Shady Geoengineering Project has Shady Government Connections

After reading some of the discussion going on in the comments section of both The Guardian and the CBC’s website regarding the geoengineering project that took place off British Columbia, I wanted to follow-up on a sentiment echoed in the following comment from the CBC site,

It’s an experiment. Now, we look at all the results and see if there is any downside to the action. So far, so good.

That was one of the over arching themes that many brought up, given all the uncertainty about the procedure, and the calls from international agencies for more research, many commenters feel that this project will provide the necessary answers to move forward. While this experiment will probably yield some results, it is very unlikely that the results will be usable, and will likely just raise more questions. Admittedly, until more is known about the methods and the persons involved in the experiment it will be difficult to critically analyze the study, but there are just too many red flags (e.g., Mr. Russ George’s history, and the criticisms of the practice) right now that are troublesome. Perhaps none more than the fact that driving force behind this project only focuses on a few narrow aspects, mainly profit, and disregards others, mainly the environment and the Haida Nation. With so many unanswered questions about the process of iron fertilization (e.g., the impacts of other materials released with the iron, the amount and impact of other greenhouse gases produced during decomposition of the bloom, the extent of hypoxia and anoxia during the decay process, etc. ad infinitum), testing the process in the open ocean, without scientific oversight/monitoring seems quite foolish. There is a need to distinguish legitimate scientific experiments from publicity stunt attempts at commercializing RedBull iron fertilization for the carbon credit market.

The world renowned Experimental Lakes Area, a research facility like no other, soon to be no longer. Above, Lake 226 was divided with a curtain to examine the causes of algal blooms, the upper divide of the lake received phosphorus addition. This research was crucial in the policy decision too limit phosphates from detergents and waste-water treatment plants.

The sad irony about this project having taken place off the Canadian coast, is that Canada used to be uniquely equipped to answer these types of large scale, ecological questions. Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) is a truly unique facility with one of their primary goals being To better understand global threats to the environment through knowledge gained from whole-ecosystem, experimental, scientific research. Granted they are freshwater lakes, but some of the more pertinent questions about geoengineering could still be addressed in these systems. Unfortunately the ELA, which costs $600,000 per year to operate, is being shut down by the current administration, a decision that has been derided by renowned scientists and organizations around the world.

In addition to cutting the ELA, the government has also severely cut funding to The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).  In a letter to the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Peter Hodson describes what the cuts will mean,

DFO has cut 400 positions, including all 55 scientists and technologists involved in environmental toxicology and chemistry. As a consequence of the cutbacks there will no longer be any analytical chemistry labs in DFO. While the cuts are a small percentage of the total departmental budget, they represent 100% of the departmental resources devoted to chemical pollution. They will impair DFO’s capacity to protect fish and fish habitat, to respond to chemical crises, and to provide advice re: environmental protection to those who are developing government policy.

The demise of the DFO’s contaminant research program, including the termination of the lone marine mammal toxicologist is quite troubling as this would, and should, be exactly the type of program and persons involved with the investigation of the effects of this shady geoengineering project. Sadly the government’s budget cuts have limited our ability to not only preemptively study the effects of these large scale ecosystem level experiments, they have also hampered our ability to respond to them when they unexpectedly occur. Even more sad, and troubling, is that this project may not have been so unexpected.

Today The Guardian (who is really on top of this story!) is reporting that the Canadian government was aware of the plans to dump iron ore into the ocean. The Guardian claims to have seen government correspondence which indicates that Environment Canada officers met with Mr. John Disney’s Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation (HSRC) in June and expressed their misgivings about any ocean fertilisation going forward, but appear to not have taken further action. Mr. George told the Guardian

Canadian government people have been helping us. We’ve had workshops run where we’ve been taught how to use satellites resources by the Canadian space agency. [The government] is trying to ‘cost-share’ with us on certain aspects of the project. And we are expecting lots more support as we go forward

CBC’s As It Happens interviewed Mr. Disney about the role of the Canadian government in this project,

I’ve been in touch with many departments within the federal ministry. All I’m saying is that everyone from the Canadian Revenue Agency down to the National Research Council and Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada – these people, they’ve all known about this.

Environment Canada officials refuse to comment on the issue, saying the matter is currently under investigation. The apparent complicity of the Canadian government in this project, combined with the crippling of environmental programs across the country through budgetary cuts, is very sad and troubling for Canadians.

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2 thoughts on “Shady Geoengineering Project has Shady Government Connections

  1. At one time, Canadian environmental regulators had a reputation for transparency and accountability. Now, alas, the senior ranks of the same regulators have become politicised in my view and the transparency and accountability has all but vanished.

    Sad.

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