Following a pair of reports published by the National Academy of Sciences on Tuesday which explor the possible future role and scientific efficacy of geoengineering schemes to combat the runaway climate catastrophe driven by human emissions, experts and environmental groups are making it clear that efforts to employ “—wacky techno fixes—” would be a misguided, unjust, profoundly arrogant and endlessly dangerous approach.
According to a statement by the NAS, the two reports – titled Climate Intervention: Carbon Dioxide Removal and Reliable Sequestration and Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool the Earth – should not be seen as wholesale endorsement of the various climate-intervention techniques explored, but simply as an acknowledgement that further scientific research into such schemes should not be avoided by the research community.
“There is no substitute for dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate the negative consequences of climate change,” said the NAS. However, the research body did argue that geoengineering “could contribute to a broader portfolio of climate change responses with further research and development.”
It is that second argument which now has climate justice advocates and experts from the field of mitigation strategies worried.
As Marcia McNutt, the committee chair and former director of the US Geological Survey, told the Guardian on Tuesday: “That scientists are even considering technological interventions should be a wake-up call that we need to do more now to reduce emissions, which is the most effective, least risky way to combat climate change.”
In response to the two reports, Friends of the Earth said the NAS is going backward on real solutions to the climate crisis by offering cover to those who have pushed for geoengineering in years past. As the environmental group noted, the UN’s Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity agreed to a moratorium on geoengineering in 2010, but said reports like these reveal that too many people, even some within the scientific community, continue to grasp at “techno-fixes as viable options to combat climate change.”
As Ben Schreiber, FOE’s climate and energy program director, explains, “While we agree that the current level of greenhouse gas emissions leaves us vulnerable to climate chaos, geoengineering will take us in the wrong direction. It serves as a dangerous distraction from the crucial discussions and actions that need to take place to mitigate and adapt to climate disruption.”
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In his response to the NAS reports on Tuesday, Pat Mooney, executive director of the ETC Group, which focuses on the intersection of socioeconomics, ecology and technology, argued that “NAS support for geoengineering research creates a political space that could lead multinational oil companies and their governments off the hook.”
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