Saturday, September 22, 2012

If you're not panicking, you don't understand

This week’s New Scientist (22 Sept) features geoengineering - the deliberate large-scale intervention in the Earth’s climate system, in order to moderate global warming. Until recently I used to think this was the preserve of crazies. But I've become alarmed at the increasing number of scientists who are saying it's got to be done. The latest was in The Guardian this week.

Arctic scientist Prof Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University says "we must not only urgently reduce CO2 emissions but must urgently examine other ways of slowing global warming, such as the various geoengineering ideas that have been put forward."

Don't get me wrong, geoengineering doesn't stop being crazy just because some scientists promote it. Without a doubt it's a contender for loopiest idea in the history of humanity. But when scientists start to advocate a loopy scheme, it puts me in mind of the humorous postcard that says “If you're not panicking that’s because you don't understand the situation”. 

There's a whole more to say on this when I get round to it.  Could the effects of geoengineering be worse than climate change? Who decides? Does even talking about it take the urgency out of fossil fuel reductions? Is it too late to talk about fossil fuel reductions? Is it too late to be squeamish about geoengineering seeing as we've already been doing it on a gargantuan scale for 200 years?  

1 comment:

  1. I look forward to seeing what else you have to say on this subject. I had an interesting, lengthy, Twitter debate with someone last week about this very thing. I had posted a link to an article saying that giant mirrors and whiter clouds would need to be engineered. I opposed such moves, thinking that emission-reduction was the most sensible solution. The basic principle of his argument was that to object to geoengineering is to live in denial; we're never going to get China or India to slow down their increase in emissions, so a scientific solution is our only hope. We ended up pretty much agreeing that we need to pursue every avenue (ie prevention and cure). So, please do follow this blog post up with more thoughts...