Thursday, September 24, 2009


Chris Rowan recently discussed using geoengineering to mitigate climate change on a global scale. This sort of geoengineering gives me the willies; it’s likely to be subject to the law of unintended consequences on a global scale.

Why? Just look at our track record on other environmental fixeds. Use more biofuels, and watch forests get eaten up in an effort to cash in and plant more biofuel crops. Switch to nuclear energy, and then you have a spent rod disposal problem. Encourage more electric (read: battery-powered) cars, and you have a heavy metal mining/disposal problem.

Some of the geoengineering options suggested (blow particles into the atmosphere to create a global umbrella!) to fix global warming just sound like bad ideas. Some (re-injecting carbon into the ground, bio-engineering algae to take up excess atmospheric carbon) sound fairly reasonable. But far more safe and cost-effective would be to try and limit the damage we’re inflicting.

I know how politically thorny it is, but if you think the arguments between developing and post-industrial countries are bad now, wait until the US or Europe decides to “cool things down” and goes a little too far and we have massive crop die-off and famine.


control valves said...

I believe construction of such projects requires knowledge of engineering and management principles and business procedures, economics, and human behavior.

Lockwood said...

I tend to agree... I don't really have a problem with studying these ideas in the abstract, academic sense, but I view any move toward even discussing implementing them in any form as dangerously premature. We have demonstrated repeatedly that we cannot foresee many important consequences of seemingly minor actions and activities. To set out to modify the whole planet on purpose would be folly.

The Greeks would readily identify such a move as an act of hubris. I personally don't believe hubris is punished by god(s), but I do believe it's indicative of a mindset that is likely to miss or ignore impending catastrophe.