by Chisa Fujioka
October 21, 2010
United Nations should impose a moratorium on "geo-engineering"
projects such as,
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 combating 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
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
industrialized countries to make a decision to try geo-engineering
without the approval of all the world's support," Pat Mooney, from
Canada-headquartered advocacy organization 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."
Some conservation groups say
geo-engineering is a way for some
governments and companies to get out of taking steps to slash
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 fertilization. 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
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 underground.
Mooney said the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) should
expand its de-facto moratorium on ocean fertilization 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
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 favor 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."