A pressing issue of climate change triggers the search for solutions to combat it. The scientific community frightens the Humanity with the formidable challenges resulting from global warming and other aspects of climate change. Geoengineering discipline is developing in the attempt to address the problem and mitigate its impacts with the assistance of the most advanced technologies. However, the matter of geoengineering technologies employment has proven to be rather controversial, and the governments of many countries now are facing a choice whether to fund research on geoengineering or to ban it. In this paper, I will weigh pros and cons of geoengineering critically and express my feelings about the subject.
First of all, let us determine what geoengineering is and what kind of technologies it suggests. Oxford Geoengineering Programme defines geoengineering as the deliberate large-scale intervention in the Earth’s natural systems to counteract climate change (geoengineering.ox.ac.uk). It is notorious that the global warming takes place due to the increases in greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere, changes in albedo, and changes in incoming solar radiation. Therefore, geoengineering technologies fall into two categories - solar radiation management and carbon dioxide removal. Solar radiation management techniques include albedo enhancement, space reflectors, stratospheric aerosols. The latter, for example, is introducing small, reflective particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect some sunlight before it reaches the surface of the Earth (geoengineering.ox.ac.uk). And albedo enhancement comprises increasing the reflectiveness of clouds or the land surface so that more of the Sun’s heat is reflected back into space (geoengineering.ox.ac.uk). Carbon dioxide removal techniques include among other things afforestation, Ocean fertilization, Ocean alkalinity enhancement, ambient air capture. Afforestation is engaging in a global-scale tree planting effort. Ambient air capture envisages building large machines that can remove carbon directly from an ambient air and store it elsewhere (geoengineering.ox.ac.uk). You may notice that these are emerging technologies, and their implementation will require sufficient funds and resources, and it is not surprising that geoengineering has its advocates and opponents.
Although geoengineering serves a higher purpose of climate change combating, it has a lot of opponents considering it to be a clear and present danger. Why? From a broader point of view phenomenon of anthropogenic climate change or in other words climate change induced by human activities has not been proved to 100%. Some scientists suggest that current warming is natural as the climate system of our planet varies naturally over a wide range of time scales (epa.gov). Earth has already undergone few ice ages and global warming periods, and probably what we experience now is just another natural cycle. And any intervention in the natural cycles is highly unadvisable. Furthermore, interference in the form of different weather manipulations that geoengineering comprises may cause irreparable harm. The Humanity does not have an experience of such interventions, and if something goes wrong, we will be unable to turn back. Some geoengineering activities already affect people. I am talking about spraying nano-particulates to block the sunlight. Dane Wigington in his presentation on harmful effects of Geoengineering explains how this is causing drought and deluge being experienced around the globe. He declares that global climate engineering recklessly destroys the very essentials needed to sustain life on earth. This is not a topic that will begin to affect us in several years but is now already causing massive animal and plant die off around the world, as well as human illness (geoengineeringwatch.org). Many people in the United States claim deterioration of health, memory and multitasking abilities and associate this with geoengineering programs taking place in their counties. I believe such claims and complaints is a convincing reason to stop or at least suspend geoengineering experiments until social and environmental impacts they have are investigated and assessed in full.
Another argument against the geoengineering and researchers on that might be their high cost. Less developed countries that do not employ geoengineering technologies yet may refuse to invest funds in this area as this would be hard from the economic standpoint first, and second they wouldn’t like to rectify others’ mistakes. Here I mean that the causes of climate change were induced by the rapid industrial growth of now developed countries and developing countries do not take a fall for them. It makes sense for the developing countries to invest in the industrial expansion rather than in equivocal geoengineering technologies that would not yield any economic benefits in the short run. Research on geoengineering may also be a money laundering in some corrupted economies. It is a knowledge-consumptive process which results are often intangible, and thus it creates conditions for money concealment and embezzlement.
In the attempt to prevent global warming different scientific organizations suggest interference in the climatic processed of the Earth. Studies of the humans’ capabilities to influence the climate are quite recent, but there are already passionate proponents and vocal opponents of geoengineering. The first advocate its soonest application and the latter want absolute prohibition of it. However, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Significant interventions suggested by geoengineers require an in-depth study with comprehensive assessments of all possible environmental and social impacts and implications they might have. I believe that research on geoengineering should be continued and accompanied by modeling activities to predict the potential consequences of global climate manipulation adequately and to assess whether the side-effects of it countervail the benefits or not. I support the view of the Oxford Geoengineering Programme that does not advocate implementing geoengineering, but it does advocate conducting research into the social, ethical and technical aspects of geoengineering. The research must be conducted in a transparent, and socially informed manner (geoengineering.ox.ac.uk). It is also worth noting that cooperative efforts of an entire World community will be required as geoengineering matter has a global status and none of the countries will be able to influence the environment in such a radical way without a support of the rest. Even those who can not participate in the global warming combating by the method of climate intervention due to technical and economic reason should approve it. Now the Humanity has a unique opportunity – to assess all the risks and benefits of the significant step before taking it. We should jump at the chance and approach geoengineering issue in a careful way, strictly observing all the scientific principles and take into account public opinion.
GeoEngineering Watch. Videos, 2014. Web. 9 April 2016.
The Nature Conservancy. Climate Change, 2016. Web. 9 April 2016.
United States Environmental Protection Agency. Climate Change, 2016. Web. 9 April 2016.
Univercity of Oxford. Oxford Geoengineering Programme, 2016. Web. 9 April 2016.