I've prescribed a hundred times how to restore a dilapidated piece of rangeland. The Haida people have an ocean pasture that their life and culture depend on. The salmon on that pasture, in spite of every effort, have disappeared. This is a village of people who can no longer get enough food. It's because their pasture has no carrying capacity for animals to grow and thrive on. We are trying to replenish and restore the pasture and we are portrayed as villains.
Any concerns about possible side effects like dead zones?
Can any scientist who claims to be credible say such a thing in the face of the long, published history of plankton blooms in the open ocean? There was a massive volcanic bloom from the 2008 [Mount] Kasatoshi eruption. Ours was less than 1 percent of the size. Did it [the Kasatoshi eruption] result in oxygen dead zones?
But plankton blooms do cause dead zones.
Not in any pelagic environment, in constrained coastal regions. Is there a single solitary published report based on experimental observations other than the hypothetical? We've looked. We've not found it.
Any concerns about the legality of this effort?
This is Canada so it's British law, not American law. In British law, if you want to do something and you're not sure whether it's legal or not, you commission officers of the court to do an analysis and produce an official document, a legal opinion as to whether it breaks the law or not. This was done. The opinion was that with comparative studies and international laws we were absolutely in the clear. The claim that this is illegal is the design of the people who want to burn the books. This is the life of the village that they're trying to kill.
Any plans for more ocean fertilizing?
Could you imagine that it would be good science to do something only once? Just put one drop of test chemical in a test tube? A reasonable, intelligent, earnest and honest scientist would not plan to do it only once. That's not good science.
We have to see what the data says. We just don't know what it says. In our hopes and dreams, in the village's hopes and dreams, this works. And what if it does work? What if this is a means by which the ocean pastures can be stewarded and brought back to health? The fish will come back but all the other sea life as well. What if that's the outcome?
Would you call this geoengineering?
Geoengineering is an entirely derogatory spin term. If they can pin that to you, you've lost already. I once gave a TED talk in New York City along with Wally Broecker, the father of climate modeling and David Keith who coined the term geoengineering. In the green room before the talk we got in a heated argument because I said geoengineering is a nasty name.
I don't think we should build artificial forests out of concrete with concentrated lye solutions dribbling over the leaf area to absorb CO2. I think we should grow real trees.
The problem with [CO2's effect on] the ocean is not merely ocean acidification. The main problem is high CO2 promoting plant growth. This planet is a planet of grass, not trees. Dust comes from all kinds of dry areas. The vast majority of dust-producing regions are drylands. Those are places where grass grows but its green in spring and brown in summer. When it's green and growing well, it's good ground cover and then it shrivels up and becomes poor ground cover.