Over at Worldchanging, Alex Steffen has an excellent draft essay on the political risks of “geoengineering”:
Some scientists suggest that certain massive projects—like creating artificial volcanoes to fill the skies with soot, or seeding the oceans with mountains of iron to produce giant algal blooms—might in the future be able put the brakes on climate change. These “geoengineering” ideas are hardly shovel-ready. The field at this point consists essentially of little more than a bunch of proposals, simulations and small-scale experiments: describing these hypothetical approaches as “back up options” crazily overstates their current state of development. Indeed, almost all of the scientists working on them believe that the best answer to our climate problem would be a quick, massive reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions.
None of this has stopped geoengineering from becoming part of a new attempt to stall those very reductions, though. The same network of think tanks, pundits and lobbying groups that denied climate change for the last 30 years has seized on geoengineering as a chance to undermine new climate regulations and the U.N. climate negotiations to be held at the end of the year in Copenhagen. They’re still using scare tactics about the economic costs of change, but now, instead of just denying the greenhouse effect, they’ve begun trying to convince the rest of us that hacking the planet with giant space-mirrors or artificial volcanoes is so easy that burning a lot more coal and oil really won’t be a problem.
The piece is titled Geoengineering and the New Climate Denialism, which should give you a flavor for the direction of the post.
There’s a seperate conversation to be had about the substantive geophysical risks of trying to alter the planet’s systems. Alex’s piece, however, focuses on the near term political dynamics. It’s definitely worth a read.