We talked last week about a proposal to refreeze the poles, which last we checked are already frozen. But the aspirations of geotinkerers don’t end at messing with the Arctic. There are all kinds of geoengineering proposals out there, from reflecting away sunlight to sucking carbon out of the air. And when people talk about the latter, they don’t even seem to think what would happen to crops if they were partly successful, let alone how bad it could get if the process works and they lose control of it, a frightful outcome that is probably more likely with bioengineering than mechanical approaches but surely too terrifying to risk.
Even the Guardian’s “Environment Editor” Fiona Harvey just did an “experts say” against the practice, sort of:
“Governments should place a moratorium on efforts to geoengineer the planet’s climate, as greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and the climate crisis takes hold, a panel of global experts has urged. Geoengineering is highly controversial, but discussions of its feasibility are gathering pace as the impacts of extreme weather, driven by climate breakdown, grip the planet. There is no global agreement on geoengineering, and no rules on what countries, or businesses, can do.”
And while something called “the Climate Overshoot Commission” just “called on governments to phase out fossil fuels… and start using technologies to remove carbon dioxide, such as carbon capture and storage and the capture of carbon directly from the air”, Harvey added:
“Governments should also allow academics to investigate the possibilities of geoengineering, chiefly in the form of solar radiation management, which involves attempting to reduce the amount of sunlight striking the Earth’s surface, for instance through whitening clouds to be more reflective, or setting up mirrors in space. But governments should not embark on any such activities, the panel warned, because of the dangers involved in tinkering with the global climate in ways that are not yet well understood.”
Not yet. No. You could say that. But just when we were getting sour, even cynical, the piece cited “Pascal Lamy, the former chief of the World Trade Organization, who chaired the Climate Overshoot Commission”, including that:
“he warned that the world could not ignore the possibility of geoengineering, as some countries could start to investigate and experiment on their own. He said: ‘There is an increasing international discussion of solar radiation management. But the danger is of unintended consequences, and of transboundary consequences.’ Scientists could not say whether solar radiation management was safe, and the precautionary principle should be applied, he said.”
Good for you, sir. Now can we just raise the issue of wrecking the energy basis of our economies in the hope of changing the weather? Maybe something to avoid until you’re sure it’s not incompatible with “the permanence of genuine human life” of the kind where we have reliable food, clothing, shelter and even a few amenities like travel and fun.