One of the most interesting things about the recent study released on climate change was the different headlines the different media sites put on the article. Here are just a sample:
Scientists Recommend More Research on Geoengineering
Anti-‘Geoengineering’ National Academy Report Opposes ‘Climate-Altering Deployment’
US scientists say ‘climate intervention’ strategies are unlikely to work
Man-made climate change may need man-made remedies, science panel says
Here is the link to the actual study:
To my eyes – this article didn’t break much new ground – as you might expect the message was somewhere in-between what the headlines read into it.
However, after reading the paper, there were a couple points of contention I have with it:
1. Ethical, political and social issues are not limited to climate intervention.
This quote caught my eye:
If society ultimately decides to intervene in Earth’s climate, any actions should be informed by a far more substantive body of scientific research, including ethical and social dimensions, than is presently available, the committee said.
Umm.. – even if society ultimately decides to implement worldwide carbon reduction or deforestation mitigation – there are ethical and social dimensions to be considered (Should carbon reduction be based per capita consumption, or size of economy? Can the world intervene on sovereign country (i.e. Brazil) land practices? Also, doing nothing will also result in ethical and social dimensions – who bears the responsibility for the loss of land in low lying countries such as Bangladesh and Pacific Islands?
So I agree that there are ethical and social dimensions to the solutions, but are they more serious than the alternatives?
2. Are they resigned to the fact that albedo-modification techniques (AKA GeoEngineering) are the only viable political solution (other than doing nothing)?
(The Committee) opposed deployment of albedo-modification techniques, but recommended further research, particularly “multiple-benefit” research that simultaneously advances basic understanding of the climate system and quantifies the technologies’ potential costs, intended and unintended consequences, and risks.
They oppose albedo-modification techniques, but want to move forward with further research. That kind sends a mixed message, which perhaps is how the media headlines were able to slant it so many ways.
We have hacked the planet before
It surprises me that nobody mentions we have used (unwittingly) albedo-modification techniques before. One of my first posts back in 2011 (Our First Nuclear Winter) discusses a Japanese paper showing the correlation between the nuclear testing in the 1950’s and reduction in global temperatures. So this isn’t totally new ground. Perhaps the fear is that if this is widely known, there will be a greater push to use this to solve the problem.
I encourage everybody to read the paper and make their own conclusions. While I am not pro-geo engineering, given the dollar cost will make it easy for one country to unilaterally deploy, I think we should prepare for it. I have said this before – ‘The moment waters start lapping the door of the New York Stock Exchange, America will lead the charge for geo-engineering’.