February 22, 2008 5:25 AM PST

Climos enlists plankton, venture funds to fight climate change

Climos enlists plankton, venture funds to fight climate change
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Climos, a company that plans to grow plankton to capture carbon from the atmosphere, is in the process of raising an initial round of $4 million in venture funding.

San Francisco-based Climos plans to announce the series A funding on Monday or Tuesday, CEO and founder Dan Whaley told CNET News.com on Thursday.

The funding comes only a few weeks after Planktos, another ocean fertilization venture, shut down because of a lack of money and what it called a "highly effective disinformation campaign."

The goal of these ventures is to stimulate the growth of large amounts of plankton in the sea by "seeding" it with an iron compound.

During plankton "blooms," which happen naturally, the plankton take the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere as they grow.

After this growth phase, some of the plankton sink several hundred meters, at which point the carbon is considered sequestered and taken out of the atmosphere.

plankton bloom

Climos intends to make money by selling carbon credits, which represent reductions in carbon dioxide emissions that are sold on voluntary and regulated markets.

There were 12 government-funded experiments to test the efficacy and safety of ocean iron fertilization between 1993 and 2004, Whaley noted.

Some of those experiments were led by Climos' chief science officer, Margaret Leinen (who is also Whaley's mother). The company has hired several other experts in oceanography and called for a code of ethics for ocean fertilization experiments.

"You might almost call Climos a public-private partnership," Whaley said. "We are taking private equity and funding credible, known researchers to help them resolve remaining questions."

These types of experiments have been funded by government sources because they are controversial and because funding is tight in general, he added.

Ocean iron fertilization, although meant to mitigate climate change, has drawn fire from environmental groups who say the technique is ineffective or too risky.

"To the skeptics, we say that we think it's important to keep answering these questions and not just to say we know everything and we shouldn't do this anymore," said Whaley. "The most credible scientists we know in oceanography say we need to keep asking."

In the next two months, Climos plans to enlist outside organizations to study the biological impact of ocean iron fertilization and to do an environmental review, he added.

The company also intends to approach permitting authorities, including the International Maritime Organization, before launching an experiment at sea after 2008, Whaley said. (In addition to its financial problems, Planktos is said not to have gained sufficient permits before launching its own vessel last year.)

Climos' goal is to use iron sulfate powder in a 100x100 kilometer area in the ocean.

"This is a big idea and potentially a large (climate change) mitigation tool," Whaley said. "It's not a silver bullet. It needs to be understood and well communicated to those who are obviously concerned about repercussions."

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Posted by DrColes (53 comments )
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re Planktos
I've been following this since February last year. As one who grew up in Florida and remembers the 'red tides' of the 1950s I imagine they would call my reservations about the process 'disinformation'.

I prefer to think of my skepticism in the area of 'the law of unintended consequences'.

Shortly after Planktos' big test 'somewhere' in the Pacific, there was a noxious infestation off the coast of California. Coincidence? Possibly. Nonetheless, it seems to me that failure to address the downside of a process is more the fault of the cheerleaders than the efforts of so-called disinformation.

The red tide was, of course, one type of phytoplankton, a side effect of which was a neurotoxin capable of assimilating in large quantities by marine creatures. You might have second thoughts about going to Red Lobster if the red tides reappeared naturally or by accident!
Posted by NoVista (274 comments )
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Uhhh wait just a minute
I don't think that anyone needs to go making changes just yet. This sounds like "coal dust on the polar ice sheets" from the 70s.

Some - who have held this position for a long while - believe that we are about to enter something similar to a "Dalton Minimum" - and things have already begun to cool.

We have already seen Al Gore and friends change the rhetoric from "global warming" to "climate change" - which is in part due to the already cooling temperatures.

Solar Cycle 24 has begun and has been very, very quiet - meaning that there are few solar storms. Consequently, we've seen record snows across China, snow in Saudia Arabia and in warm parts of Iraq. Additionally - Colorado has received record snow this winter, Wolf Creek Pass has received 41 feet of snow and ... at Wolf Creek Pass Ski Area the snow at times has been touching the bottoms of the ski lifts! Colorado's snow pack, state wide is well above normal, with some areas nearly double the average.

Things are cooling down and may cool down significantly in the next 10 years.
Posted by USDecliningDollar (243 comments )
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time to time
even if its all a sham we still need to focus on our environment. our technical enhancements over the past century could have superseded our own intellectual capacities. what i am saying is; now that the planet has begun to change on us (even if it has happend before). this is the first time in history we ever have been able to record such a phenomena. maybe its happened before "naturally" or maybe we brought it on. one thing is for sure, will it hurt us to do something about it? even if there is no problem with the environment yet, is it worth taking the risk of not doing anything?
Posted by zappedone (16 comments )
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Carbon and CO2 not the problem
Carbon dioxide is the weakest recognized greenhouse gas. Reducing our carbon footprints and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere probably won't do any good as far as ameliorating climate change goes.

Carbon trading is just a scam. I wouldn't invest any money in this scheme, unless you have a bunch of politicians in your pocket first.
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Posted by zappedone (16 comments )
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Not a good idea as far as I can determine
There are several potentially serious effects that may result from overly fertilizing the oceans as a strategy for mining atmospheric carbon dioxide. How serious these potential effects are does not seem to be well assessed at this time, and so these are concerns that need to be closely monitored.

1. Biodynamic stasis of the ocean seems to be a somewhat slowly adapting/transforming mechanism, and therefore inducing rapid effects may be more counter-productive than productive by having destabilizing disequilibria impacts. And so, as rapid fertilization actions are accomplished, it is necessary to monitor ocean oxygen level, biodiversity impacts, and any changes in the sea-life balances in the area or region where iron fertilization is being accomplished.

2. A particular problem that has been documented is that increased fertilization causes a burst of plankton life which then consumes the available dissolved oxygen, resulting in suffocation and a deadzone effect. It may be that iron fertilization may need to be accompanied by buoy systems or floating island that are solar PV powered or powered by other means to aerate the fertilized ocean region.

3. The potential deadzone problem affects the mix of sea-life in the area, but more importantly causing a die-out of the plankton lifeforms. Instead of entering the foodchain and becoming integrated, the dead cyanobacteria and algae sink, and a few levels down become consumed by bacteria. The problem with this scenario, is that the impounded carbon largely ends up as methane and deep undersea methane hydrate deposits.

4. Methane hydrate is an instable form of undersea carbon sequestration. As ocean currents slow and ocean temperatures rise, a point will be reached where massive amounts of methane stored tenuously in methane hydrate deposits will be released, causing feared runaway global warming that will not be stoppable, causing possibly massive extinctions and a slow recovery process that could take a couple million years. In ancient extreme global warming events, it appears that the oceans warmed to a point where massive methane hydrate melting and methane releases occurred.

This appears to have been precisely what occurred prior to the dominance advent of the age of dinosaurs. Massive release of methane resulted in a highly combustible atmosphere that was ignited and the methane was oxidized to CO2 (and possibly CO). Atmospheric oxygen levels plummeted from 30% or thereabouts to 2%, probably within days, causing extensive suffocation of land animal life, and producing more methane through decomposition. The combined global warming effects caused drought and wildfires, which essentially eliminated land-based biological life. The increased acidification of the oceans, then eliminated coral reefs, shell fish, and most other sea-life. It allegedly took 2 million years for coral reef ecosystems to recover.

Ocean methane releases have already begun occurring in some places. Releases have been documented in Monterey Bay. Extensive releases are also expected with the melting of tundra soils in Canada and Siberia.

Methane hydrate appears to be the major dilemma with global warming, whether naturally caused by surges of volcanic activity or human activities and interventions. There appears to be an undersea methane hydrate account that is largely or entirely released with each major mass extinction event associated with global warming. The extinction of the dinosaurs may have been a triple-whammy effect of global warming, suffocation and global winter from solar blocking.

5. The issue to ocean fertilization is whether this is a Band-Aid, temporary fix, or a meaningful durable solution. It could be a game of Russian Roulette? Or, an ill-conceived and short-sighted strategy that will backfire, make the situation worse, and damage the ocean?s abilities to naturally absorb and manage carbon and promote sea-life. Intuitively, I am troubled that fertilizing the ocean without adding more oxygen aeration is half-ass and destructive.

Please expand your operations to monitor the areas that are fertilized with ongoing inventories of ambient sea-life, ongoing oxygen levels, other essential mineral and nutrient levels, die-off of cyanobacteria and algae, and bacteria proliferation at lower depth levels. Ideally, if done properly, other nutrients and oxygen may also be needed, and these fertilization areas will become feeding areas for other sea-life and the density of other sea-life and biodiversity will expand, and atmospheric carbon will be mined and durably impounded.
Posted by Fredricw (2 comments )
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So the plankton dies and sinks to the pressures of the ocean and the heat of the earth and in a few hundred years makes more oil. Good idea. I do think that it has to be grown in controlled ponds and polls though. I think this is a great idea. What i have been waiting for since i heard of similar theory in Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot.
Posted by iamarcin (36 comments )
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