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Monday, March 23, 2009

Yet Another Geoengineering Technofix Fails to Live Up to the Hype

Oh noes, futurologists, better get your rocketships ready to escape to your nanotech treasure cave in the asteroid belt, asap!


jimf said...

Well Golly, Batman, that's one of my favorite Tom Of Finland

(Old Tom's collections are usually shrinkwrapped when they appear
in the bookstore, but I recall a visit I made once to the book
department of the Virgin Megastore in Times Square, during which
some [ostensibly] straight boys got hold of an unwrapped
Taschen collection and were having one hell of a backslap-n-guffaw
session over it. Wonder what kind of "sessions" they had in
private when they got home.)

Anonymous said...

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).

Dale Carrico said...

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." Hm.

Opening grafs: "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*? 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 is a debate here, and its skewing in the direction of more qualified claims as usual, and so the technofixers were substituting hope for knowledge, whomping up enthusiasm and writing checks their asses couldn't cash, possibly because geoengineering seems an easy fix compared to actually altering our manifestly idiotic industrial-consumer behavior, not to mention appealing in its magnitude to huge-scaled corporate-state industrial approaches that conduce to the benefit of incumbents. Hype, hence that word in my title.

As it happens, I do not discount the whole set of interventions filed under the heading "geoengineering" as ways to think about ameliorating some environmental problems, but I am very skeptical of them, and even more skeptical of those who aren't (saying you're skeptical and then always advocating them isn't good enough).