What is Geoengineering?


Geoengineering refers to large scale schemes that intend to intervene in the earth’s oceans, soils and atmosphere with the aim of combatting climate change.

While humans have altered the planet’s climate before this has so far been unintentional . What marks geoengineering schemes as different is that they deliberately set out to alter earth systems on a large-scale.

Geoengineering advocates have put forward a wide range of proposals, including: blasting sulfate particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun’s rays; dumping iron particles in the oceans to nurture CO2-absorbing plankton; firing silver iodide into clouds to produce rain; genetically engineering crops to have reflective leaves; spraying seawater into clouds to make clouds whiter; dumping large quantities of plant matter into the ocean or turning it into charcoal for burying in soils.

See these examples of geoengineering proposals: Ocean fertilization , Sulphate Aerosols, Cloud Whitening.

A fuller list of geoengineering schemes can be found in this primer from ETC Group and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation: Retooling the Planet Climate Chaos in the Geoengineering Age.

Real world Experiments

Some governments, engineers and corporations are now attempting  to initiate real world tests of geoengineering technologies. They want to cross the line from discussing geoengineering in theory and in computer models to building and testing the technology in the real world. They are looking to governments to lend legitimacy to these high-risk experiments.

In March 2010  175 geoengineers met at Asilomar California to establish “voluntary guidelines” for real world geoengineering experiments. The meeting was convened by a body associated with a private geoenginering company called Climos Inc who aims to carry out ocean fertilization trials. Other companies and groups in attendance made it clear that they also hoped to see real-world field trials in the near future.

In response more than 70 environmental, health, and social and environmental justice organizations signed an “Open Letter” to the organizers of the Asilomar meeting, stating that the development of guidelines for geoengineering without consensus on the legitimacy of such schemes is “premature and irresponsible.” The groups say that such efforts could proceed only with full participation of peoples and nations who are most vulnerable to the risks of mass climate experiments.

The Open Letter is online at http://www.etcgroup.org/en/node/5080 .

Any attempt to re-engineer the planet affects us all  and will not be carried out fairly or with the informed consent of the worlds peoples and other living beings. Furthermore geoengineering is the wrong way to solve our many crises. At best geoengineering is a dangerous distraction from the social, economic and political changes required to equitably confront climate change..