"Anonymous" protests my titular reaction to and summary of the article at the end of the link, namely that "Yet Another Geoengineering Technofix Fails to Live Up to the Hype." "Anonymous" comments:
The article did not say that iron fertilization is infeasible. It says that diatoms blooms sequester more carbon than other kinds of blooms and that diatoms didn't bloom because of local conditions (lack of silicic acid).
So, you contend that the article is about how this technofix does indeed live up to the hype?
Let's see now.
Title of the article: "Setback for climate technical fix."
Opening paragraphs: "The biggest ever investigation into 'ocean fertilisation' as a climate change fix has brought modest results. The idea is that putting iron filings in the ocean will stimulate growth of algae, which will absorb CO2 from air. But scientists on the Lohafex project, which put six tonnes of iron into the Southern Ocean, said little extra carbon dioxide was taken up."
First quotation from an expert: "There's been hope that one could remove some of the excess carbon dioxide... But our results show this is going to be a small amount, almost negligible."
There's a lot more where that came from.
Is it that you are hoping people don't follow the link?
Is it that you see only what you want to see?
Is it that you think my statement that this technofix fails to live up to its hype is equivalent to saying experiment conclusively demonstrates logical impossibility of geoengineering intervention yielding any impact?
If yes, it isn't, so you're wrong.
But, then, since I'm not a futurologist (corporate-militarist hack) I need much more than handwaving about logical possibility to become enthusiastic about a proposed intervention, especially one that would yield so many effects at such a scale into such complex systems in the face of so many unknowns. But I hardly expect that sort of intelligence from futurologists, even though, of course, as we all know, they are all soopergeniuses.
I liked this part of the article especially:
Some scientists have long argued that the iron fertilisation vision was flawed because lack of iron was not always the factor limiting growth; and this result appears to provide some backing for that contention.
But Kenneth Coale, director of Moss Landing Marine Laboratories in California, who has led several iron fertilisation experiments, said the initial burst of phytoplankton growth was consistent with previous findings.
"To date we've conducted experiments in what amounts to 0.04% of the ocean's surface," he told BBC News. "All have indicated that iron is the key factor controlling phytoplankton growth, and most have indicated that there is carbon flux (towards the sea floor) -- this is one that didn't."
"A key aim for the future," he said, "was to understand better the various ecosystems contained in the ocean in order that fertilisation could be conducted in areas containing the 'right' kinds of organism."
In other words, there are debates here rather than cocksure certainties, and these debates are proceeding in the direction of ever more modest and qualified claims, as is so overabundantly usual in such matters that it is always safe to assume that those who pretend otherwise will be revealed in the fullness of time to be charlatans and dupes.
And so, the futurological technofix scenarists are substituting hope for knowledge, exactly as usual, whomping up enthusiasm and writing checks their asses can't cash, exactly as usual, surfing "trends" and coughing up hairballs of self-congratulatory narrative in the hope that some of these just-so stories will "catch on" and become "fashionable notions" they can hang their hats on for a while so that they can play at being technical experts rather than just science fiction authors who can't actually manage to produce science fiction with actual characters or narrative drama or compelling themes or realistic settings and so they pretend instead that their fictions are hypotheses of some kind, exactly as usual, indulging in facile public relations for incumbent interests while selling others, and often themselves, on the notion that this makes them some kind of scientists somehow, paragons of scientific rationality "on the edge," supreme champions of science even, exactly as usual.
Possibly they are doing this because geoengineering seems such an easy fix compared to actually altering (through regulation, price incentivation, education, better design) our manifestly idiotic extractive-industrial-consumer behavior? Possibly they are doing this because geoengineering solutions tend to look so linear, simple, monolithic in the face of the terrorizing dynamisms, complexities, unknowns of the problems they would address and this appeals to the mindset of instrumental rationality one finds in so many engineers, investors, and wonks (not to mention the masterminds in the Department of Defense) who are the real players in this scene. Possibly they are doing this because in their industrial-scaled hugeness and capital-intensive centralization such geoengineering scenarios require appealing genuflections to the status quo in the face of environmental devastations of that status quo, approaches that conduce especially to the benefit of corporate-militarist incumbent interests who will still finance and own these would-be pharaonic sooper-projects, decide how they are administered in backrooms and CEO suites, need establishment media hacks, er, expert gatekeepers, to seal the deal and sooth public nerves and coddle the "talent," and so on.
I've said it before, I'll say it again. Futurology is the quintessence of neoliberal discourse: Hyperbolizing derangements of sense in the service of elite or incumbent advantage, peddled as neutral cost-benefit analysis. Hype, hence that word in my title.
By way of conclusion, by the way, I do not utterly and absolutely discount the whole set of interventions that could conceivably get filed under the heading "geoengineering" as ways to think about ameliorating at least some environmental problems. Extractive-industrial-petrochemical-technoscience got us into most of these difficulties and possibly at least sometimes it will turn out that interventions arising out of that scale really are the best on offer to address them.
But I am very skeptical of these scenarios. I am very skeptical of the people who peddle them so enthusiastically. I am very skeptical of the people who nod knowingly and approvingly when these notions are spun. And I am even more skeptical of those who aren't skeptical about all this smoke and mirrors. And among these I definitely include those who say they're skeptical and then always advocate them anyway, so demonstrating their skepticism isn't worth a damn.