Jochen Prantl’s article in the ‘JakartaGlobe’ introduces yet a further depth of human folly, apparently sponsored or supported by the UK’s Royal Society. Geo-engineering, its called.
His article is titled “Should We Engineer Earth’s Climate?”
With the wide acceptance of global warming as both real and potentially problematic, geoengineering — defined by the UK’s Royal Society as “the deliberate large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment to counteract anthropogenic climate change” — is currently experiencing a surge of interest.
Despite the differentiated nature of the challenges, the greatest risk and uncertainty for the Asia Pacific region arises from increasingly frequent extreme weather events, which are very difficult to manage. The discourse has thus far been driven by scholarly communities in Europe and the US; perspectives from other key regions such as Asia-Pacific are lacking.
Geoengineering techniques can be split into two broad categories. One comprises techniques aimed at the removal of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, such as carbon sequestration through CO2 air capture and ocean iron fertilization. The other category consists of techniques to reflect solar radiation, such as the injection of sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere to mimic the cooling effect caused by large volcanic eruptions. Advocates of geoengineering argue that it could be a useful emergency defense against environmental damage in the case of climactic shifts. Detractors argue that introducing geoengineering as the new Plan B to tackle climate emissions may create even greater problems, since the full effects of various geoengineering techniques are not well understood. Geoengineering could also be perceived as a moral hazard, as there is the possibility that it could decrease the political and social impetus to reduce carbon emissions.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is currently assessing, for the first time, the scientific basis as well as the potential impacts and side effects of geoengineering proposals in its Fifth Assessment Report, scheduled to be finalized in 2014. The Asia Pacific region needs to participate in the debate by identifying and assessing the risks and opportunities of geoengineering techniques.
At least three initial steps deserve particular mention.
First, the regional consultations to map the main national positions on the different geoengineering approaches among Asia Pacific countries that are likely to be at the forefront of deployment and/or impact. Singapore’s Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, in cooperation with the Oxford Geoengineering Program, is currently facilitating such a dialogue by convening a regional pilot workshop in Singapore.
Second is scenario-building in order to identify the governance demands of geoengineering. In particular, the following questions should be addressed:
• What processes do we need to govern geoengineering, from further research to potential deployment?
• What are the existing legal and institutional mechanisms to govern geoengineering research, development and potential deployment? What would be the optimal regulatory framework?
• How would we manage the uncontrolled use of geoengineering for peaceful purposes, for example, the preemptive use of solar radiation management techniques by a consortium of countries with threatened coastlines? How would we deal with intended or unintended negative effects?
• How would we define ‘climate emergency’ for the purpose of triggering the deployment of geoengineering technology?
• What are the criteria that would define the success and failure of geoengineering deployment? For example, how would we determine at what level of atmospheric carbon dioxide the deployment of geoengineering technologies should cease?
Third is public and civil society engagement to facilitate a regional dialogue on the known and unknown consequences of geoengineering.
Advancing geoengineering technologies will require a globally-coherent regulatory approach to the field. The current lack of any regulatory framework opens up the possibility that the technology could be applied unilaterally by single countries, businesses or even individuals, without concern for side effects or trans-boundary implications. It will be important to reduce the possibility of situations where there will be winners and losers associated with the implementation of any new geoengineering technology.
Geoengineering should be regulated as a global public good within a well-defined public interest framework. Such a public interest framework should be defined via broad public participation and consultation, globally and regionally.
Geoengineering research should also be subject to disclosure and open publication, and there should be an independent assessment of the possible impacts of any geoengineering research enterprise. Further, geoengineering governance arrangements should be in place before the deployment of any new technology.
The limits of mitigation and adaptation in responding to climate change, coupled with the risk of reaching or passing tipping points in the Earth’s climate system, make it extremely difficult for policy makers to categorically exclude the geoengineering option as a potential Plan B for tackling carbon emissions.
Decisions on the implementation and regulation of geoengineering may well fall to our generation to make. The Asia Pacific needs to find its voice in the debate. Let’s argue and choose wisely.
Jochen Prantl is Senior Research Fellow in International Relations, Research Fellow of Nuffield College, University of Oxford, and Visiting Senior Fellow and Coordinator of the Energy Security Programme at the Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies in the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University.
Given that the first premise for human intervention of climate manipulation is to combat “global warming” from CO2 emissions, a far-from-settled “science”, it is extremely worrying that further interference in nature’s climate change system is contemplated. I am comfortable with the label “madness”.
New Scientist publishes a related article, introduced by:
IN 1892 Edvard Munch witnessed a blood-red sunset over Oslo, Norway. Shaken by it, he wrote in his diary that he felt “a great, unending scream piercing through nature”. The incident inspired him to create his most famous painting, The Scream.
The striking sunset was probably caused by the eruption of Krakatoa, which sent a massive plume of ash and gas into the upper atmosphere, turning sunsets red around the globe and cooling the Earth by more than a degree.
Now a powerful group of scientists, venture capitalists and conservative think tanks is coalescing around the idea of reproducing this cooling effect by injecting sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere to counter climate change. Despite the enormity of what is being proposed – nothing less than seizing control of the climate – the public has been almost entirely excluded from the planning.
Up to now, governments have been reluctant to talk …
Perhaps even they, somewhat supportive of Global warming theories, see a measure of madness in this type of “science”. Ref: An evil atmosphere is forming around geoengineering. Author – Clive Hamilton.
And here an extract from the third ‘related article’ below:
Globally, we need to realise that although research and investment in mitigation and adaptation is essential, it may not be enough. Investment in geoengineering research has begun and, without international governance structures, schemes could soon be implemented unencumbered by the safeguards needed. The Royal Society is now working with a variety of organisations to develop guidelines to ensure research is conducted in a manner that is responsible and environmentally sound.
(It must be nice and peaceful to simply be an average citizen going about their routine life, unaware of the dangers threatening as a result of human greed, and megalomania, not to mention psychopathic tendencies).
- Geoengineering for a Desperate Planet – UN Declares Global Moratorium (stephenleahy.net)
- Why Geoengineering Should Not Be Dismissed Entirely (treehugger.com)
- Letters: Geoengineering research guidelines (guardian.co.uk)
- An evil atmosphere is forming around geoengineering (newscientist.com)