How close are we to space sunshades, mountaintop painting, ‘fertilizing’ the oceans with iron, and redirecting hurricanes? Closer than you might imagine.
When it comes to climate change, any discussion of “cap and trade” legislation usually generates a bit of controversy, but there is another proposition for tackling our global warming woes that should be causing even more friction — the little-known set of futurist techno-scenarios collectively known as geoengineering. At the opening plenary of the Convention on Biological Diversity last week in Nagoya, Japan, the ETC Group — the same civil society outfit that led the charge for an international ban on Monsanto’s infamous “terminator seed” a decade ago — called for a moratorium on geoengineering experiments. The group’s new report, Geopiracy: The Case Against Geoengineering, calls geoengineering, “a political strategy aimed at letting industrialized countries off the hook for their climate debt.”
This emergent set of planetary-scale technologies is attracting millions of dollars in investment; it is high on the research agenda at the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the UK’s Royal Society; and it is being promoted by the scientists behind it as “the only practical way to protect biodiversity.” At the same time, the Washington Post has called it, “Playing God with the weather,” and a leading indigenous peoples’ organization called it “an assault on the sacred.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change defines geoengineering as, “The deliberate large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment.” David Keith, a leading proponent, gave the definition a touch more animus when he noted, “Climatic geoengineering aims to mitigate the effect of fossil fuel combustion on the climate without abating fossil fuel use; for example, by placing shields in space to reduce the sunlight incident on earth.”
What in the World Are They Spraying?