The front page of yesterday’s New York Times included the beginning of a long article about geoengineering—in this case, as it applies to purposeful activities aimed at changing the earth’s climate at a large scale. Why on earth would anyone even think of doing something like that? Why to avoid catastrophic global warming, of course!
Thankfully, most signs point to only a modest global temperature increase resulting from our fossil fuel usage—a rise that will be readily adapted to and which actually may work out to be more beneficial than detrimental. Thankfully, we say, because geoengineering schemes seem like really bad ideas full of nasty consequences (unintentional and otherwise) and we are glad that no one is seriously entertaining them.
Most folks who spend much time critically thinking about geoengineering the climate arrive at the same conclusion.
Here are a couple of reasons why:
● Who would be in charge of the global thermostat?
● What temperature would it be set to?
● Who gets to decide?
● What if a country doesn’t like the decision?
● Does the thermostat control rotate between counties every so often?
● If you don’t like the weather can you lobby someone to change it?
● If you don’t like the weather can you sue the entity responsible?
● The unintended consequences are mind-boggling!
● How do you know it is effective (climate models can’t accurately foresee annual to decadal variability)?
● Schemes to remove CO2 from the air are detrimental to agriculture.
These are just tastes of the problem, it shouldn’t be hard to come up with more on your own. If you need some help, the always insightful Roger Pielke Jr. has a series of articles on his blog over the years dedicated to this highly controversial topic (see here for starters).
So next time you hear someone offer up geoengineering as a way to “offset” anthropogenic climate change, just say “No, thank you, I’d much rather take my chances with the climate that comes than risk the alternative.”