From Bill Gates to Oil Giants, Who Stands to Profit From Geoengineering Nature?


Watch the full interview with Clive Hamilton on Democracy Now! at In his new book, “Earthmasters: The Dawn of the Age of Climate Engineering,” Clive Hamilton lays out the arguments for and against geoengineering — the deliberate altering of the Earth’s ecological and climate systems to counter the effects of global warming. Hamilton discusses some of the key players lining up to profit from geoengineering, and some of the worrying experiments that they’re funding.

CLIVE HAMILTON: Most corporations are kind of staying at arm’s length from all of this, as indeed governments are, for the time being. But quietly, behind the scenes, you can see them taking interest. There are a number of powerful or wealthy venture capitalists. Bill Gates is the sort of prominent player here. He’s invested in a range of geoengineering schemes. You can go to the U.S. patent office, and you’ll find Bill Gates’s name on a couple of patents for geoengineering. We’re also starting to see the oil companies, even Exxon, BP, Shell, starting to take an interest. They’re sort of pulling people into independent groups to produce reports, advocating research into geoengineering. And you’ve got some kind of rogue geoengineers, sort of cowboy capitalists, who are going out there right now and doing these kinds of experiments in the ocean, for example.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about about what these experiments are.

CLIVE HAMILTON: Well, the one that has perhaps attracted most attention is an experiment in so-called ocean iron fertilization, spreading iron slurry on a patch of ocean.

AMY GOODMAN: What is iron slurry?

CLIVE HAMILTON: Well, basically iron dust or iron sulfate mixed with seawater. Spread it on a patch of ocean, and algal blooms suddenly emerge. You can do this quite quickly. And the idea is that you over—this way, you overcome the acidity of the ocean—I’m sorry, you stimulate the production of algal blooms. They suck up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. And all of this sort of marine life that you stimulate then, in theory, sinks to the bottom of the ocean, taking their carbon with them, because, as organic creatures, they have to absorb carbon as they grow. And they grow because we’ve added the micronutrient that is missing—that is, the iron—in the sea.

And so, there’s a man called Russ George, who—an entrepreneur with a colorful history, who’s carried out a couple of experiments here, including one off the coast of British Columbia a couple of months ago, entirely unauthorized and probably illegal. And yet, he was up there spreading iron slurry or iron sulfates from the back of his ship, carrying out a geoengineering experiment, which highlights one of the main concerns that many of us have. There’s virtually no regulation of geoengineering. And when it comes to sulfate aerosol spraying, there’s nothing to prevent a government, any government, or even a corporation or a billionaire with a messiah complex, from launching a program of taking control of the Earth’s weather by installing this kind of solar shield. So the absence of governance, the absence of regulation and the exclusion, particularly of people from poor and vulnerable countries, is a very serious concern.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the mirrors in the sky?

CLIVE HAMILTON: Well, this is more on the sci-fi end of it. But the idea is to send up a cloud, a large number of small mirrors, that would be stationed in a particular spot between the Earth and the sun, and adjusted in a way, from the Earth, or regulated, so that as the sunlight comes to the Earth, that they’re oriented so that they deflect some of the sunlight so it misses the Earth and heads off into space. And you could adjust them so that you might reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth by, say, 2 percent, which might be enough to offset the warming associated with a doubling of carbon dioxide emissions.

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