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   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.