Wired recently raised the controversial issue of geo-engineering in its online poll Should Geoengineering Go Forward? According to Wired: “Over the last few years, intentionally manipulating Earth’s climate on a planetary scale has gone from a fringe idea to a possibility debated by mainstream scientists. That’s worried a lot of people, and last week the practice was informally placed off-limits by 193 nations.”
Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, offers the following commentary on the subject.
“As Professor Roger Pielke Jr. points out in the documentary COOL IT, geo-engineering is as divisive within the climate change policy debate as stem-cell research is within health policy discussion. The prospect of deliberately changing the Earth’s atmosphere understandably arouses strong emotions and fears. However, I agree with President Obama’s science advisor, John Holdren, whose personal view is that geo-engineering has ‘got to be looked at.’
There are many obvious reasons to be cautious. But these are the very same reasons why we should research geo-engineering today so that we can better understand its possibilities, limitations and effects.
Research to date (including this excellent paper by Eric Bickel and Lee Lane for the Copenhagen Consensus Center) indicates that geo-engineering could be cheap and fast-acting compared to carbon cuts. Bickel and Lane showed that a tiny investment in climate engineering might be able to reduce as much of global warming’s effects as trillions of dollars spent on carbon emission reductions. Geo-engineering shows promise as a way of buying more time to make the technological breakthroughs that are needed to move away from reliance on fossil fuels.
It is important that we focus firmly on the costs and benefits of different ways of responding to climate change. We obviously need to act with caution. But that means making sure that we actually research potentially effective actions before we take them off the table.”