1. Ben Parsons
  2. Climate Emergency
  3. Tuesday, 14 April 2020
Hello all,

I would like to start a discussion on geoengineering. What are everyone's thoughts on the role it should play in avoiding climate catastrophe from both anthropogenic and natural causes?

As a proponent of both science and science fiction, I have always been very interested in methods we could employ as a species to ensure our long-term survival on this little spinning rock. I believe we shold be spending a lot more time and money on geoengineering testing and research.

Here are some of my thoughts, succintly enumerated:

- Our priority, first and foremost, should absolutely be decarbonisation, as atmospheric CO2 is undoubtably the primary driver of anthropogenic global warming. But:

- Progress on decarbonisation has been quite disappointing, if not alarming. There is a substantial chance that enough decarbonisation may not occur in time to prevent catastrophic climate change. And:

- Anthropogenic climate change is not the only climate change we need to prepare for. Natural climate change, just like COVID19, is a certainty at some point, and will likely be catastrophic. And:

- For geoengineering to work, it would require decades of testing, at least. From what I can gather, it would be impossible to deploy most geoengineering technologies (solar radiation management, ocean carbon sequestration) successfully ad hoc, or at least without decades of testing data (unless AI becomes involved, but that's another kettle of fish) and time for them to take effect. So:

- Deployment and testing of geoengineering technologies needs to start ASAP or now. But:

- We currently live in a very fractured world and there are tremendous ethical issues at play. Right now we can't agree on climate change measures for 2050, and all our attention is on the pandemic - albeit rightly so.

So... what are your thoughts on this?
Ben
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Hi Ben

Literally every part of the biosphere is in crises because humans ignorantly thought they could dominate nature without consequences. Now, instead of eliminating the causes, there are those who think that geoengineering is the solution. The prospect of this happening fills me with sadness and dread! Firstly, because there will be unforeseen negative consequences. There always are! Secondly, because it will divert attention and resources away from solving the root causes. Finally, the promise of a "magic pill" will provide yet another argument for maintaining the status quo.

That said, I reluctantly concede that we might not have any choice. We are a long way from doing what's necessary to avert catastrophic global heating and at least 1.5 degrees is probably already locked in. So at the very least, we are likely to need efficient and cost effective methods to extract CO2 from the atmosphere. I therefore believe that research into geoengineering techniques is needed. I just wish I was more optimistic about the odds of us discovering techniques that work as advertised and without serious side effects or shortcomings.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. Climate Emergency
  3. # 1
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
I'd rather focus on fixing the economic systems that got us here before we turn to geo-engineering - which also involves generating our own new economies. Our climate system isn't the problem. Growth-obsessed society is the problem (mainly pointing the finger at the political-economic partnerships here).

Modern society has loved alternative fixes when there is money to be made, rather than working to solve the real problems. Hypothetically, firms could find it in their best interest for society to go on as usual with emissions, so they can continue doing their work and earning from it. I am concerned that people around the world would be beholden to those promising to fix the problem, generating new manifestations of the same problems we're seeing as a result of the commodification and corporate ownership over goods needed to sustain life.

I also agree with the above in that I am not "optimistic about the odds of us discovering techniques that work as advertised and without serious side effects or shortcomings."
  1. more than a month ago
  2. Climate Emergency
  3. # 2
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