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Australia Pushes for Far-Reaching Ban on Geoengineering Scheme 'Ocean Fertilization'

'Ocean fertilization' does more harm than good, leaders warn

Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Image taken on January 27, 2011 shows the sun rising in Indonesia's Wakatobi archipelago. Australia said it was pushing for a ban Thursday of any commercial use of a pioneering technique to reduce the impacts of climate change by "fertilizing" the world's oceans with iron, warning of significant risks. (Photo: AFP)

Australia is working on a legally binding ban on the controversial geoengineering technique known as ocean fertilization, Agence France-Presse reports Wednesday.

Ocean fertilization involves dumping iron into the ocean to fertilize plankton on the ocean floor—which, as the theory goes, would absorb carbon dioxide before it is released into the atmosphere.

However, iron dumping has drawn ire from environmentalists around the world, as it has been found to be responsible for "damaging toxic algae blooms, increasing ocean acidification, and depleting oxygen in deep waters," as The Age reports.

The Canadian Government was granted the tongue-in-cheek "Dodo Award" at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2012, for failing to to act when a rogue business team illegally 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.

As a legally binding ban on the process is yet to be developed, this week Australia joined with South Korea and Nigeria to push through an amendment to an international treaty on dumping-related ocean pollution—the London Protocol—that would legally ban iron dumping until more research is done.

"The amendment seeks to put mandatory regulation in place around the practice of ocean fertilization," said Australian Environment Minister Tony Burke.

"Adoption of Australia's proposed amendment would mean that the 42 parties to the London Protocol would take a precautionary approach while more research is undertaken," he said.

"It prohibits commercial ocean fertilization activities, while allowing for legitimate scientific research to identify potential benefits and ways to safely manage the process."

The amendment will be taken up at a treaty meeting in October.


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