Category Archives: Geoengineering

Carbon Capture and Storage–A Bioenergy Myth!

Biofuelwatch co-director and GJEP partner Rachel Smolker has posted an important article on Bioenergy and Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) at the Washington Geoengineering Constortium website.

Smolker’s piece continues to build on and share her extensive knowledge and critique of bionenergy strategies touted by industry as “climate solutions.” Smolker makes a clear case that these strategies are false solutions to climate change and that environmental thinkers should not naively buy into these strategies.

The Washington Geoengineering Consortium is an initiative of the Global Environmental Politics program in the School of International Service at American University in Washington, DC. They are concerned with the social, political, and legal implications of geoengineering technologies.

Activists drop a banner and lockdown at Forth Energy's offices in 2012. Photo:



By Rachel Smolker, Biofuelwatch, 10 November 2014.

In 2012, Biofuelwatch published a report titled “Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage: Climate savior or dangerous hype?” We had long been working to reveal and oppose large scale industrial and commercial scale bioenergy in various forms ranging from ethanol refineries to soy and palm oil biodiesel to coal plants converting over to burn wood. We had argued that corn ethanol would drive biodiversity loss, cause food prices to rise and contribute to chronic hunger, while failing to reduce emissions, as it has in fact done. We argued that burning wood as a substitute for coal would create a new driver of deforestation, even as protecting forests and ecosystems was recognized as a “best line of defense” against climate change. We pointed out that large scale bioenergy was incompatible with the simultaneous push to quantify, commodify and protect land based carbon sinks and their “services” (often for the dubious purpose of providing offsets to polluters…). We highlighted the human rights impacts, as land grabs for bioenergy escalated in Africa and elsewhere. And we argued over and over that the carbon consequences of bioenergy were far from “climate friendly” or “carbon neutral,” a myth that has been perpetuated by industry proponents and even parroted by many naive environmentalists.


Washington Geoengineering Consortium definitions of geoengineering here.

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, Carbon Trading, Confronting Government Agencies, Corporate Globalization, Dr. Rachel Smolker, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change, Geoengineering, Land Grabs

The Billion Dollar Myths about GE Crops

Biotech companies flood the media with pro-GMO images. Monsanto alone spends more than $100 million on advertising and the industry as a whole spends billions on lobbying, buying ballots and votes, and other propaganda. It’s no wonder that Michael Specter of The New Yorker got it all wrong.

The Center for Food Safety took a close look that the myths Specter’s article, Seeds of Doubt, presented as fact, debunking them one by one.

Photo: Center for Food Safety

Photo: Center for Food Safety

Debunking Popular Myths about GE Crops Portrayed in the Media
By Debbie Barker, International Programs Director, Center for Food Safety, September 19th, 2014

The recent article, “Seeds of Doubt,” in the August 25, 2014 issue of The New Yorker by Michael Specter echoes common myths about genetically engineered (GE) crops and omits legitimate scientific critiques of the technology. The resulting article fails to deliver the high level of integrity and journalism that is expected of The New Yorker.


Rather than fully examining important scientific literature on genetic engineering, the author reasserts some of the most common—and most debunked—myths about the technology. Here are a few of the myths that The New Yorker perpetuated:

Myth: Genetically Engineered (GE) Crops are a Solution to Hunger and Malnutrition—After spending hundreds of millions of dollars and over 30 years of research, the promises that GE crops would feed the world and provide enhanced nutrition have failed.

Myth: GE Crops Use Fewer and Safer Chemicals—Instead, GE crops have increased overall usage of pesticides by hundreds of millions of pounds, and next generation GE crops will further increase pesticide usage of even stronger, more toxic herbicides such as 2,4-D and dicamba.

Myth: GE Crops Increase Yields—Research has demonstrated that herbicide-resistant corn and soybeans in the U.S. have shown no yield increases. Yield increases seen in Bt crops, including The New Yorker article’s citation of yield increases for Bt cotton in India, are primarily due to conventional breeding or other factors, not genetic engineering.

Read the rest of Barker’s critique here.


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Filed under Biofuelwatch, Genetic Engineering, Geoengineering, GMOs, Uncategorized

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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Filed under Climate Change, Earth Radio, Earth Watch, Geoengineering

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