Due to the apparent lack of political action on climate change, some of the United States’ leading climate experts are now calling for new research into extreme “geo-engineering” climate solutions in the event the world’s climate system reaches a tipping point.
This recent call to action originated from an 18-member panel convened by the Bipartisan Research Center called the “Task Force on Climate Remediation Research.” The 18 member panel included physical scientists, former government officials, and national security experts.
Although it may be too early to tell if we have already reached a climate tipping point, one thing is clear: if the world continues on its current trajectory, it will need extreme geo-engineering solutions to avert climate disaster.
Geo-engineering (or as the Task Force prefers, “climate remediation”), means deploying special technologies to directly manipulate the Earth’s climate. Some geo-engineering solutions consist of mimicking the cooling effect of volcanoes by dispersing particles in the air, launching mirrors into space to reflect solar radiation away from the Earth, forming artificial clouds, or ‘vacuuming’ carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
Although most of these ideas are technically feasibility, there is no way of knowing with 100% certainty their long-term impacts on the Earth. It is even possible that deploying a particular geo-engineering technique could have negative consequences that are far worse than global warming.
The panel is recommending we start researching geo-engineering solutions now, so that if the world’s climate reaches a tipping point, we will already be prepared to deploy climate remediation techniques. However, despite calling for more research into geo-engineering, the panel still feels that the best course of action is to aggressively reduce carbon emissions rather than rely on climate remediation exclusively.
As can be expected, geo-engineering is a controversial subject, even amongst environmentalists. They see climate remediation as unpredictable and dangerous, and an insufficient substitute for greenhouse gas reductions.
But as Jane Long, associate director of Lawrence Livermore National Lab and panel co-chair points out: “we’re already geoengineering the environment by spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we’re just doing it accidentally.”
What are your thoughts on geo-engineering? Is it worth pursuing research into geo-engineering to avoid climate disaster?
Image: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center: Earth