October 21, 2010 / 7:45 AM / 9 years ago

U.N. urged to freeze climate geo-engineering projects

 * Cloud whitening, solar reflectors, ocean seeding studied
 * Environmentalists say such schemes are unproven, risky
 * Advocates say projects could help fight global warming
 By Chisa Fujioka
 NAGOYA, Japan, Oct 21 (Reuters) - The United Nations should
impose a moratorium on "geo-engineering" projects such as
artificial volcanoes and vast cloud-seeding schemes to fight
climate change, green groups say, fearing they could harm
nature and mankind.
 The risks were too great because the impacts of manipulating
nature on a vast scale were not fully known, the groups said at
a major U.N. meeting in Japan aimed at combatting increasing
losses of plant and animal species.
 Envoys from nearly 200 countries are gathered in Nagoya,
Japan, to agree targets to fight the destruction of forests,
rivers and coral reefs that provide resources and services
central to livelihoods and economies.
 A major cause for the rapid losses in nature is climate
change, the United Nations says, raising the urgency for the
world to do whatever it can to curb global warming and prevent
extreme droughts, floods and rising sea levels.
 Some countries regard geo-engineering projects costing
billions of dollars as a way to control climate change by
cutting the amount of sunlight hitting the earth or soaking up
excess greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide.
 "It's absolutely inappropriate for a handful of governments
in industrialised countries to make a decision to try
geo-engineering without the approval of all the world's
support," Pat Mooney, from Canada-headquartered advocacy
organisation ETC Group, told Reuters on the sidelines of the
Oct. 18-29 meeting.
 "They shouldn't proceed with real-life, in-the-environment
experimentation or the deployment of any geo-engineering until
there is a consensus in the United Nations that this is okay."
 Take-a-look on biodiversity:               [ID:nSGE68T06H]
 Factbox on main issues at Nagoya talks     [ID:nTOE69D07L]
 Factbox on TEEB report on valuing nature   [ID:nSGE69J0D5]
 UN plan to protect animals, plants by 2020 [ID:nLDE68F0JL]
 Graphic on ocean fertilisation
 Some conservation groups say geo-engineering is a way for
some governments and companies to get out of taking steps to
slash planet-warming emissions.
 The U.N. climate panel says a review of geo-engineering
will be part of its next major report in 2013.
 Some of the geo-engineering schemes proposed include:
 -- Ocean fertilisation. Large areas are sprinkled with iron
or other nutrients to artificially spur growth of
phytoplankton, which soak up carbon dioxide. But this could
trigger harmful algal blooms, soak up nutrients and kill fish
and other animals.
 -- Spray seawater into the atmosphere to increase the
reflectivity and condensation of clouds so they bounce more
sunlight back into space.
 -- Placing trillions of tiny solar reflectors out in space
to cut the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth.
 -- Artificial volcanoes. Tiny sulphate particles or other
materials are released into the stratosphere to reflect
sunlight, simulating the effect of a major volcanic eruption.
 -- Carbon capture and storage. Supported by a number of
governments and involves capturing CO2 from power stations,
refineries and natural gas wells and pumping it deep
 Mooney said the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity
(CBD) should expand its de-facto moratorium on ocean
fertilisation agreed in 2008 to all geo-engineering, although
the proposal was resisted by some countries, including Canada,
earlier this year.
 Canada said in Nagoya that it would work with the CBD.
 "Canada was simply concerned about the lack of clarity on
definitions including what activities are included in
'geo-engineering'," Cynthia Wright, head of the delegation,
said in an email response.
 "Canada shares concerns of the international community
about potential negative impacts of geo-engineering on
biodiversity and is willing to work with other CBD Parties to
avoid these impacts," she said.
 Environmentalists said geo-engineering went against the
spirit of the Nagoya talks, which aims to set new targets for
2020 to protect nature, such as setting up more land and marine
protected areas, cutting pollution and managing fishing.
 "We are certainly in favour of more (geo-engineering)
research, as in all fields, but not any implementation for the
time being because it's too dangerous. We don't know what the
effects can be," said Francois Simard of conservation group
 "Improving nature conservation is what we should do in
order to fight climate change, not trying to change nature."
 (Reporting by Chisa Fujioka; Editing by David Fogarty)

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