Search OCA:
Get Local!

Find Local News, Events & Green Businesses on OCA's State Pages:

OCA News Sections

Organic Consumers Association

Geoengineering: Can We Save the Planet by Messing with Nature?

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Environment and Climate Resource Center page and our Organic Transitions page.



As the carbon dioxide in the air hits 400 parts per million for the first time in human history, some are arguing that the best way address climate change is to use the controversial practice of geoengineering - the deliberate altering of the Earth's ecological and climate systems to counter the effects of global warming. Supporters of geoengineering endorse radical ways to manipulate the planet, including creating artificial volcanoes to pollute the atmosphere with sulfur particles. Many scientists and environmentalists have raised concerns about geoengineering technologies designed to intervene in the functioning of the Earth system as a whole. We're joined now by Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra, Australia. Hamilton's new book, "Earthmasters: The Dawn of the Age of Climate Engineering," lays out the arguments for and against climate engineering, and reveals the vested interests behind it linking researchers, venture capitalists and corporations.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to look at the issue of climate change, the growing concern about climate change and what to do about it. A recent survey of more than 4,000 academic papers published over the last 20 years found [ 97 ] percent of them agree climate change is caused by human activity. This comes as scientists are warning the planet has now reached a grim climate milestone not seen for two or three million years. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmoshere has topped 400 parts per million. the 400 ppm threshold has been an important marker in U.N. climate change negotiations, widely recognized as a dangerous level that could drastically worsen human-caused global warming.

Some are arguing the best way to address climate change is to use the controversial practice of geoengineering-the deliberate altering of the Earth to decrease the level of greenhouse gas emissions. While controlling the Earth's climate system sounds like science fiction, such proposals are already being hatched out by government agencies, scientists, businesses around the world. Supporters of geoengineering endorse radical ways to manipulate the planet, including creating artificial volcanoes to pollute the atmosphere with sulfur particles. This is environmental scientist David Keith explaining the idea.

DAVID KEITH: This geoengineering idea, in its simplest form, is basically the following. You could put fine particles-say, sulfuric acid particles, sulfates-into the upper atmoshere, the stratosphere, where they would reflect away sunlight and cool the planet. And I know for certain that that will work-not that there aren't side effects, but I know for certain that will work. And the reason is, it's been done. And it was done not by us, not by me, but by nature. Here's Mount Pinatubo in the early '90s that put a whole bunch of sulfur in the stratosphere with a sort of atomic-bomb-like cloud, and the result of that was pretty dramatic. After that and some previous volcanoes we have, you see a quite dramatic cooling of the atmosphere.

AMY GOODMAN: Many scientists and environmentalists have raised concerns about geoengineering technologies designed to intervene in the functioning of the Earth system as a whole. Speaking on Democracy Now! in 2010, Indian scientist and activist Vandana Shiva warned about some of the dangers.

VANDANA SHIVA: These shortcuts that are attempted from places of power-and I would add, places of ignorance-of the ecological web of life, are then creating the war solution, because geoengineering becomes war on a planetary scale, with ignorance and blind spots, instead of taking the real path, which is helping communities adapt and become resilient.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, our next guest has written a new book that lays out the arguments for and against climate engineering, and reveals the extent of vested interests linking researchers, venture capitalists and corporations. We're joined by Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra, Australia. He's the author of Earthmasters: The Dawn of the Age of Climate Engineering.

Clive Hamilton, welcome to Democracy Now!

CLIVE HAMILTON: Thanks, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what is geo- and climate engineering?

CLIVE HAMILTON: Well, it's a range of schemes that are being developed by scientists, particularly in the U.S., to essentially try to counter the effects of global warming by technological interventions in the global climate system. They range from the benign, such as making biochar, a kind of charcoal; through to the science fiction, like putting a cloud of mirrors in space to deflect some sunlight; to probably the premier scheme that receives most attention and which, in my view, is very likely to be implemented in perhaps 20, 30 years' time, the one that David Keith mentioned, the idea of essentially installing a solar shield, a layer of sulfate particles around the Earth to deflect a certain proportion of incoming solar radiation-so, in other words, to regulate the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth.  


>>> Read the Full Article

For more information on this topic or related issues you can search the thousands of archived articles on the OCA website using keywords: