In the carbon muddle

Norway revokes a carbon sequestration study permit

Published: Sunday 15 December 2002

norway has withdrawn the permit issued to a carbon dioxide sequestration study following appeals from environmental groups such as Greenpeace Nordic and World Wide Fund for Nature, Norway. The permit for conducting the study was issued by Norway's pollution control agency.

In an official statement Borge Brende, the Norwegian environment minister, said: "The ministry rejected the permit as the possible future use of oceans for storage of carbon dioxide is still controversial. Such a deposit could be in defiance of international marine laws." The minister also said that the ocean's capacity to absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide to mitigate climate change warranted more debate.

The project was to study physical and biological changes caused after injecting around five tonnes of carbon into the Norwegian Sea at a depth of 800 metres. The research consortium included the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, usa, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Japan, and Institute of Ocean Sciences, Canada. It was initiated in 1997 when Norway, the us, Australia, Japan and Canada signed an agreement to undertake ocean sequestration trials.

Environmental groups argue that dumping carbon dioxide in the ocean violates the 1972 London Dumping Convention on the prevention of marine pollution and also the 1992 Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic. "The sea is not a dumping ground. It's illegal to dump nuclear or toxic waste at sea, including carbon dioxide -- the fossil fuel industry's waste," said Truls Gulowsen, climate campaigner, Greenpeace Nordic.

Experts say that injecting carbon could make the marine environment acidic. It lowers the pH value of surrounding waters to a range between five and six, which could be fatal for many organisms. Marine fish generally prefer a ph between 8.1-8.3.

Moreover, ocean sequestration will divert attention from the real problem -- the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels. "We're against the study because we think it is part of a larger effort that is looking for a panacea that will encourage more fossil fuel use," says Jeffrey Mikulina, director of the Hawaiian chapter of the Sierra Club, a us environmental organisation.

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