Geoengineering may sound crazy, but climate zealots despise it because it could work without requiring us to change our lifestyles.

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Rob Lyons is a UK journalist specialising in science, environmental and health issues. He is the author of ‘Panic on a Plate: How Society Developed an Eating Disorder’.

Rob Lyons is a UK journalist specialising in science, environmental and health issues. He is the author of ‘Panic on a Plate: How Society Developed an Eating Disorder’.

Oxford University’s Geoegineering Programme defines the process as “the deliberate large-scale intervention in the Earth’s natural systems to counteract climate change” and a new book, Geoengineering: The Gamble discusses its potential benefits and pitfalls. The author, Gernot Wagner, is a climate economist who teaches at New York University and was the founding executive director of Harvard’s Solar Geoengineering Research Program. The opening sentence of the book is: “The first time I heard about solar geoengineering, I considered the idea nuts.”  It’s a useful admission, because directly intervening in the world’s climate provokes much the same reaction from most people.

Wagner sums up the case for geoengineering as “fast, cheap and imperfect.” It’s fast, because it could lower global temperatures far more quickly than cutting emissions. It’s not really cheap, potentially costing many billions of dollars, but that’s still a lot less than the trillions that we’re spending attempting to completely reorganise the way we travel, produce goods, generate energy and eat – which is what is demanded in order to eliminate carbon emissions.

Geoengineering is imperfect, says Wagner, because it doesn’t get to the root cause of rising temperatures, it simply affects one symptom of greenhouse gas emissions. Wagner still believes that reducing emissions is the only way to solve the problem fundamentally. If we can reduce temperatures through blocking sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface – for example, by dumping sulphur dioxide particles into the stratosphere – would that remove the incentive to decarbonise at all?

There are also the unpredictable effects of geoengineering. What if it led to a change in rainfall patterns, for example? The total amount of precipitation might not be affected, but if the monsoon rains didn’t come to India in a predictable way, the impact would be enormous on access to water, for agriculture and so on.

But geoengineering could, in many cases, be reversed pretty quickly. For example, a natural experiment was the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991. So many particles were thrown into the stratosphere that northern hemisphere temperatures dropped by half a degree Celsius. Given that. Brinkwire Summary News. For more information, search on the internet.

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