Climate change risks can be addressed by individual action, by community initiatives, and by national and international policies and agreements. Another weapon in the arsenal to fight climate change is geoengineering that provides large scale technical fixes.
Climate change could be modified if the sun is blocked or heat is sent back out into the stratosphere. To accomplish this, geoengineering projects have considered loading the stratosphere with millions of tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) that react with oxygen, water and other substances forming sulfate droplets. These droplets help to block the sun and reduce warming. The process mimics the effect of volcanoes that discharge SO2 blocking the sun and cooling the earth. Such large-scale engineered actions are largely untested and many questions remain about their efficacy — how much SO2 would be necessary, how would it be delivered, at what cost. Other proposals include spraying seawater into the air to whiten and increase clouds to reflect sun rays away from the earth.
Before you dismiss such ideas as more Star Wars than science, be advised that the US Congressional Committee on Science and Technology scheduled hearings on geoengineering in November 2009, the UK parliament has already held hearings on geoengineering, and research funds are beginning to be directed to testing such proposals.
Some propose considering, and testing, such geoengineering projects as temporary fixes while global agreements are reached and policies and practices can be implemented to reduce greenhouse gases and communities can drastically reduce or eliminate carbon-based energy and fuel systems. Others fear that such hard-engineering projects will offer the possibly false hope of a quick fix and undermine the very hard policy choices that are blocking international agreements. The danger exists that a quick engineered solution might offer the seductive choice of continuing profligate consumption.
Some further ideas to explore on Geoengineering:
Identify a geoengineering approach to climate change and determine its realistic possibilities and its enviromental and economic costs and benefits.
How would you convince a political body to adopt this geoengineering approach?
Would you consider carbon sequestration a geoengineering project? If so, why? If not, why?
Does the RoI or NI, individually or jointly, have the resources to develop or implement any geoengineering projects?
Robert Kunzig, “Geoengineering: How to Cool Earth–At a Price,” Scientific American (November 2008).
Diana Bronson, “Geoengineering: Plan B for when Copenhagen fails? eek!” (November 4, 2009) itsgettinghotinhere.org/2009/11/04/geoengineering-plan-b-for-when-copenhagen-fails/
Bjørnar Egede-Nissen and Henry David Venema, “Desperate Times, Desperate Measures: Advancing the geoengineering debate at the Arctic Council,” International Institute for Sustainable Development (August 2009)