Experts demand moratorium on climate geoengineering as emissions soar
Amid soaring greenhouse gas emissions and an intensifying climate crisis, a panel of experts urges governments to halt climate geoengineering efforts.
As greenhouse gas emissions continue to surge and the world grapples with an intensifying climate crisis, a panel of global experts has issued an urgent call for governments to implement a moratorium on climate geoengineering initiatives.
Geoengineering, a highly contentious topic, is gaining prominence in discussions as extreme weather events linked to climate breakdown become increasingly frequent and severe. Presently, there is no international consensus on geoengineering, and there are no established regulations governing the actions of countries or businesses in this arena.
The large-scale manipulation of a specific process central to determining Earth's climate is what is known as geoengineering. Artificial carbon dioxide removal, solar radiation, and weather modification are some examples of this broad spectrum of techniques.
In a recently released report by the Climate Overshoot Commission, governments were urged to take decisive steps toward phasing out fossil fuel usage, allocating greater resources to adapt to the impacts of extreme weather and exploring the deployment of technologies designed to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
These technologies encompass carbon capture and storage, as well as direct air capture, offering potential solutions to mitigate climate change.
Additionally, the report encourages governments to allow academic research into geoengineering possibilities, particularly in relation to solar radiation management.
Solar radiation management aims to reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth's surface through various strategies, including enhancing cloud reflectivity or deploying mirrors in space.
Individual action might have unforeseen consequences
However, the panel of experts sounded a note of caution against governments initiating geoengineering activities.
They cited the inherent risks associated with altering the global climate in ways that remain poorly understood.
Pascal Lamy, the former head of the World Trade Organization and chair of the Climate Overshoot Commission, stressed the need for proactive measures in the face of climate change, highlighting the possibility that some nations might independently undertake investigations and experiments related to geoengineering.
He advocated for governments to independently implement a moratorium, avoiding the wait for a global consensus, and stressed the importance of transparency and openness in academic research concerning solar radiation management.
"There is an increasing international discussion of solar radiation management. But the danger is of unintended consequences, and of transboundary consequences."
What are some geoengineering techniques?
The term "geoengineering" encompasses a broad spectrum of techniques, ranging from large-scale reforestation efforts to enhance carbon absorption to initiatives such as coating rooftops with reflective materials or introducing iron into the oceans to stimulate plankton growth and increase carbon absorption.
The Climate Overshoot Commission, consisting of prominent former diplomats, policy experts, and scientists, with individuals like Laurence Tubiana, the former French diplomat who played an important role in the failed Paris Agreement, focused on solar radiation management due to its contentious and potentially hazardous nature.
While certain strategies, such as reforestation, are generally considered safer, initiatives like space mirrors or cloud seeding could have far-reaching and uncontrollable consequences, transcending national boundaries and potentially leading to a "termination shock" if emissions continue to rise alongside geoengineering deployment. Termination shock is the fear that stopping the use of the technology would cause severe disruption to the climate as the underlying heating effect takes hold again, according to The Guardian.
Climate scientist Peter Kalmus expressed concerns about the fossil fuel industry's inclination to promote geoengineering as a means to divert attention from the detrimental impacts of their core business.
Carbon dioxide removal technologies, while subject to controversy to a lesser extent, also received attention in the report. The panel recommended that nations actively support the expansion of higher-quality carbon dioxide removal methods, including imposing obligations on fossil fuel companies to capture and store an increasing proportion of the carbon emissions stemming from their products.
In the face of mounting climate challenges, the call for a moratorium on geoengineering serves as a stark reminder of the complexities and uncertainties surrounding climate intervention strategies while the world continues to grapple with the consequences of climate change.