Geoengineering: A Risky Business



The climate change debate has been surging for over twenty years now, with politicians skipping around the issue and mass media in a constant frenzy around the debate. However, this message is not here to convince you that Climate change is a very real and very current threat. It is instead to discuss the emergence of Geoengineering as a ‘solution to all our problems’.

In a recent paper, the damning points were made that under current climate models severe consequences will emerge and swift action will become necessary (What’s new I asked myself!). However this literature also compounded evidence that even in the unlikely occurrence that all anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases ceased, the planet would continue to warm significantly.

The paper specifically investigated the use of a Stratospheric Sulphate Aerosol: the injection of sulphate gases into the atmosphere in a bid to create a ‘Global Dimming’ effect. The effects were monitored in a highly advanced computer programme; Community Climate System Model (version 3) and experimental conditions were manipulated to effectively model atmosphere-ocean-sea ice models, creating advanced and true to life results.

The research in this paper compounded evidence that was conducted very recently (May 2012), used realistic and complex scenarios, state of the art technology and focused on regions most likely to experience a climate emergency. Its findings are damning for the use of Geoengineering to combat climate change: when global average warming is roughly cancelled by the use of the aerosols, risk regions still experience 20-50% of the temperature changes that could occur in a ‘warmed’ world.

However these findings are the result of just one paper (although in my view using relevant, precise and specific methods of research) – is it feasible to deny the role of Geoengineering in future combating of climate change effects?

Yes. I believe the future of Geoengineering is an extremely risky business for five main reasons:

1. We are unable to predict or specify the results of using climate engineering

2. We are unequipped to deal with problems that may arise from unforeseen negative consequences of climate engineering.

3. From a global society perspective, these methods have potential to create mass conflict and a breakdown in international cooperation

4. Risk of selection of wrong Geoengineering technique could lead to a faster breakdown in climate change

5. And finally, it justifies the perspective that the environment must alter for our needs, instead of us adjusting for its needs.

Geoengineering is an on-going, increasingly popular research area, and in the future may be our only answer to the environmental problems we’ve created by ourselves. But I ask you this, wouldn’t it be easier to step up and make changes now while we still can? To avoid the infinite risks Geoengineering holds? To take responsibility for our actions and ultimately recognise- It’s about changing ourselves, not changing our environment.

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