Losing Control of Geoengineering

The New York Times seems to be going to town with Geoengineering with an article Pressing the Case for Geoengineering yesterday and a column on Building a Better Biosphere? today.

Yesterdays article illustrates the worries that the eco lobby have over engineering solutions for climate change, and I recently heard the same line from Greenpeace.

Francelino Grando, a senior government official from Brazil, worried that geoengineering might be seen as a solution instead of a stop-gap. “It may give people the impression that we don’t have to worry about climate change because we can solve it through engineering,” he said. “But the only real answer is that we have to fundamentally change the pattern of energy use.”

Oliver Morton’s column today takes a slightly different look at the issue, looking at methods of engineering the biosphere to capture carbon or alter energy flows. The rationale is as follows:

Humans have had great success in increasing the amount of food plants can yield, the amount of fiber than can be spun from them and the number of pretty colors in which they can flower, but so far have not really turned their minds to the problem of simply making them eat and store as much carbon as possible. If that effort were made, significant improvements might result.

Cue horror from the Green lobby. Not only is there a suggestion that we can carry on as normal but also that we can use geoengineering, biotechnology and synthetic biology to clean up the mess afterwards.

Of course it is hard to get this past the green lobby in most governments and despite the US Chief Science advisor raising the subject “Mr. Holdren later clarified that the White House was not strongly considering pursuing geoengineering as a policy.”

So if we accept that getting Geoengineering on the agenda in the US and Europe may be tricky, the idea seems much more attractive from a Chinese perspective, and that is the problem. If the technology can be shown to work, it will be deployed, perhaps locally at first, and then globally.

China has already been experimenting with cloud seeding for a long time, and if Western governments refuse to even look at the issue then they risk losing control over it.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.