Is geoengineering our last worst hope?

Whatever you think might have caused global climate change, you’d be hard pressed to claim that we don’t need to do something about it – after all, we don’t yet have another planet to go to, and the results are going to have real effects on real people.

But what are our options? Emissions controls would be a great start, but we’re struggling to get any political agreement on how much and how soon, and the clock is ticking all the while. Hence the increasing prevalence of suggestions from the field of geoengineering – planet-hacking, in other words.

New Scientist has a lengthy article looking at the potential pitfalls of geoengineering, which include not just the risk of tweaking something the wrong way and making things worse (whether for everyone or just a certain locality) but the inevitable geopolitical hazards. Not every nation has the resources to take direct action at the required scale, and – because that action could affect the rest of the planet in unexpected ways – no one’s going to be happy with any nation (or group or individual) that decides to jump the gun and take matters into its own hands.

It’ll be a while before these questions work their way into mainstream politics (especially considering the rather more immediate¬† issues of the financial implosion), but I doubt it’ll be all that long in real terms – nor does Jamais Cascio, who has been beating the drum about geoengineering for a good few years already. That the scientific field is starting to consider geongineering as a serious option is a sobering thought – these are the guys who know the system best, and if they’re suggesting jury-rigging might be our only way out then things may be grimmer than anyone is willing to admit.

[Yes, this post is predicated on the notion that climate change is a genuine phenomenon, a genuine threat and likely human in origin. As much as I respect your right to disagree with any or all of those three statements, if that’s all you have to bring to this discussion I’d like to ask you to sit it out for once. Cheers.]

2 thoughts on “Is geoengineering our last worst hope?”

  1. The consensus is set and the science is in. There can’t be any debate about this. We are essentially locked into the phenomenon as it has been defined. So there may not be anything that we can do about it, given all that. Geoengineering is as apt to go wildly wrong as to mitigate even the slightest bit of climate change.

    Do you know where we are in this wildly chaotic climate storm? Neither does anyone else. Your intervention on any scale is far more likely to create further harm, or at least no good whatsoever.

    Climate change means warming and cooling in an unimaginably complex combination. If you think you know what you are doing in this setting, you are almost certainly and catastrophically wrong.

  2. I don’t like your fatalism, Mims. You don’t seem to have enough faith in the government. We have a new leader now, someone who cares about us, each one of us. We have to trust that our leaders know what is best for us and let them do their jobs. Whatever they choose, it will be the right thing. If you put the right man in the position of ultimate power, everything will be just fine.

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