Global warming: In geoengineering we may trust

a sane approach


At least, there is reason to believe in a short-term source for respite, geoengineering, if a feared level of climate change is about. Geoengineering is now likely for large scale-deployment more than ever, as weather anomalies globally have become a serious cause for concern and news of rising levels of carbon emissions continue to come.

Geoengineering is the scientific answer to the tepidity of world leaders, towards a global agreement to mitigate global warming-causing greenhouse emissions. Geoengineering (or climate engineering) is a general name for certain technologies aimed at reducing solar radiation available to the earth, or at removing carbon dioxide (a major greenhouse gas) from the atmosphere.
Geoengineering technologies range from simple to complex, with a technology as ‘simple’ as afforestation, and another as complex as putting giant reflectors in space to return inbound solar radiation. Geoengineering technologies have their controversies, as their effects can be tied to international conflicts; or threats to biodiversity & urbanization; or further weather catastrophe, and unknowns.  
Geoengineering is also expensive and will have to be sustained for a number of years after initial deployment. All these worries are there, but are placed a little less than the good it will do as an alternative. Geoengineering had a big week, with two major announcements. The bigger one, a carbon dioxide removal test, reported findings from a research on iron fertilization, conducted in 2004, that showed the ability of phytoplankton to sequester carbon at sea depths.
The other announcement, a solar management one, is an intention to test the effects of injecting sulphate particles to about 24km above sea level, to know their effects on ozone chemistry. These steps-forward in geoengineering, point to form. Geoengineering is gradually taking shape, and as time goes, most of the several questions asked in the 2009 UK’s Royal Society Report on geoengineering, will find a home.
Geoengineering research is advocated, and the plea is for more public funds to come in. The US government via the National Science Foundation is involved, and the British government recently supported a proposed research on geoengineering. Geoengineering research in Canada, Europe and Australia is getting some support from the government, and the subject in these places is rising.
Several other governments who can support too are probably waiting on their scientists and local researchers to work. Russia had a test some time ago, and China may be looking at a right time to do something. Field tests will hew new observations and are superior to lab tests in this respect.
Season and geography is known to differentiate climate at locations, and tests or finding somewhere may require expansion somewhere else or may allege ‘effects here’. This may lead to new interests in research that may not be guided by the carefulness with previous ones.
Geoengineering tests will eventually go around, since pat locations to deploy it would (or maybe) be needed in future. But how is this to be regulated and centered on the objective? A US scientist gave a hint this week, he said, it must be publicly funded and must be approved by government agencies.
This, a possibility in the States, may not be the same elsewhere, which possibly may spark new controversies. Regulating geoengineering research, even though scientists have asked about what may be classed as geoengineering or not, is necessary. Outlining the ways a research should go, making it public and inviting colleagues to join the discussion is an ethics part that should be attended to, quickly.
This conversation will also be boosted if ‘pioneering’ tests follows the ‘guideline’. Scientists have the might to shape geoengineering, to avoid it becoming another small ball of global disagreement, even at this research stage. It may also be necessary for scientists leading geoengineering research, to clear the air about myths that may limit government funds available for their work.
In the developing world, especially Africa, usually bashed by climate change, it is possible for activists to presume that big economies are sponsoring geoengineering instead of mitigating emissions. Supporters of this and, haters of geoengineering in these big economies may further loud it and cause a furor that may limit or intermit geoengineering funding by the government.
Addressing this ‘myth’ may still not prevent this, but will be the case to be evoked while defending the move. A point that may be used in defense is “We are researching geoengineering as a possible alternative, as the world may need to cap rise in the average temperature of the earth; because of its controversies, government funding is preferred for outdoor experiments against individual or corporate funding. And government ‘token’ on this does not affect their mitigation commitment, which is the main solution, not geoengineering”.
Geoengineers have some work to do, to give the subject shape, aside increased studies and reports. Those that don’t even believe in anthropogenic global warming may support geoengineering, but not substantially,  in an unshaped state. Many who already know about geoengineering are coming to trust its temporal ability, and many more around the world likely will, if bad weather events suddenly line. We can be afraid of rise in the average temperature of the earth, and resulting effects, but geoengineering may get us to trust it, for reprieve, if scientists decide to give it shape.

Tags: Geoengineering , Climate Engineering , Russia , China , Germany , Iron Fertilization , Antarctica , SRM , CDR

Brophy Saturday 21 July 2012 - 11:57 pm | | Global Warming

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