Kiribati is Low But Not as low as Whale Shit at the Bottom of the Ocean
It is possible to cause a huge (short term possibly reversed) increase in carbon capture by algae by dumping iron sulfate in the ocean. On the other hand, uh, well, maybe it won’t work and you will just get a few tons of fish (not many tons of carbon containing detritus on the bottom of the ocean.
Now the general principal seems to be that, so long as there isn’t proof beyond reasonable doubt that a proposal will work, to stick to the tried and true and first do no harm but rather wait until the tundra melts, methane is released, and the climate is irreversibly altered.
This makes no sense. Conservatism may make sense if the choice is between the current state (which is not ideal) and gambling on something new. It makes no sense if one is careening towards a precipice, as we are.
There is an, as usual, interesting post at Vox.com. Kelsey Piper discusses the unfortunate fact that rogues might attempt to fight climate change without scientific proof that ocean fertilization works and without international regulation of ocean fertilization. Personally, I think the near certainty of climate catastrophe if we stick to the current approach is a more serious problem.
The current approach is international negotiations to reach non binding agreements which from which Donald Trump withdraws the second largest carbon emitter.
In contrast, the dangerous rogue approach is something allowed by current non law, conducted by Native Canadians which had the side effect of a record salmon harvest.
I want to address two questions. First should we dump Iron Sulfate in the open ocean. I think the answer to this question is obviously yes. I have read no argument with any trace of possible validity against it. I might add that it works better if mixed with silicate and seeded with marine diatoms. But in any case, I have seen no argument anywhere that there is a non negligible risk of undesirable side effects.
Yet the official response, such as it is, is to condemn the efforts and seize everything that can be seized.
I attempt to understand what the hell is going on after the jump.
But before that I note:
What happens when some individual or country wants to go big in the battle against climate change without buy-in from their neighbors? Could a country unilaterally pursue climate solutions that, unlike ocean iron dumping, pose substantial risks?
Note the insanity. In a post on ocean dumping of iron sulfate, Piper says the real issue isn’t any possible bad effects of ocean dumping, but the fact that someone might do something else which is bad some time. But note also that even a tiny country which has authority over a lot of ocean could unilaterally dump iron sulfate. The country doesn’t need a lot of land area. The country doesn’t need high altitude. The country’s average elevation might be two meters above sea level.
Why doesn’t Kiribati dump all the iron sulfate they can buy in the huge expanse of ocean around their tiny soon to be drowned atolls ? What do they have to lose ? Who is going to stop them ? The side effect would be more fish around Kirbati. The policy would make sense even if oceans weren’t rising.
OK so what’s the problem ?
1. Germans will German. Regulators got to regulate. There is almost no law of the sea. It is clear that some people are terrified by the absence of rules and regulators. So the principle is just don’t do it until there is a legal framework regulating it (everything is forbidden unless it is specifically allowed). The point is that this means don’t do it for the forseable future, because international negotiations move at the pace of a glacier (no not of current melting sliding glaciers in Greenland but of proper 19th century glaciers).
2. It is a distraction from cutting emissions. Here the bitter struggle with climate change deniers and their interested errors makes rational discussion difficult. Any discussion of geoengineering might play into the hands of opponents of cap and trade and carbon taxes. The struggle with them allows no other consideration. This is a second degree argument. I reject your reasoned argument, because people who reject all data might say something irresponsible. I think an important issue is the power of tribal thinking of us vs them. The ocean fertilizers are not enemies of the coal burners, and if you are not the enemy of my enemy, you are my enemy.
3. We should’t take irrevirsable actions until we know what the effects will be. Here the idea is that we don’t have to decide now, but can and should study the question to make sure we don’t make a mistake. The argument also is that it may already be too late to prevent catastrophic warming so we must act now. One of these arguments must be nonsense. The temptation to put off decisions based on the assumption that we are in a steady state is strong, but completely illogical.
4. No pain no gain. Here I think the fact that dumping iron sulfate in the open ocean would cost very little and would not force people to give up pointless luxuries explains why moralistic environmentalists hate the proposal. There are environmentalists for whom the sacrifice of pointless luxury and conspicuous consumption is the point. The argument is that we have sinned against the environment and must do penance. I am sure that this is an important factor. I see the same ilogic behind arguments against Keynesian fiscal stimulus (Michael Kinsley “I do believe that we have to pay a price for past sins” Michael Kinsley: “am I crazy” Narrator: yes)
There has to be some joke about how the solution based on Iron can not overcome the iron will of moralistic, regulation loving, sin hating Germans.
A couple of comments and questions.
Is there a danger that the algae produced by seeding would be harmful such as the red tide and brown algae afflicting the west coast of Florida? Is it true that salmon eat algae? Other sources say the fingerlings in the ocean eat zooplankton not phytoplankton. I suppose they could feed on other species which would feed on the phytoplankton. Mature salmon clearly feed on other fish, shrimp, and krill.
Isn’t there, in fact, a clear danger that those benefitting from the use of carbon emitting products, commodities, and systems would seize on this as an excuse to avoid their part of the problem and that people at large would allow it for the sake of their own convenience? I don’t think the guy you’re writing about claims that controlling emissions is unnecessary. This issue really has nothing to do with evangelical-like demands for penance.
Finally, there is nothing by way of regulation to prevent this sort of independent action. Look at the proliferation of plastic in the oceans.
Why take such a risk when we already know that the single biggest thing we as individuals can do to stop climate change is adopt a vegan diet. Every single serious scientific body, INCLUDING the ones that have proven climate change, have proven this to be the case. Unfortunately, less than 1/2 of 1 percent of Americans have made that change. That is what I HATE most: people who talk about climate change yet eat meat. Hypocrites of the HIGHEST order.
Do what the Union of Concerned Scientists, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the University of Oxford’s researchers, and the Rainforest Aliance, have all concluded to save the planet (many, many other scientific organizations are in line with them): Become vegans! You cannot be a meat-eating environmentalist. You’re just a big, big hypocrite unwilling to do their part to reduce their OWN GHG footprint!!!!!!
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Salmon don’t eat algae. Ocean food chains are long. I think there is no risk. There are large areas of the oceans with rich water (comes from the arctic and antarctic where glaciers add rock dust to the sea). The pattern is known. The ocean fertilization is nowhere near ultra fetilization of coastal waters with all the trouble that causes.
I don’t see much risk.
We could all adopt a vegan diet, but we won’t. You make policy with the humans you have not the ones you want. Telling people to go vegan to save the earth (like my younger daughter) will not work.
To take the problem seriously one has to deal not only with climate science, but also psychology, sociology and politics.
The problem that it will be used as an excuse is second order. No one claims that it is enough by itself except for those who claim that the climate isn’t changing, that it is changing for natural reasons and that climate change is good. Liars will lie. I don’t think the risk that they will have one more invalid argument is important.
Plants prefer an acidic soil. Trees and plants with yellowing leaves may suffer from chlorosis which is the result of not being able to draw nutrients from the soil. Adding FeSO4 to the soil changes the ph-value of the soil making it more acidic. The decay of iron (nails, etc.) appears to do the same thing for trees. I would wonder if adding FeSO4 would have a similar impact on the ocean. Joel may have that answer if you do not.
any rube goldberg solution to avoid having to drive less, or slower, or smaller.
don’t know about my moralizing, pleasure hating, puritan ethic, but i suspect you of much the same hate filled ideology when you cast scorn on those who don’t share your love of money.
but here is a hint for you: global warming is caused by burning fossil hydrocarbons, not by people who suspect you of enjoying yourself.
people who go around shouting about how logical they are, aren’t.
oh, as for having to pay for past sins. that’s the point of “sin.” ask anyone who wakes up one morning a hundred pounds overweight, or with a cough that won’t go away.
this is something humans discovered ten thousand years ago, even if they haven’t always been clear about the nature of cause and effect.
“you make policy with the humans you have; not the humans you want”
glad to learn that. it will save all that effort of trying to educate them.
my guess though, is that even if we all go vegan, we will all die from eating cars.
Robert you are correct here. But Why doesn’t some billionaire just offer to pay for Kiribati to do it? These Libertarians keep insisting that private charity will fill in for Government if you just stop taxing them. Maybe they should put their wallet where their mouth is.
i have learned to deeply distrust people who claim to represent “reason.”
everything is reasonable to the person who believes it. trouble is, the brain does don’t work on the basis of reason or truth. it works on the basis of association. that doesn’t mean people never get it right. but when they get it right it is for one of two reasons. first, nature is “reasonable”.. that is associations tend to repeat themselves when things associated to indeed have a reliable relation to each other. second, “education” tends to be an artificial presentation of associations that are reliable… including in their usefulness. related to the last, an individual who needs reliable answers can train himself to arrange his experiences so that associations present in nature are repeatedly presented to his mind (what we call “study.”
trouble is, none of this guarantees that associations which become established in the brain are reliable or “true.” which is why “science” requires that “reason” be tested by independent observers who may or may not observe the same associations. even that is not reliable, because once you have trained yourself that certain associations are “true” there is no brain mechanism to guarantee that, certainly not what the person calls “reason” or “logic.” so you can go your merry way believing something is true but all you really have is synaptic associations which do not reliably map the real world.
point of all this is that when you call yourself “reason” and announce that what robert says is “true” and essentially demand that some large scale action against nature be performed you are setting yourself up, and us, and nature for some catastrophe because you overlooked some “fact.”
we don’t know what unintended consequences might result from sowing the ocean with iron sulfide or some other planetary engineering “solution” “experts” may recommend. but surely by now we have seen enough of big projects causing great harm that we should not get all excited about finding a cheap and easy way to solve global warming.
especially when the cause is so obvious and the solution so simple and so likely to have enormous side benefits at a cost no greater than prying your cold dead fingers off the steering wheel of your car.
If the solution is so simple why hasn’t it been implemented anywhere yet? Seeding the ocean is not a solution, it is something to buy us time while we find a better solution. Bur Robert is right the situation is desperate. Desperate measures ate needed.
reason thus proves my point.
Your point being that you don’t think the situation is desperate? Nothing else makes any sense to me. It has nothing to do with me posing as a voice of reason (i.e. being hated by both sides in any debate). It has everything to do with your interpretation of the situation versus mine and Roberts.
i guess i didn’t make my point clear. it wasn’t especially about you. it was about the unreliability of “reason.”
the situation is indeed desperate. but desperate situations do not mean every desperate “solution” won’t make the situation worse.
neither does disagreeing with you mean that they hate you.
but if the situation is desperate enough they might have to tie you up to stop you from doing something really stupid.
Not every desperate solution will make the problem worse. How do you come to that conclusion? That is just nuts.
The one thing that for sure will make the problem is not trying anything. The greatest single problem on the left is the perfect always being the enemy of the good. In order to make things better, the first thing you need to need is stop moving in the wrong direction and start moving in the right direction. I keep repeating this over and over. We all need a bit of Zen. The Way is the Goal.
i said not every desperate solution won’t make the situation worse
that is not the same as “every desperate solution will make the situation worse.
it is not even “not every desperate solution will make the solution worse.”
the distinctions ARE matters of logic. but as we discussed the human brain does not work by logic how ever much it tells itself it does.
so lets get back to guesses about reality:
i guess that salting the ocean with iron sulfate may have consequences we won’t like. i think i know a little bit about bio-concentration and aaptation to strongly suspect you and Robert don’t. i am unwilling to make the experiment when the “logical” answer to climate change is to stop changing it, but i am not in love with my car and i don’t give a damn if the lights in las vegas go out.
as to your second note (this round) doing the right thing is not “doing nothing” and doing the wrong thing is not doing a good thing.
and not doing a wrong thing is not making the perfect the enemy of the good.
but i can see you and i are not going to get anywhere