FOE Opposes LOC-NESS Experiment That Threatens Marine Life

Environmental Groups Oppose LOC-NESS Geoengineering Experiment That Threatens Marine Life

CAPE COD – This week, a controversial proposal to dump over 60,000 gallons of sodium hydroxide into the ocean near Cape Cod was met with outrage and opposition from environmental and environmental justice groups. The LOC-NESS experiment is intended to test a new form of geoengineering called “ocean alkalinity enhancement” that comes with potentially catastrophic risks to the ocean environment, marine life, and the ocean’s existing ability to absorb carbon emissions. Sodium hydroxide is a dangerous caustic liquid that causes chemical burns upon contact with skin or marine animals, setting the stage for potentially extreme damage to local ecosystems.

The Environmental Protection Agency issued tentative approval for a permit for the experiment, despite the risks to endangered species that frequent the area. The EPA has opened a public comment period through July 1st, after which it will issue a final determination on whether the experiment is allowed to move forward.

“We unequivocally oppose the proposed LOC-NESS geoengineering experiment. It’s astonishing that the EPA is even considering allowing dangerous, caustic chemicals to be dumped in ocean waters that are frequented by at least eight endangered species, including Right Whales and Leatherback Turtles,” said Benjamin Day, Senior Campaigner with Friends of the Earth’s Climate and Energy Justice Program.

“Marine geoengineering does nothing to solve the root causes of the climate crisis and instead puts at risk the oceans’ natural capacity to absorb carbon and their role in sustaining life on Earth. Impossible to test for their intended climate impact without large-scale deployment, these speculative technologies are a dangerous distraction from the real solutions to the climate crisis. Outdoor experiments could not only cause immediate harm to marine life, but are also a slippery slope to potentially catastrophic impacts of large-scale deployment.” said Mary Church, Geoengineering Campaign Manager at the Center for International Environmental Law. 

“Altering the chemical composition of the ocean under the guise of increasing its capacity to absorb carbon dioxide is misleading and dangerous,” said Tom Goldtooth, co-founder and member of the board of directors of the national Climate Justice Alliance, where he represents the Indigenous Environmental Network. “Sodium Hydroxide is essentially Lye -– a substance known to cause chemical burns and one that must be handled with great care. An experiment centered on introducing this caustic substance into the sea should not be permitted. Furthermore, the EPA’s public comment period of barely a month is too short for experts, the public, or our Tribes to give this the attention it deserves. The geoengineering approach puts Earth’s systems at risk in a faulty and false bid toward solving the climate crisis. It is what we call a false solution.”

The researchers behind LOC-NESS say the experiment is necessary to show how much carbon dioxide can be removed from the atmosphere by attempting to increase the ocean’s alkalinity. Yet, their permit application to the EPA admits that they have no direct way of measuring how much carbon dioxide will be removed by the experiment. The production of alkaline materials is extremely energy-intensive, releasing similar or even higher levels of greenhouse gasses than they remove upon being dumped into the ocean.The researchers have declined to analyze how much carbon dioxide was released in the production, transportation, and dumping of the sodium hydroxide, making it impossible to know whether the technology even reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Geoengineering techniques, such as ocean alkalinity enhancement, are under a moratoria under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity due to the risks and uncertainties that these technologies entail to biodiversity and ecosystems. Furthermore, there is no evidence they would actually work to address symptoms of climate change.

Communications Contact: Erika Seiber, [email protected]