Planet Earth

Rogue Geoengineer Illegally Dumped Tons of Iron Into the Pacific in July

80beatsBy Ashley P. TaylorOct 18, 2012 2:57 PM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news
 

The yellow and brown on this map of the western Canadian coast represent high concentrations of chlorophyll.

A California businessman lobbed 110 tons of iron into the ocean off the western coast of Canada this July, The Guardian

revealed on Monday, and he did it in violation of two international moratoria on such activity. Russ George wanted to stimulate the growth of phytoplankton to sell carbon credits

for the carbon dioxide that the tiny photosynthesizing organisms would take out of the atmosphere. Satellite images from August (above) showed that about 10,000 square kilometers of ocean greenery had already grown. This sort of iron dumping project is called "ocean fertilization"

because the iron acts like fertilizer to stimulate phytoplankton blooms. Scientists debate

whether or not this will actually sequester carbon, though one European experiment reported positive results

 this summer, and they worry about the damage that might be wrought by such dumping

. In addition to being scientifically controversial, ocean fertilization is banned by the UN's Convention on Biological Diversity

and the London Convention on marine dumping

. Apparently, none of this deterred Russ George. Neither did his past failures: In 2007, he established a company, Planktos Inc., and tried to "fertilize"

waters near the Galapagos and Canary islands in 2007 but aborted the plan

when the business venture failed and his boats were banned from Spanish and Portuguese ports. This time around, he established a company, Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation, in order to carry out his plans and got a local village to invest $1 million in it. George told the paper the two bans were but "mythology." The UN Convention on Biodiversity is meeting this week in India. Several governments and other groups are calling for them to upgrade the moratorium and give it some way of being enforced. Image via Giovanni/Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center/NASA

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Magazine Examples
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!

Subscribe

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Join
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

 
Subscribe
To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2021 Kalmbach Media Co.