A pro-human response to rising CO2 levels

In this issue:

  • A pro-human response to rising CO2 levels
  • Best of Power Hour: Robert Zubrin on Merchants of Despair
  • The Human Flourishing Project: How to guarantee progress

A pro-human response on rising CO2 levels

Power Hour guest Robert Zubrin (see below) has a new book out, The Case for Space: How the Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up a Future of Limitless PossibilityI have only read the section on how to respond to rising CO2 levels, but I was impressed by Zubrin’s pro-human, pro-technology approach to concerns about “ocean acidification”—more technically, declines in how basic (i.e., non-acidic) the oceans are. Here is an excerpt from that section.

The basis for a much more promising approach was demonstrated by the British Columbia–based Haida First Nations tribe, who in 2012 launched an effort to restore the salmon fishery that has provided much of their livelihood for centuries. Acting collectively, the Haida voted to form the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation, financed it with $2.5 million of their own savings, and used it to support the efforts of American scientist-entrepreneur Russ George to demonstrate the feasibility of open-sea mariculture through the distribution of 120 tons of iron sulfate into the northeast Pacific to stimulate a phytoplankton bloom, which in turn would provide ample food for baby salmon.

By 2014, this controversial experiment proved to be a stunning, over-the-top success. In that year, the number of salmon caught in the northeast Pacific more than quadrupled, going from 50 million to 219 million. In the Fraser River, which only once before in history had a salmon run greater than 25 million (about 45 million in 2010) the number of salmon increased to 72 million​.​

“Up and down the West Coast fisheries scientists and fishers are reporting they are baffled at the miraculous return of salmon seen last fall and expected this year,” commented George. “It is of course all because when we take care of our ocean pasture. Replenish the vital mineral micronutrients that we have denied them through our high and rising CO2 just one old guy (me) with a dozen Indians can bring the ocean back to health and abundance.”

In addition to producing salmon, this extraordinary experiment yielded a huge amount of data. Within a few months after the ocean-fertilizing operation, NASA satellite images taken from orbit showed a powerful growth of phytoplankton in the waters that received the Haida’s iron. It is now clear that as hoped, these did indeed serve as a food source for zooplankton, which in turn provided nourishment for multitudes of young salmon, thereby restoring the depleted fishery and providing abundant food for larger fish and sea mammals as well. In addition, since those diatoms that were not eaten went to the bottom, a large amount of carbon dioxide was sequestered in their calcium carbonate shells.

Unfortunately, the experiment, which should have received universal acclaim, was denounced by many leading environmental activists. For example, Silvia Ribeiro, of the international environmental watchdog ETC group, objected to it on the basis that it might undermine the case for carbon rationing. “It is now more urgent than ever that governments unequivocally ban such open-air geoengineering experiments. They are a dangerous distraction providing governments and industry with an excuse to avoid reducing fossil fuel emissions.” Writing in the New York Times, Naomi Klein, the author of a book on “how the climate crisis can spur economic and political transformation,” said that “at first,…it felt like a miracle.” But then she was struck by a disturbing thought:

“If Mr. George’s account of the mission is to be believed, his actions created an algae bloom in an area half of the size of Massachusetts that attracted a huge array of aquatic life, including whales that could be “counted by the score.” . . . I began to wonder: could it be that the orcas I saw were on the way to the all-you- can-eat seafood buffet that had descended on Mr. George’s bloom? The possibility . . . provides a glimpse into the disturbing repercussions of geoengineering: once we start deliberately interfering with the earth’s climate systems—whether by dimming the sun or fertilizing the seas—all natural events can begin to take on an unnatural tinge. . . . A presence that felt like a miraculous gift suddenly feels sinister, as if all of nature were being manipulated behind the scenes.”

But the salmon are back.

Best of Power Hour: Robert Zubrin on Merchants of Despair

On this week’s Power Hour “best of” episode, I talk to Robert Zubrin, author of Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism.

Dr. Zubrin’s is a fascinating history of the theory and practice of what Zubrin calls “anti-humanism”–the belief that “human beings are pathogens whose activities need to be suppressed in order to protect a fixed ecological order with interests that stand above those of humanity.” Zubrin traces anti-humanism from the doctrines of Thomas Malthus centuries ago, which led to murder and sterilization campaigns in the name of protecting ourselves and the planet from “overpopulation,” to the racist social mis-interpretations of the theory of evolution that led to mass-murder in the name of protecting ourselves and the planet from “degeneration of the gene pool,” to the modern “environmentalist” movement’s war against life-saving practical energy, pesticides, and genetically-modified organisms, in the name of saving ourselves and the planet from an “excessive” human “footprint.”

The Human Flourishing Project: When to work “too hard”

On the latest episode of The Human Flourishing Project I discuss what I have learned about the “80% strategy” during a particularly intense two months of work.