- Global authorities call for a halt on geoengineering experiments.
- Debate intensifies amid escalating climate chaos.
- Solar radiation management’s uncertain future.
- Experts warn of unforeseeable climate alterations.
- The perilous intersection of geoengineering and fossil fuels.
Governments ought to impose a halt on endeavors to manipulate the Earth’s climate through geoengineering, especially as greenhouse gas emissions persist in their upward trajectory, and the climate crisis tightens its grip—a counsel extended by a consortium of global authorities.
Geoengineering remains a contentious subject, yet deliberations regarding its plausibility are gaining momentum in the wake of escalating extreme weather events, fueled by the tumultuous climate transformations sweeping our world.
There exists no worldwide consensus concerning geoengineering protocols, nor are there any firmly established regulations governing the activities of nations or corporations in this arena.
In a report disseminated on the most recent Thursday, the Climate Overshoot Commission implored governments to gradually phase out their reliance on fossil fuels, channeling increased resources towards adapting to the repercussions of severe climatic events.
Additionally, they advocated for the utilization of technologies capable of extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, encompassing carbon capture and storage techniques and direct air carbon extraction methods.
Governments should also grant leeway for scholarly exploration into the prospects of geoengineering, particularly the avenue of solar radiation management.
This approach seeks to curtail the intensity of solar radiation reaching the Earth’s surface, potentially achieved through methods such as augmenting cloud reflectivity or deploying mirrors in outer space.
However, the panel issued a stark caution against governments embarking on any such ventures due to the uncertainties surrounding the repercussions of manipulating the global climate in ways that remain inadequately comprehended.
Pascal Lamy, the former head of the World Trade Organization, who presided over the Climate Overshoot Commission, underscored the non-inevitability of surpassing the 1.5°C threshold, a global temperature limit sanctioned by governments, though the likelihood of this occurrence continues to mount. “The outcome hinges upon our actions,” he asserted.
Nevertheless, he sounded an alarm, emphasizing that the world cannot afford to dismiss the prospect of geoengineering, as some nations might independently initiate investigative initiatives.
However, the perils emanate from unforeseen consequences, particularly those crossing national boundaries.” Scientists remain incapable of asserting the safety of solar radiation management, necessitating the application of the precautionary principle, Lamy added.
Lamy advocated that all nations unilaterally commit to a moratorium, bypassing the waiting period for a global consensus. “I do not propose an extensive international conference – that, based on my experience, would consume an exorbitant amount of time,” he conveyed in an interview with The Guardian.
He insisted that scholarly investigations into solar radiation management should be characterized by transparency, openness, and knowledge sharing.
Geoengineering encapsulates a broad spectrum of measures, ranging from large-scale reforestation initiatives aimed at bolstering carbon absorption to whitewashing rooftops for enhanced reflectivity, or even stimulating oceanic plankton growth through iron seeding to augment carbon absorption.
The Climate Overshoot Commission, composed of distinguished former diplomats, policy experts, and scientists, including Laurence Tubiana, a former French diplomat pivotal in formulating the Paris agreement, specifically homed in on solar radiation management due to its contentious and hazardous nature.
While reforesting endeavors typically enjoy a favorable safety profile, deploying space mirrors to manipulate solar radiation or engineering cloud behavior for increased reflection could unleash massive consequences challenging containment within national borders.
Beyond the inherent hazards of localized climate modification, concerns extend to a “termination shock”—the apprehension that halting the use of such technology, while emissions continue unabated, might trigger severe climatic disruptions as the underlying warming effect reasserts itself.
Peter Kalmus, a climate scientist affiliated with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, sounded a cautionary note.
“Geoengineering, much like direct air carbon capture, represents a profoundly uncertain technological solution that finds favor among fossil fuel executives keen on diverting attention from their core enterprises of oil, gas.
Coal sales—enterprises that, as an increasing number of individuals are realizing, are inflicting swift and irreversible damage upon our planet’s habitability,” he articulated to The Guardian.
Kalmus added, “Fossil fuel elites may leverage geoengineering as a pretext to perpetuate business as usual.
As a climate scientist, my gravest apprehension revolves around the continuation of fossil fuel expansion coupled with solar geoengineering, culminating in a termination shock.
This scenario would spell the end for human civilization and jeopardize much of Earth’s biodiversity.”
Mark Maslin, a professor specializing in earth system science at University College London, unaffiliated with the commission, remarked on the passionate sentiments among many scientists regarding geoengineering.
“Efforts in solar radiation management are tantamount to perilous experiments, poised to unleash unforeseeable alterations in our climate equilibrium, given that the distribution of solar energy across the globe underpins our dynamic climate.