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Illegal Scheme Exemplifies Threat of Geoengineering

Violates UN Resolutions, Could Worsen Global Warming

Common Dreams staff

Yellow and brown colors show relatively high concentrations of chlorophyll in August 2012, after iron sulphate was dumped into the Pacific Ocean as part of a controversial geoengineering scheme. (Photo: Giovanni/Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center/NASA.)

A California businessman duped an indigenous village into spending $1 million on a geoengineering project that was "a blatant violation of international resolutions"—and that scientists say could exacerbate global warming and ocean acidification.

Russ George dumped 100 tons of iron sulphate into the Pacific ocean about 200 nautical miles west of the islands of Haida Gwaii, "one of the world's most celebrated, diverse ecosystems," Martin Lukacs of the Guardian reported Monday.

The iron spawned an artificial plankton bloom as large as 10,000 square kilometers, which Kristina M. Gjerde, a  senior high seas advisor for the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said "appears to be a blatant violation of two international resolutions … and does not appear to even have had the guise of legitimate scientific research."

"It is difficult if not impossible to detect and describe important effects that we know might occur months or years later," said John Cullen, an oceanographer at Dalhousie University. "Some possible effects, such as deep-water oxygen depletion and alteration of distant food webs, should rule out ocean manipulation. History is full of examples of ecological manipulations that backfired."

George convinced the indigenous village of Haida Gwaii to spend more than $1 million of its own funds on the project. They were told the "salmon enhancement project" would benefit the ocean.

Guujaaw, president of Haida Gwaii, told the Guardian that the village council would not have agreed had they known the project violated international convention.

"It is now more urgent than ever that governments unequivocally ban such open-air geoengineering experiments," he said. "They are a dangerous distraction providing governments and industry with an excuse to avoid reducing fossil fuel emissions."


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