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Can dumping iron into the sea flight climate change?

Environmental officials in Canada are investigating what some have called a "rogue climate change experiment." Over the summer, a native village on the coast of British Columbia dumped more than 100 tons of iron sulfate into the ocean. The idea was to cause a bloom of plankton, which would then capture greenhouse gases.

That's the theory, anyway. The reality is a bit more complicated.

The iron dumping was initiated by an organization called the Haida Salmon Restoration Corp., a company set up by the tiny village of Old Massett. Ever since the news broke, the corporation has been on the defensive.

"This project was not entered into lightly," said the company's president, John Disney, at a Vancouver news conference. "When we added iron into the ocean, there was an almost immediate observable impact on marine life, such as whales and other sea mammals, sea birds, pelagic fish. And this could all be observed immediately from the research vessel."

Their primary goal is salmon. The native Haida people have been hit hard in recent years by dwindling salmon runs. But Disney said the village is also looking to make some money if it can show that the iron-fed plankton are capturing greenhouse gases.

"At the end of the day, if you sequester 1 ton of carbon out of the atmosphere and your methodology is sound, and you get that certified and documented, then you have a salable product," Disney said.

But it's not that simple, says Edward Parson, a specialist in climate change laws at the UCLA School of Law.

"There's no system in operation at present that would have granted carbon credits for this project," Parson says.

Carbon credit markets like the one in Europe let companies pay for others to offset their pollution. But this technique, called "ocean iron fertilization," simply isn't recognized by those markets, and the credits aren't really worth anything.

To listen to the interview and read the full article by Martin Kaste click here.