The planet faces an increasingly serious crisis as climate change worsens and the time has come to explore geoengineering technology as a way to directly intervene in combating greenhouse gasses and global warming, researchers said Tuesday.
The government panel of scientists said that while it is still too early to deploy these technologies, humanity faces the risk of not being ready in case of an emergency situation and research needs to be done so that humanity is not caught off guard by serious climate change repercussions.
“Society has reached a point where the severity of the potential risks from climate change appears to outweigh the potential risks from the moral hazard of research.”
This has riled up some climate change groups saying that the risks of experimentation on such technology could actually worsen the problem and lead to massive experimentation that may aggravate climate change even more and cause irreparable damage to the environment.
Geoengineering at this stage involves two options: Carbon capturing technology that could store harmful CO2 gasses, and deploying sun blocking chemicals into the atmosphere to artificially cool down the planet. at this point, neither are ready nor have the two options been seriously considered-until now.
The first of these controversial technologies is called carbon dioxide removal is relatively low risk however it is quite expensive. Like the name implies, it involves capturing the poisonous gases ad storing it indefinitely, however climate researchers say that it would take decades to work if employed properly.
The second climate change solution, called solar radiation management, is far more controversial. This technology requires the dispersal of sulfates and other chemicals high in the atmosphere to reflect the eat of the sun and artificially cool down the planet.
The effects these chemicals would have on the environment is unknown at this time but climate change activists fear that us of these chemicals could alter weather patterns, cause drought, and poison crops. Some even fear that such technology could be weaponized by governments, corporations or wealthy individuals.
Marcia McNutt, the committee chair and former director of the US Geological Survey says that by conducting serious research on these climate change technologies now, we can lessen the negative effects this technology would have on our planet and find the most effective method to directly combat climate change with the least amount of risk.
“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.”
Ken Caldeira, a geoengineering researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science and a member of the committee said that while it is premature to deploy such technology at this time, it is worth knowing more about how it works and it would be a viable course in a climate change emergency.
Lisa Archer, food and technology program director of the environmental group Friends of the Earth, said that a geoengineering solution would take climate research in the wrong direction and that it would not address the causes of climate change directly.
“Real climate justice requires dealing with root causes of climate change, not launching risky, unproven and unjust schemes.”
At this time, the United States has no research program in place, a fact that Raymond Pierrehumbert, a geophysicist at the University of Chicago and a member of the panel, hopes to see change with this report saying that “it’s really necessary to have some kind of discussion among broader stakeholders, including the public, to set guidelines for an allowable zone for experimentation.”