Former United Nations Climate Expert Calls For Global Rules on Geoengineering
In a recent speech a former United Nations climate expert warns that climate engineering should halt until global rules are established.
On April 6, Janos Pasztor, former United Nations assistant secretary-general on climate change, spoke at Arizona State University regarding the dangers of solar geoengineering and the need for international rules to regulate the controversial technology.
Geoengineering is the deliberate and large-scale manipulation of the weather and climate using a variety of technologies. One popular form of geoengineering being explored by scientists is known as Solar Radiation Management (SRM), a process which involves spraying aerosols from planes equipped with particulates designed to reflect sunlight in an effort to combat “anthropogenic global warming.” During his speech Pasztor discussed the potential dangers of geoengineering, including the upcoming experiment being conducted by Harvard University in Arizona.
Welcome to tonight’s special lecture by Janos Pasztor, Executive Director of the Carnegie Climate Geoengineering Governance Initiative!
Posted by ASU LightWorks at Arizona State University on Friday, April 6, 2018
“Some time within the next year, we may see the world’s first outdoor experiment on stratospheric aerosol injection take place here in the skies above Arizona, yet for the most part governments are not aware of, nor addressing, the profound governance issues this poses,” Mr Pasztor said. “We urgently need an open, inclusive discussion on how the world will research and govern solar geoengineering. Otherwise we could be in danger of events overtaking society’s capacity to respond prudently and effectively.”
In March 2017, Harvard engineer (and consistent proponent of climate engineering) David Keith announced his plan for a new project, SCoPEx (Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment), which will assess the risks and benefits of deploying geoengineering on a large public scale. Keith and fellow engineer, Frank Keutsch, will research the benefits and risks by spraying particles such as sulfur dioxide, alumina, or calcium carbonate from a high-altitude balloon over Arizona during 2018. David Keith said there will be a multi-phase plan for research and conducting real-world testing within the next 18 months. Keith also called for stratospheric spraying within three years and continuous spraying for at least a century. Technology Review reports that Keith said his team is already in the process of “engineering design work with Arizona test balloon company World View Enterprises,” and discussing the “appropriate governance structure for such an experiment.”
“How does this experiment acquire legitimacy from other scientists? Do civil society groups and the public, including those located in the area of the experiment, have a say?,” Pasztor asked. “What are the ramifications for other proposed experiments in this country or in other countries?”
Pasztor currently serves as the head of the Carnegie Climate Geoengineering Governance Initiative (C2G2), an initiative launched by the Carnegie Council in order to “bring the profoundly complex issues of geoengineering governance and ethics to a much wider audience.” The Carnegie Council has previously called for global governance structures to regulate the use of geoengineering.
Pasztor emphasized that addressing this challenge should involve “discussions that include all sectors of society. It’s critical the world addresses this issue as soon as possible.” He also discussed the potential for disastrous consequences resulting from geoengineering projects. In late January, researchers with Yale University, Rutgers University and the University of Maryland offered a warning against the sudden starting or stopping of controversial geoengineering programs. The researchers warn that efforts to inject aerosols into the atmosphere to combat climate change may end up causing more harm to wildlife, the environment, and humanity. The study, “Potentially dangerous consequences for biodiversity of solar geoengineering implementation and termination,” was published in the journal Nature. The researchers write:
Solar geoengineering is receiving increased policy attention as a potential tool to offset climate warming. While climate responses to geoengineering have been studied in detail, the potential biodiversity consequences are largely unknown. To avoid extinction, species must either adapt or move to track shifting climates. Here, we assess the effects of the rapid implementation, continuation and sudden termination of geoengineering on climate velocities—the speeds and directions that species would need to move to track changes in climate.
This study is not the first one to draw attention to the dangers of beginning geoengineering programs. According to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, if geoengineering programs were started and then suddenly halted, the planet could see an immediate rise in temperatures, particularly over land. Another study published in February 2015 by an international committee of scientists stated that geoengineering techniques are not a viable alternative to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to combat the effects of climate change. The committee report called for further research and understanding of various geoengineering techniques, including carbon dioxide removal schemes and solar-radiation management before implementation. The scientists found that SRM techniques are likely to present “serious known and possible unknown environmental, social, and political risks, including the possibility of being deployed unilaterally.”
In addition, in late October 2016, the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity released a report examining the problems of geoengineering and whether or not humanity will be forced to employ the practice in an attempt to halt climate change. The report, Update On Climate Geoengineering In relation to the Convention on Biological Diversity: Potential Impacts and Regulatory Framework, found that geoengineering “would reduce the impacts of climate change on biodiversity at the global level,” but also cause unpredictable rain and temperature distribution on the local level.
The U.N. report states that the effectiveness of geoengineering is “uncertain” and “in reducing the scale of one problem, other new problems would be created. Thus, there would also be risk of the geoengineering action also contributing to other drivers affecting biodiversity loss and ecosystem integrity.” The U.N. concluded that although SRM may possibly slow the loss of Arctic sea ice, but not without “unacceptable climatic impacts elsewhere.” The study found that the use of sulphur aerosols for SRM would be associated with a risk of stratospheric ozone loss.
In addition, back in January a leaked draft report from the U.N. panel of climate experts called geoengineering “economically, socially and institutionally infeasible.” The U.N. once again recognized that geoengineering could disrupt weather patterns.
Geoengineering research has rapidly increased in the last decade as nations consider the options for fighting climate change. Until recently the research has exclusively been the playground of wealthier nations in the West. That may be changing soon as scholars begin calling for including smaller nations in Africa and Asia in discussions regarding geoengineering. Reuters reports that twelve scholars writing in the journal Nature have called for developing nations to be included in solar geoengineering research. Reuters mentions that the Solar Radiation Management Governance Initiative (SRMGI) has launched a $400,000 research grant for scientists interested in studying geoengineering. The initiative is financed by the Open Philanthropy Project, a foundation backed by Dustin Moskovitz, a co-founder of Facebook, and his wife, Cari Tuna.
Derrick Broze is an investigative journalist and liberty activist. He is the Lead Investigative Reporter for ActivistPost.com and the founder of the TheConsciousResistance.com. Follow him on Twitter. Derrick is the author of three books: The Conscious Resistance: Reflections on Anarchy and Spirituality and Finding Freedom in an Age of Confusion, Vol. 1, Finding Freedom in an Age of Confusion, Vol. 2 and Manifesto of the Free Humans.
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