Geoengineering Gets A Boost  

Posted by Big Gav in

Next100 has a look at recent events in the world of geoengineering politics - GEOENGINEERING GETS A BOOST.

Geoengineering--the planned alteration of planetary-scale systems--is a highly controversial approach to solving an increasingly desperate problem: global warming. Critics have condemned it "somewhere between a dead end and a hoax," while White House science adviser John Holdren said, "It's got to be looked at." The credibility of this outsized concept got a big boost this week from a major policy pronouncement by the American Meteorological Society.

As covered extensively in NEXT100, geoengineering proposals run the gamut from fostering the growth of carbon-absorbing plankton by fertilizing the oceans, to reflecting more sunlight by seeding clouds, to locking up carbon in the form of biochar.

The AMS notes the wide range of possible risks, including adverse local climate changes that might disrupt some countries and peoples even if geoengineering stabilized the global temperature. And some measures that address symptoms--for example, by increasing solar reflection--"would not diminish the direct effects of elevated CO2 concentrations such as ocean acidification or changes to the structure and function of biological systems."

All that said, given that past greenhouse gas emissions are almost certain to cause "dangerous climate changes," the society recommended stepping up research on climate geoengineering, including the environmental ethical, legal and social implications.

While reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a top priority, geoengineering "could contribute to a comprehensive risk management strategy to slow climate change and alleviate some of its negative impacts," the society declared. "The potential to help society cope with climate change and the risks of adverse consequences imply a need for adequate research, appropriate regulation, and transparent deliberation."

2 comments

Nice to see biochar in the list, but do we really have to call it "geoengineering?" Can't we just call it "energy agriculture" or something?

Were we to undertake the creation of lots of biochar as a way to re-sequester carbon then I'd call that geoengineering.

Geoengineering with possible desirable secondary effects. We could end up with some much more fertile land and might be able to reduce our fertilizer usage.

As we proceed with geoengineering ideas and research we'll have to try to figure out the pluses and minuses of each process. Throwing a lot of SO2 into the atmosphere might cut down on incoming sun/heat. But it could really cause some increased acidity problems in the oceans.

Painting flat roofs white/something shiny could bounce a lot of heat back out of our system and it might decrease AC power needs.

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