

    I relied on the evaluations of appropriate international institutions and scientists, who took into account the ecological effects and the relationship of the experiment to the relevant Conventions. The evaluations state that the project is harmless in the environmental context prevailing in the high seas in the South Atlantic and is in conformity with international law. Articles 87 and 257 of UNCLOS guarantee the freedom of research on the high seas and call for research and development for the protection of the marine environment.

    Furthermore the AWI has assured me that the experiment will not endanger the marine environment. I am therefore convinced that we can make an active contribution with this project, while abiding by the prohibition by the May 2008 Conference on Biodiversity (CBD) of commercial iron fertilization of the oceans.

    The project had been decided in 2007, well before the CBD resolutions, in the presence of Federal Chancellor Merkel and the Indian Prime Minister Singh with partners from India, and was later contractually agreed upon. Germany's contractual loyalty is not needlessly negotiable. This is also true of the reputation of the persons and science organizations concerned. Research in Germany depends on excellence, confidence and willingness to cooperate.

    The experiment involves basic research to understand CO2 interchange between the atmosphere and the ocean. It simulates a natural process. The smallest possible quantity of iron sulphate will be used. The AWI has assured me that it will be possible for all interested parties to follow the experiment, by transmitting all data directly from on board the Polar Star. Fears of a start to geo-engineering are unwarranted.

    The appraisals confirmed that experiment fulfils the criteria of the CBD resolution in terms of its small scale. The area affected will be roughly 20 kilometres in diameter, in accordance with the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO for iron fertilization experiments. Furthermore, the restriction of the experiment to "coastal waters" is fulfilled in the study area, because it exhibits planktonic species typical of coastal waters. Expert opinion confirmed this assessment of environmental impact. Thus this experiment conforms with the decisions of the CBD and the London Convention, and the credibility of the biodiversity policy of the federal government is not put into question.

    I am aware that some non-governmental organizations and the Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) see this differently. For me, however, the consultants' evaluations were crucial. On the other hand I agree with the Federal Environment Minister on the following principles: commercial iron fertilization of the oceans is not a precautionary contribution to climate change. Scientific experiments must be compatible with international conventions on the protection of biodiversity. This should be sufficient to ensure that no damage is done to marine ecosystems. A research goal must be to find the greatest possible protection of the climate as a basis for concrete political acts.

    Hank
    From Nature today.  Study casts doubt on iron-induced carbon sequestration
    The theory that adding iron to the oceans can help suck up atmospheric carbon dioxide cheaply and efficiently has received a further blow. A study1 published in this week's issue of Nature (see page 577) finds that the potential of iron-induced carbon sequestration is far lower than previously estimated.
    Subscription required - Nature 457, 577-580 (29 January 2009) | doi:10.1038/nature07716.   Obviously this was written last October, before PolarStern took off, reinforcing the notion that they were determined to do this despite its lack of scientific value.

    "Ocean iron fertilization is simply no longer to be taken as a viable option for mitigation of the CO2 problem," says Hein de Baar, an oceanographer at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research in Texel.
    Nr. 025/09
    Berlin, 26.01.2009

    Federal Environment Ministry regrets approval by Federal Research Ministry of iron enrichment experiment

    A spokesperson for the Federal Environment Ministry has released the following statement on the decision by the Federal Research Ministry (BMBF) to approve the controversial LOHAFEX marine fertilisation experiment:

    The Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) takes note with regret of the decision by the Federal Research Ministry to approve the LOHAFEX experiment. Our reservations concerning LOHAFEX will remain until there is conclusive clarification of whether this project is compatible with the decisions of the 9th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The BMU is of the opinion that this is not the case since the experiments are not carried out in coastal waters and independent monitoring of the experiment is not guaranteed. Furthermore, the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) considers the "risk assessment" to contain gaps that should have been clarified.

    Internationally, marine fertilisation is extremely controversial as there are doubts to the effectiveness of the method. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) - the joint scientific advisory body of the Federal Research and Federal Environment Ministry - have repeatedly highlighted in their reports that the risks of marine fertilisation regarding the indirect impacts on marine ecosystems are very hard to assess. They therefore reject this process.

    In contrast to the assertion by the Federal Research Ministry that this is purely a case of basic research, the head of the project at the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) was quoted in a Spiegel interview as saying that the objections to iron enrichment would be "swept aside" when helplessness in the face of climate change became apparent.

    The AWI project head thus clearly contradicts the Federal Research Ministry. The comments by the AWI project head in support of marine fertilisation were a primary cause of the critical international response. The Indian media, too, in part considers the project to be the launch of a lucrative market worth billions. In the Federal Environment Ministry's view, attempting to halt climate change by interfering with our marine ecosystems is a disastrous approach. This scientifically unsound thinking has been a direct cause of the climate crisis and is in no way suited to solving the problem.

    The Federal Environment and Federal Research Ministry agreed that iron enrichment must not be a climate policy instrument. What is important now is to make this clear to the AWI and to ensure that the vision of a future market for "marine fertilisation" does not develop in India or anywhere else in the world.

    ... if you are still interested in the Lohafex expedition please take a look at www.lohafex.de.