By Matt Palmer
Today’s link is to an article in The Guardian about the rush to find climate solutions through geoengineering. Geoengineering essentially aims to take CO2 out of the atmosphere or limit sunlight reaching the earth’s surface. It is a controversial area of science for a number of reasons.
Much of the current research according to this article is being funded privately by people like Bill Gates, Calgary‘s Murray Edwards, and Sir Richard Branson through his $25 million Virgin Earth Challenge.
These initiatives are exciting on the one hand because they inspire out of the box, and scientific innovation. I was able to be at the announcement of the eleven finalists for the Virgin Earth Challenge back in November, and some of ideas are very cool. Likely, geoengineering will involve a number of different technologies.
Geoengineering is controversial for a number of reasons. Firstly, environmentalists argue that the idea of taking CO2 out of the atmosphere damages the work going into reducing carbon emissions. Given that these technologies are still years away, and that most people are not aware. Even if this were the case, should that concern be enough to stop very important research that could yield technology that may have multiple applications? Secondly, and perhaps a bigger concern, if scientists are successful in developing technologies that can extract CO2 from the atmosphere, or reduce sunlight on the earth’s surface, what will be the unintended consequences of that? How do you measure how much to take out? And, there is still the issue of CO2 storage. Carbon capture and storage research has been going on for years now, and the results are still out on whether or not we can safely store carbon underground. Hopefully, this issue will be solved soon, as carbon sequestration has huge implications for things like reducing carbon emissions fro burning coal.
Geoengineering is an exciting area that should be encouraged and funded. How the technologies developed are rolled out is a whole other issue that must be carefully considered.
None of these are inconsequential issues. But we know we are going to need a myriad of solutions to the challenges facing us.