And So Ad Infinitum

Are you filled with confidence? Does the handling of the economic crisis cause your heart to swell with pride, as our political leaders and financial gurus flaunt their total inability to comprehend what’s been going on, and how to cure it?

These people have had the best education money can buy; they’ve been earning salaries so large that the average American can’t begin to comprehend what life is like with so much money; it’s their reward for taking on the responsibility of knowing more than we do, of being able to step into a crisis and confidently take control.

Why then, when the big one falls from the sky, do they flap around like a load of flounders just arrived on the deck of an Atlantic trawler, with not a clue what to do next?

Capitalism is supposed to be the “Great System”, the partner without which democracy cannot function. Now, we discover no-one on the planet has the faintest idea how it works, or how to put it right when all goes awry.

Still, financial matters apart, we don’t have to worry about climate change. After all, the scientists have got that one under control. We no longer need to concern ourselves with energy conservation, or cutting back on the use of fossil fuels, or any of those other things Al Gore keeps telling us we ought to do, because scientists are convinced they’ve got the perfect fix.

Well, until today, that is.

We just need to dump a load of iron into the ocean, and our worries will be over. That’s what German and Indian scientists have been doing in the Southern Ocean – dumping six tons of iron filings overboard into an area of approximately 115 square miles, in the expectation it would produce an algal bloom.

The theory is that iron particles will stimulate the growth of algae. These phytoplankton absorb CO2 from the air, then die, locking up the greenhouse gas in their bodies and taking it to the seabed with them. All would have been fine, had not a host of algae eaters called copepods swarmed in and feasted on the phytoplankton. This probably wouldn’t have been an insurmountable obstacle had not a host of copepod eaters called amphipods swarmed in and feasted in their turn.

Obviously, German and Indian scientists are not familiar with the little rhyme that begins: “Big fleas have little fleas……etc…”

In fact, the tipping of iron filings into the ocean is pollution, and illegal under international law. Environmental organizations like Greenpeace have lobbied for the experiments to be stopped, and even the German government demanded a halt to this one for a while.

David Santillo, a Greenpeace scientist, says:

…….if we’re going to be pursuing this as a climate mitigation strategy, then we’re looking at a state of the world where we rely on manipulating the ocean on a truly huge scale and that would undoubtedly have large and possibly irreversible effects on ocean ecosystems.” [1]

Despite the failures, a commercial company, Climos, is in process of mounting a much larger experiment, covering possibly 15,500 square miles of ocean.

If they intend to use a similar density of iron filings to that utilized by the German and Indian team, they will require to dump over 800 tons of the stuff.

How is your confidence level now?

[1] “Setback for climate technical fix” BBC, March 23rd 2009

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2 Replies to “And So Ad Infinitum”

  1. OK. Remind me – what’s the definition of insanity again?
    And what’s really getting to me more and more, RJA, is that so many out there amongst my colleagues and friends are just not getting it at all.
    And you and I, non-economists, non-environmental scientists, do.
    It is truly scary.

  2. WWW – it would appear greed and the capitalist system blind these people to what they’re doing. The US Congress has just removed the section from Obama’s budget plan that covers measures to deal with global warming. Is that acting in the peoples’ interest, or appeasing big business?

    Scary, indeed.

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