Is geo-engineering an inevitability?

As the effects of climate change become more apparent and severe, what steps will we be forced to take to slow global warming? Syndicated columnist Gwynne Dyer looks to the future in an opinion piece published in the Gisborne Herald.

An excerpt (read in full here):

Moving into risky territory

“We are getting into very risky territory,” said Christiana Figueres, head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, last week. But she acknowledged we may have to go there anyway.

She was talking about geo-engineering, the manipulation of the world’s climate to avoid catastrophic warming. Nobody actually wants to do that, because we don’t understand the climate system well enough to foresee all possible side-effects. But a large number of people think that in the end we’ll have to do it anyway, because we’re not going to get the warming under control in time without it.

Geo-engineering might involve putting sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere (to reflect some incoming sunlight), spraying fine droplets of seawater into low-lying marine clouds to thicken them up (and reflect more sunlight), or painting the world’s roads and roofs white. There are also proposed techniques for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and for slowing the acidification of the oceans. In fact, there are dozens of proposals.

The topic is now on the table because 60 scientific experts are meeting in Peru on June 20 to explore geo-engineering options, and this has outraged some environmentalists – 125 organisations wrote an open letter to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change condemning the whole concept.