Category Archives: Geoengineering

17 Groups call on Ecover and Method to drop extreme genetic engineering plans

June 2, 2014. Source: ETC Group

Photo from ETC group

Photo from ETC group

San Francisco, Calif.– In an open letter released today 17 national and international consumer, environmental, women’s health and farming groups called on leading “natural” cleaning and personal care products manufacturer Ecover and its U.S.-based subsidiary, Method Products Inc., to cancel plans to use oils and other ingredients derived from synthetic biology, a new and unregulated set of genetic engineering techniques. Earlier this month, Ecover announced it would switch to using oils produced by synthetic biology company Solazyme Inc. (SZYM) via synthetically engineered algae which feed on sugar.
The organizations, including Friends of the Earth, Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, Women’s Voices for the Earth, Clean Production Action, Organic Consumers Association, and ETC Group, as well as watchdog and farmer groups in Brazil concerned about the environmental impacts of increased demand for Brazilian sugarcane, say the use of synthetic biology ingredients contradicts Ecover and Method’s branding as “sustainable” and “ecologically sound.”
“Synthetic biology is a new area of extreme genetic engineering and there are no regulations yet in place to deal with the implications of these new synthetic organisms. Our ability to even assess the risks is lagging way behind,” said Jim Thomas of ETC Group. “A wider switch to synthetic biology ingredients is likely to cause serious harm to biodiversity and farmers, and it is disappointing that Ecover and Method are leading the charge.”
Synthetic biology is the practice of artificially constructing genetic material such as DNA in order to create new forms of life or attempt to ‘reprogram’ existing organisms, such as yeast and algae. Synthetic biology companies claim that they can now generate millions of new, untested organisms per day. If a fraction of these synthetic organisms were released, the potential effects on health, the environment and farmer’s livelihoods are wide-ranging – from relatively benign to ecological and economic disruption.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Corporate Globalization, Geoengineering, Greenwashing

Earth Watch: Dr. Rachel Smolker on geoengineering in the latest UN climate report

kpfk_logoDr. Rachel Smolker, co-director of Biofuelwatch, discusses the inclusion of dangerous and unproven technologies to suck carbon out of the atmosphere in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.

Global Justice Ecology Project teams up with the Sojourner Truth show on KPFK Pacifica Los Angeles for a weekly Earth Minute each Tuesday and Earth Watch interview each Thursday.

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IPCC report proposes sucking carbon out of the air as climate fix

By Martin Lukacs, April 7, 2014. Source: The Guardian

A biomass plant in Metz, eastern France. A UN report has suggested burning biomass then pumping the released carbon underground could provide a fix for climate change. Photograph: Jean-Christophe Verhaegen/AFP/Getty Images

A biomass plant in Metz, eastern France. A UN report has suggested burning biomass then pumping the released carbon underground could provide a fix for climate change. Photograph: Jean-Christophe Verhaegen/AFP/Getty Images

An upcoming UN report suggests that unproven technologies to suck carbon out of the air might be a fix for climate change, according to a leaked draft obtained by the Guardian.

Scientists and government officials gather in Berlin this week ahead of Sunday’s publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s third part of its series of blockbuster climate change reports, which deals with policies addressing the emissions that drive global warming.

But environmentalists criticised the report’s inclusion of a controversial new technique that would involve burning biomass – trees, plant waste, or woodchips – to generate electricity, and then capturing the released carbon, pumping it into geological reservoirs underground.

Proponents of the technique – known as bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) – suggest that regrown trees and crops might sequester additional carbon, making the technology “negative emission” because it might reduce the overall amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Continue reading

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Geoengineering, Green Economy, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests

Five facts CBC listeners didn’t hear from Canada’s geoengineering cheerleader

By Jim Thomas, April 3, 2014. Source: The Media Coop

David Keith's preferred geoengineering scheme involves spraying sulphuric acid into the atmosphere.  Photo: ETC Group

David Keith’s preferred geoengineering scheme involves spraying sulphuric acid into the atmosphere. Photo: Jim Thomas

Last Sunday, CBC listeners across Canada enjoyed their morning coffee and took care of a few chores around the house while the calm, mellifluous vocal cadences of Michael Enright and his guest David Keith washed over them. Keith, Enright said while introducing his guest, is a prominent and well-respected scientist, and the author of “The Case for Climate Engineering.”

Although both David Suzuki and Al Gore had branded Keith’s proposals “insane, utterly mad and delusional in the extreme”  Enright took pains to reassure listeners that his guest — a Harvard professor — was perfectly sane. Enright was kinder to Keith than Stephen Colbert had been a few months previous, and so unfortunately avoided a number of tough questions.

Climate Geoengineering is the process of attempting to counteract climate change by large-scale methods other than reducing carbon emissions. These include spraying tonnes of sulphuric acid into the atmosphere (Keith’s preferred option), mounting giant space mirrors to reflect sunlight and slow its warming effects, dumping tonnes of iron filings into the ocean to stimulate plankton growth, and sucking carbon out of the atmosphere with giant fans. Continue reading

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Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Change, False Solutions to Climate Change, Geoengineering

UN delegates dodge geoengineering bullet point

March 30, 2014. Source: ETC Group

Image: ETC Group

Image: ETC Group

The latest instalment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Assessment Report (AR5), released today, contains no reference to geoengineering in its Summary for Policymakers, though it attributes a slew of negative effects to so-called planet hacking in its full report. Released after a week-long negotiating session of Working Group II (WGII, which assesses the human and ecological vulnerabilities to climate change and options to adapt), today’s report represents a precarious victory over ongoing pressure within the IPCC – by geoengineering proponents and some governments (e.g., Russia, the USA, Canada and the UK) – to legitimize geoengineering as a solution to climate change.

The release of WGII’s report could also simply reflect the calm before the storm; geoengineering is expected to return in force when Working Group III (WGIII) meets in Berlin next month.
Unlike Working Group I (WGI), whose contribution to AR5 released last September included bullet points referring to so-called Solar Radiation Management and Carbon Dioxide Removal technologies, WGII did not mention geoengineering in its Summary for Policymakers. The Summary — selected text from a much longer report — is especially influential because it is negotiated line-by-line and agreed by governments.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Change, False Solutions to Climate Change, Geoengineering, Green Economy

Fossils put dent in geoengineering claims

Note: Well now that we’ve debunked this crackpot scheme, we can refocus on the priorities — like leaving fossil fuels in the ground, and transforming an economy based in extractive industry and relations.

-The GJEP Team

By Becky Oskin, March 20, 2014. Source: Live Science

Photo: Peter Barritt/Alamy

Photo: Peter Barritt/Alamy

During Earth’s last ice age, iron dust dumped into the ocean fertilized the garden of the sea, feeding a plankton bloom that soaked up carbon dioxide from the air, a new study confirms.

But the results deal a blow to some geoengineering schemes that claim that people may be able use iron fertilization to slow global warming. The planet’s natural experiment shows it would take at least a thousand years to lower carbon dioxide levels by 40 parts per million — the amount of the drop during the ice age.

Meanwhile, carbon dioxide is now increasing by 2 parts per million yearly, so in about 20 years human emissions could add another 40 parts per million of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Levels currently hover around 400 parts per million.

“Even if we could reproduce what works in the natural world, it’s not going to solve the carbon dioxide problem,” said Alfredo Martínez-García, a climate scientist at ETH Zurich in Switzerland and author of the study, published today (March 20) in the journal Science. Continue reading

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Filed under False Solutions to Climate Change, Geoengineering, Oceans

Geoengineering side effects could be potentially disastrous, research shows

By John Vidal, February 25, 2014. Source: The Guardian

Geoengineering the planet's climate: even when applied on a massive scale, the most that could be expected is a temperature drop of about 8%, new research shows. Photograph: Nasa/REUTERS

Geoengineering the planet’s climate: even when applied on a massive scale, the most that could be expected is a temperature drop of about 8%, new research shows. Photograph: Nasa/REUTERS

Large-scale human engineering of the Earth’s climate to prevent catastrophic global warming would not only be ineffective but would have severe unintended side effects and could not be safely stopped, a comparison of five proposed methods has concluded.

Science academies around the world as well as some climate activists have called for more research into geoengineering techniques, such as reflecting sunlight from space, adding vast quantities of lime or iron filings to the oceans, pumping deep cold nutrient-rich waters to the surface of oceans and irrigating vast areas of the north African and Australian deserts to grow millions of trees. Each method has been shown to potentially reduce temperature on a planetary scale.

But researchers at the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Germany, modelled these five potential methods and concluded that geoengineering could add chaos to complex and not fully understood weather systems. Even when applied on a massive scale, the most that could be expected, they say, is a temperature drop of about 8%. Continue reading

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Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Change, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Geoengineering, Green Economy

What is climate geoengineering? Word games in the ongoing debates over a definition

By Rachel Smolker, February 12, 2014. Source: TruthOut

(Photo: Kai Morgener / Flickr)

(Photo: Kai Morgener / Flickr)

Climate geoengineering advocates have long argued over how to actually define the term “geoengineering.” The precise details of that definition are important for various reasons, not the least of which is that it will determine what likely is to be subjected to the scrutiny and potentially complex and difficult legal governance processes that such a global scale climate-tweak effort would necessarily involve.

Already, as of 2010, the Convention on Biological Diversity, a treaty that 193 UN member countries (all other than the Holy See, Andorra and the United States) have ratified, adopted a de-facto moratorium on climate geoengineering in 2010. That was based in part on previous deliberations and decisions on one particular form of geoengineering, ocean iron fertilization, which also is regulated under the London Convention. Those decisions were negotiated and agreed in painstaking process, with each word and its implications carefully weighed in the balance.1 Obviously, there is much need to specify exactly what is geoengineering and, thus, subject to the moratorium or any other legal ruling.

For most people, it seems intuitively clear that, for example, spewing sulphate aerosols into the atmosphere – a technology in the category of “solar radiation management” (SRM) clearly would be considered “geoengineering.” We would not consider doing that for any other reason or intent – there are known anticipated serious risks and dangers, etc. Continue reading

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Filed under Carbon Trading, Climate Change, Commodification of Life, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change, Geoengineering, Green Economy, Oceans, Pollution, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests

Geoengineering the sky is not ‘normal’

Note: Rachel Smolker is the co-Director of Biofuelwatch and a member of the Steering Committee of the Campaign to STOP GE Trees.

By Rachel Smolker, December 9, 2013. Source: Huffington Post

In the wake of the climate negotiations in Warsaw, the consensus appears near universal: the international process is not going to deliver, and it is up to countries and communities to go it on their own. For some, that means taking serious and dramatic steps to reduce emissions. For others, like Bangladesh or the island nations, it means finding a way to survive the consequences of climate change with little help from the international community. For all of us, it means facing a future of weather extremes, crop failures and potential disruption of virtually everything on an unprecedented scale. For advocates of climate geoengineering, the failure of global agreement is wind in their sails: “More reasons” why drastic measures such as spewing sulphate particles into the stratosphere, or “fertilizing” the ocean with iron filings, or burning and burying billions of tons biomass (as biochar or “bioenergy with carbon capture and storage”) should be seriously considered and research should be gloriously funded.

Of course the converse argument is that if global agreement on addressing climate change cannot be achieved, how can we possibly expect any global consensus on, or governance of “technomanagement” of the atmosphere where the risks of serious negative consequences, for some people in some places, at least, are so grave?

This worries me profoundly, and apparently others as well. It is why faculty from Johns Hopkins University and American University recently launched a new, Washington DC based “Climate Geoengineering Consortium”.The stated goal of the consortium, perhaps laudable, is “to generate space for perspectives from civil society actors and the wider public, to produce a heightened level of engagement around issues of justice, agency, and inclusion.” Perhaps I am too skeptical, but “generating space” for a debate seems a bit vague. This new consortium recently organized a meeting, slated as a “closed door” meeting of civil society representatives. Closed meetings for civil society always make me a little nervous. Especially when the topic is planetary scale interference with the global commons — the life support systems of our planet!

I’m not sure really how I ended up on the list of invitees, but I decided to attend. The meeting was held in a stark space at Johns Hopkins, with the requisite sleek furnishings and snack plates wrapped securely in sparkling plastic. Nobody in attendance was a shade darker than a bowl of oatmeal, all were dressed in drab, illuminated by glowing computers, tablets and smartphones. Represented were staff from Johns Hopkins and American University, as well as the conservative American Enterprise Institute (Lee Lane), Bipartisan Policy Center, NASA (Mike McCracken), the renowned blogger, Joe Romm, and long time (but now retired) Friends of the Earth director, Brent Blackwelder. There were representatives from U.S. Climate Action Network, Greenpeace, Food and Water Watch and various others. Certainly more diverse than some meetings, but even I could not avoid the sensation of being sort of a token.
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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Geoengineering

Big business allowed to pre-cook climate negotiations behind closed doors – for the foreseeable future

October 17th 2013.  Source: Corporate Europe Observatory

Next month’s UN climate talks in Warsaw, aka COP19, will be remembered as ‘the Corporate COP’. While the international climate negotiations have become progressively more oriented towards the needs of big business – and less around the needs of the climate – this year it has reached new heights, in particular the ‘pre-COP’ organised by Poland’s Minister for Environment Marcin Korolec: dirty industry were invited to precook the negotiations before it has even begun. What’s more worrying is that Korolec and the UN want to make such blatant corporate capture a permanent fixture at all talks.

Last week’s ‘pre-COP’ saw around 40 ministers and negotiators meet for three days with representatives from big business. Some of the most polluting, climate-damaging companies were present, including chemicals giant BASF, cement producer Cemex, builder of Poland’s biggest coal plant Alstom and Poland’s biggest coal, oil and gas company PGE. Also present were corporate lobby groups like employers federation BusinessEurope, their Polish counterparts Lewiatan, the American International Business Council and the Brazil National Confederation of Industry, all of whom have been lobbying against tougher climate regulations.

As already reported on this blog, the meeting to decide this November’s negotiating agenda was an invite only affair for government and business, with civil society excluded. So no public scrutiny, no accountability, and only the Minister’s own conclusions to indicate what was discussed. But Korolec, in his post-meeting comments, saw that as a good thing:

“I am very much satisfied with the meeting. We had an honest and open dialogue among the ministers, which is only possible to achieve at closed, unofficial sessions.” Continue reading

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Filed under Climate Change, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Corporate Globalization, False Solutions to Climate Change, Geoengineering, Greenwashing, UNFCCC