Decent (not great) primer on geoengineering. Worth a skim since my next post is on that batshiat crazy guy who dumped 100 tons of rusty iron dust into the ocean last week - just to see what would happen.
I know, it’s a carbon story - not my style. What’s most interesting to me, though, is the legal questions behind geoengineering.
For example, let’s say that geoengineering is a good option, one that could counter global warming and cool the earth just enough to make things safer. There are dozens of ways to do this, as the article points out. Like, the dudes (and they are mostly dudes) from DARPA send a big mirror into orbit to reflect the sun’s rays. Or someone figures out a way to create more clouds in the sky, which would then reflect the sun’s energy back into spaceblivion. Aaannd a presto! No more climate change.
Great news, right? But, and this is the legal bit, which country should be in control of such projects? Who decides how much geoengineering is just right?
What happens if a rogue nation decides to mess with the earth’s atmosphere for geo-political-advantage-of-doomy-doom??! How (and whom) would legally enforce this system, especially if someone screwed up? Should China or, say, Afghanistan hold the keys to geoengineering technology? Conversely, one can easily imagine a coalition of states - China, USA, the EU, maybe Brazil etc. - getting together to run this system. Which court system would hold this coalition responsible for our doomed existence? And other rhetorical, legal mind-fucks.
What Is Geoengineering and Why Is It Considered a Climate Change Solution?
Geoengineering is a word that means many different things to many different people. Typically what people call geoengineering is divided into two major classes. There are approaches which attempt to reduce the amount of climate change produced by an increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and there are approaches that try to remove greenhouse gases that have already been released to the atmosphere.
The Earth is warmed by sunlight and the heat that is absorbed by the Earth is later re-radiated back to space. Greenhouse gases make it more difficult for the Earth to radiate energy to space. So the two main ways you can cause Earth to cool are either to create conditions such that Earth absorbs less sunlight or make it easier for the Earth to radiate heat energy back to space.
The first category of approaches typically includes things like: putting giant satellites in space to deflect sunlight away from Earth, putting tiny particles in the stratosphere, whitening clouds over the ocean, or perhaps whitening roofs or planting lighter [colored] crops. They are all attempts to deflect sunlight away from Earth.
The second allows more heat energy to escape.
There is one more category that some people propose: that we might take heat that exists near the surface of the Earth and stuff it down deep into the ocean. This hasn’t been looked at very much. But it’s another way of altering Earth’s surface temperatures.
Why do we even need to think about this?
Read the rest at SciAm