Saturday, September 5, 2009

Geo-engineering as an alternative

The problem of global warming has been known to mankind over last 5 decades. Growth rate of CO2 and other emissions are accelerating and that it's accelerating even faster that what we thought was the worst case just a few years back. Carbon reduction is turning out to be a very slow process to combat climate change and targets set seem unreachable. With Kyoto protocol to be replaced at COP15, countries have geared into finding sustainable solutions and policies. The question is is reducing emissions the only way? No, its not. We have Geo-Engineering. David Keith, an environmental scientist, describes it as intentional, large-scale manipulation of the environment. It is believed to be a cheap, effective and inexpensive solution to climate change.

Geo-engineering isn’t being discussed much and has been kept away public since long. Its been at times considered as a moral hazard by economists because they've failed to weigh correctly the merits and demrits of geo-engineering. Geo-engineering has come up with solutions like: releasing sulfates to cool the atmosphere based on how volcanoes work; carbon capture and storage (CCS); fake trees that absorb CO2;cloud seeding, cloud albedo; ocean iron fertilization, etc. Without doubt, geo-engineering can trigger unforeseen results without further scientific study simply because of the complexity of ecosystems involved. With the dearth of funds and support for such research, it’s hard to proceed. We certainly should not put all of our efforts into just carbon reductions.
Geo-engineering will provide countries with extra time for further research into ways of reducing emissions or to stabilize their economies before signing some protocol similar to Kyoto's. However, we know that the negative impacts of global warming are distributed unevenly, and what may be acceptable levels of climate disruption for the major states may be utterly devastating for poorer, smaller nations. It is in this context that a scientifically-powerful developing nation like India or Brazil, for example may decide that it is unwilling to abide by UN decisions about re-terraforming, and begin to undertake such a strategy.
Geo-engineering is also now seen as a political issue in terms of control, liability and projects existing for the similar cause. It's also entirely possible that a state with the capacity to undertake such a project independently might decide that international restrictions are irrational, or that its survival is so threatened that the bureaucracy of a transnational body is unacceptable. When a hegemonic nation does it, such as the United States or China, there may be little the international community can do in response.
There will be blocks and obstructions, but they have always been even while discussing carbon reductions. But geo-engineering will be more quicker and inexpensive way to sort problems.

Anindita Nayak

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