Fertilization workshop report

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					          FORUM REPORT : IUCN STAFF

                              Gabriel Grimsditch
Rapporteur’s NAME

World Conservation Forum Workshop Report

EV ENT       1543         DATE- October 9           TIME – 14:30-16:00
ROOM                      Plenary B

TITLE                     Reversing climate change: Is marine geo-engineering a solution?

ORGANI ZER                IUCN Global Marine Programme

MODERATOR                 David Shukman (BB C)


    -   To present the current state of knowledge of ocean fertilization technology and to address its
        potential uses, abuses and ecological impacts (including any potential benefits and damages).
    -   To provide debat e on climatic, ecological, ethical and technologic al pros and cons of ocean
        fertilization schemes proposed as methods for combating climate change.
    -   Stimulate discussion between an industry repres entative engaged in developing and testing ocean
        fertilization technologies and scientists, economists, and lawyers to air perspectives, find common
        ground and understand differences.

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Five experts provided presentations on ocean fertilization from scientific, commercial, ethical, legal and
economic perspectives. This was followed by a debate bet ween panelists moderated by David Shukman
of the BB C.
Presenters were
1) Dr. Ken Buesseler of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (a scientist who has conducted several
ocean fertilization experiments)
2) Dr. Margaret Leinen of Climos (a company proposing ocean fertilization for commercial use on the
carbon credit market)
3) Dr. David Santillo of Greenpeac e (a scientist ad vocating extreme caution for ocean fertilization and
banning its use on the carbon credit market)
4) Dr. Francis Vorhies of Earthmind (an economist examining the viability of ocean fertilization on the
carbon credit market)
5) Dr. Philomene Verlaan of the University of Hawaii (a lawyer and oceanographer examining the
implications under the UN Law of the Sea Convention of ocean fertilization).


The basic concepts underlying ocean fertilization were ex plained by Dr. Buesseler (iron or other nutrients
added to the ocean to create additional plankton blooms with a view to removing additional carbon dioxide
from the atmosphere and sequestering it in the deep sea). This was followed by a pres entation on
responsible commercial approaches to this technology by Dr. Leinen of Climos. Dr. Leinen revealed that
Climos intends to fund “moderate” scale experiments in accordance with the rules under the London
Convention and Protocol on Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter,
including the carrying out of Environmental Impact Assessments. However, Dr. Santillo of Greenpeac e
argued that this would not be enough as the resulting changes in ocean ecosystems are not predictable or
reversible, and that geo-engineering is not an acceptable respons e to climate change due to our ignorance
of its outcomes, impacts and efficiency. Furthermore, not ed Dr. Verlaan, States must ensure that marine
geo-engineering projects comply with the UN Law of the Sea Convention, which, inter alia, requires all
States to protect and preserve the marine environment. Under the Convention, noted Dr. Verlaan, marine
geo-engineering projects, including those that involve ocean fertilization, might under certain
circumstances constitute pollution of the marine environment, and if geo-engineering ex periments cannot
meet the legal requirements for the protection of the marine environment they should not be allowed to go
forward. Finally, Dr. Vorhies provided an economic perspective on the viability of ocean fertilization on the
voluntary carbon market and questioned whether carbon offsets were efficient and permanent, and
whet her they would be perc eived favourably by the public.

Several key ideas and messages were raised at the event. These are indicated below. However opinions
varied and it would be difficult to say that there was a general consensus.

Need for increased information on the ocean requires marine scientific research:
   -   This may require carefully designed and controlled experimentation, possibly on larger and longer
   -   It is important to distinguish bet ween knowledge-driven research and research driven for
       commercial activities
   -   Scaling of research and any associated experimentation is key
   -   We cannot predict the effects of marine geo-engineering, in particular unint ended large-scale
   -   It is important to distinguish bet ween marine geo-engineering experiments and experiments

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        involving fertilization designed to improve our knowledge of , e.g, phytoplankton ecology and
    -   Research on ocean fertilization technologies for marine geo-engineering (climate change
        mitigation) purposes is arguably a distraction from the real solutions to climate change, i.e,
        reductions of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions at source.

Ocean fertilization as an option to mitigate climate change:
   -   It was argued by Dr. Leinen and Dr. Buesseler that stimulating plankton blooms to consume and
       sequester more carbon could assist in decreasing the CO 2 concentration in the atmosphere until
       our global energy economy can make the transition to fewer CO2 emissions.
   -   It is argued that bec ause so much carbon might be sequestered, ocean fertilization is an exciting
       prospect for the market -bas ed carbon trading, but it requires a solid scientific basis to move
       forward .So far this information, including that in support of the statement above, is lacking.
   -   Although it is unknown whether ocean fertilization is a plausible option for mitigating climate
       change, it is argued that it must be explored because it is necessary to have a portfolio of options
       for combating climate change.
   -   It is argued that giving politicians the option of marine geo-engineering is not optimally conducive
       to combating climate change, because it will further facilitate their delay in introducing the most
       effective and only long-term solution, namely the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions at
   -   It is argued that the conc ept of ocean fertilisation is morally indefensible as it relies on an assumed
       capacity of natural systems to assimilate and adapt to human -induced changes, rather than on
       actions which can be taken to avoid those changes, and therefore runs counter to fundamental
       principles of sustainability.

On legality of ocean fertilization:
    -  It was argued by Dr. Verlaan that if the environmental provisions of the Law of the Sea Convention
       had been implemented properly, this debate would probably not be happening, because
       anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions would be eliminated at source, and research would
       focus on improving our information on the oceans rather than on manipulating them to assimilate
       more anthropogenic wastes (e. g., GHG).
    -  Marine geo-engineering projects involving ocean fertilization must demonstrate that they do not
       pollute the marine environment, contrary to the requirements of the UN Law of the Sea
    -  In the context of marine geo-engineering projects, Art. 195 of the UN Law of the Sea Convention
       requires countries not to transfer damage or hazards (e.g., excessive atmos pheric greenhouse
       gases) from one area (the atmosphere) to another (the ocean) or trans form one type of pollution
       (e.g., potentially harmful concentrations of GHG in the atmos phere) into another (e. g., potentially
       harmful concentrations of GHG in the ocean).
    -  Ocean fertilization falls under the London Convention and London Protoc ol, and its regulation
       under these instruments is being considered by the parties.

On environmental impacts:
   -   It was argued by Dr. Santillo that the impacts of climate change on the oceans (e.g., ocean
       warming and acidification) may be potentially worse than the effects of on the oc eans marine geo -
       engineering involving oc ean fertilization, but the resulting changes in ocean ecosystems are not
       predictable or reversible.
   -   Given fundamental uncertai nties, limitations to scientific knowledge and assessment methods, any
       such judgment regarding relative magnitude of risks of fertilizing or not would essentially be a
       value judgment, not a scientific and technical one… and different actors clearly have di fferent
   -   Individual oc ean fertilization experiments could, in themselves, result in significant adverse
       impacts to the marine environment and other legitimat e uses of the sea, especially if conducted at
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        large scales and/or in proximity to particularly sensitive sea areas.
    -   However, even if the impacts of any particular experiment are deemed to be minor and transient, it
        is vital that such experiments are not considered in isolation from where they may inevitably lead,
        i.e. proposals for repeat ed and widespread fertilization of vast areas of the oceans in an attempt to
        mitigate climate change. In other words, it is hard to justify „proof of concept‟ experiments if the
        ultimate aim of repeated large-scale fertilization is deemed unacceptable as a resp onse to climate
    -   By definition, marine geo-engineering (including ocean fertilization) activities would be deigned to
        have major impacts on ocean ecosystems, and will inevit ably have major unintended
        consequences also, if they were to achieve their aim of influencing global climate.
    -   Monitoring impacts even of relatively small ocean fertilization experiments is no simple task.
        Fertilized „patches‟ move in three dimensions, sometimes over hundreds or thousands of
        kilometers during any one activity and monitoring can only ever provide information on a very
        small fraction of the volume fertilized. Moreover, unintended impacts may well occur beyond the
        fertilized patch and the area being monitored.

On carbon credits:
-Carbon credits cannot be issued until the carbon seque stered for at least 100 years at depths of at
least 1500 m can be persuasively quantified.
    -   It was argued by Dr. Vorhies that if a big company supports the research, then it could be used as
        a charitable carbon offset
    -   To get fertilization credits on the voluntary carbon market, public perception of the technology
        would have to be favourable or it would not be accept ed – public perception drives the market.
    -   If scientific research into ocean fertilization is allowed, for whatever purpose, it is essential that
        there are no underlying commercial interests in that research delivering any particular outcome.
        For this reas on, research projects must not be used for generating and selling carbon offsets or
        any other commercial purposes.


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    -   London Convention meeting, London, 27-31 October 2008
    -   United Nations Framework Convention on Climat e Change, Poznan, 1-12 December 2008
    -   Fact sheet on ocean fertilization to be distribut ed by IUCN at the UNFCCC in Poznan in December
    -   Workshop proceedings used to inform IUCN‟s official position on oc ean fertilization activities


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