Nanotechnology or not: Iron seeding of ocean seems premature at best

Regular readers of Nanodot know that we often disagree with ETC Group — but not always. They have issued a press release condemning a plan by a private firm to seed the ocean with iron particles in an effort to fight global warming. An excerpt:

As worrying, Planktos boasts on their website that the iron they dump will be in nanoparticle form because nanoparticles float longer than normal particles.(8) (although Planktos have given contrary information in person). If this is true, then the Planktos experiment may be the largest intentional release of engineered nanoparticles ever undertaken.

So it’s not clear whether the iron particles are nanoscale or not. In any case, ETC Group opposes such geoengineering efforts and wants the UN to make climate decisions. Now, while Foresight normally favors “bottom-up” problem-solving, this Planktos project appears to be taking the idea rather far. It’s not clear that freelance efforts by one company to change ocean chemistry are a good idea at this point. This seeding project seems premature at the very best.

On the other hand, if global warming becomes as serious a problem as many expect, then some kind of geoengineering project may eventually be needed, and in that case the UN may not be the right entity to make those decisions. They may be too slow and politicized — we might all be cooked well-done before they took action. But having one company making the decisions doesn’t seem to make sense either. We would need something in between, probably.

The Planktos announcement also mentions planting trees as another of their efforts to reduce the climate problem, but those of you who read the news may have noticed a surprising new development recently: the claim that while tropical trees help reduce global warming, trees in northern areas make it worse. And that’s where Planktos is planting. I’m no expert on global warming, but maybe Planktos isn’t either. —Christine

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