Geoengineering sounds like something you’d expect a Bond villain to espouse, not America’s National Academy of Science, but it was the latter who this week suggested that it might be time to take deliberate climate tinkering seriously. The Guardian reports:
The scientists were categorical that geoengineering should not be deployed now, and was too risky to ever be considered an alternative to cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.But it was better to start research on such unproven technologies now – to learn more about their risks – than to be stampeded into climate-shifting experiments in an emergency, the scientists said.With that, a once-fringe topic in climate science moved towards the mainstream – despite the repeated warnings from the committee that cutting carbon pollution remained the best hope for dealing with climate change.
The NAS was careful to qualify its announcement, as you’ll see any advocate of geoengineering do. That caution is understandable; any kind of fiddling with something so complicated and crucially important to human existence could have profound implications for, well, everyone. After all, time and time again we’ve seen our best climate models fail to accurately predict warming patterns. If we don’t fully grasp all the innumerable variables and feedback mechanisms of our planet’s climate, changing one aspect of that system in the hopes of averting catastrophic climate change could potentially end very badly.That said, if the scope of the problem is as massive as many believe it is, then it’s worth researching solutions ambitious enough to meet the challenge.