Nobody knows what
the system-wide effects of these techniques will be, because we
really don't understand how the complex earth system works. All the
scientists can do is model the known variables and see what the
computers predict. Over the years, they have gotten better, but the
models are still somewhat crude. So the scientists involved have met
in secret for decades, knowing that the public would be skeptical or
hostile to their plans.
The silence was
broken in 2006 by Paul Crutzen, the same man who suggested the name
anthropocene for the new geologic era earth scientists now agree has
begun. Crutzen is skeptical of climate engineering, but he realized a
backroom juggernaut was forming, and thought public scrutiny was
overdue. The danger is that, once people believe that climate
engineering can solve climate change, then our old fossil madness
might be embraced with even greater fervor.
of the history of the formation of the global geo-clique is
fascinating – and chilling. Almost every climate scientist in the
West worked at Lawrence Livermore Lab, including Edward Teller,
inventor of the hydrogen bomb, and a hugely confident proponent of
climate engineering. From Lawrence Livermore, the hot spot shifted to
DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), which was in
charge of the failed Star Wars project which besotted Ronald Reagan.
Today, a “Bipartisan” Policy Center is the key organization for
sorting out the various schemes, keeping climate engineering squarely
inside the Beltway.
The momentum for all
this built while we were not paying attention. With all the
uncertainties, and the enormous hubris of taking on god-like powers,
solar radiation management is almost certain to be deployed, either
early on as a preventative measure (within twenty years), or as a
last-ditch effort to save civilization (whenever climate
disequilibrium hits an emergency level). For this reason, the way
what looks sadly inevitable is regulated, and by whom, becomes of
huge importance. Since it has been part of war games for quite
awhile now, the danger is for unilateral action, or that allied
blocks of nations will deploy SRM without consulting the rest of the
world. The best outcome would be to have a world body like the UN
oversee the research and deployment of this tool.
But the problems are
enormous, since there will be winners and losers no matter how the
application of sulfate aerosols is tweaked. All the modeling thusfar
indicates that the Indian monsoon would be severely affected by
lessening solar radiation striking the oceans. And China is so big,
that any alterations we initiate in the climate will help some areas
and hurt others, exacerbating regional and ethnic tensions there.
Climate engineering's problems are immense, and deserve careful
public scrutiny, which no rebranding as “climate remediation” can
skirt. I will turn in my next post to the ethical dilemmas it poses.
Labels: Bipartisan Policy Center, climate remediation, DARPA, geo-clique, Indian monsoon, Lawrence Livermore Lab, Paul Crutzen, solar radiation management, Star Wars