Quick Fix or Risky Business? Local Leaders Must Weigh the Opportunity Costs of Climate Intervention

We often hear that we must do everything we can to combat climate change, there’s no one silver bullet, we must do it all, work with everyone. And we’ve been hearing more about “geo-engineering” as one of the many paths to explore.

two-volume report, prepared by the National Academy of Sciences examines climate mitigation strategies and concludes that “climate intervention” is too risky to be an alternative to cutting carbon emissions and should not be used in the near future. Panel chairwoman Marcia McNutt, editor of the journal Science, said in an interview that the public should read this report and say, ‘This is downright scary.’ And they should say, ‘If this is our Hail Mary, what a scary, scary place we are in.’

ecoAmerica’s American Climate Values 2014 reveals that some Americans believe solving climate change requires technological solutions, and that ingenuity, innovation, and entrepreneurialism are the most important factors in solving the climate crisis. The “curse of techno-optimism” can also lead to ignoring policy or other social changes that could help address the climate challenge — and we can’t just wait for technology to solve our problems.

Community leaders and policymakers should remain wary of geo-engineering climate interventions, as it is unlikely that they will have any control over such technological approaches to mitigating climate change, nor over any unintended local consequences that might occur. For local leaders, “techno-optimism” could dilute efforts to engage their communities to reduce climate pollution and fossil energy use, actions that must be pursued as matters of immediate, persistent, and personal concern.

Risks of climate engineering weighed as ‘last-ditch’ answer

By Alex Nussbaum | Bloomberg Business  | February 10, 2015

It could be the plot of a science-fiction thriller: fertilize the ocean with iron to suck up coral-killing carbon dioxide or seed the skies with tiny droplets to block the sun’s rays.

In a report released Tuesday, a National Academy of Sciences panel found little evidence that researchers can deploy technologies to safely counteract global warming any time soon. Still, the academy concluded that the U.S. needs to start funding research in a bid to understand the technical and environmental hurdles of what scientists call geoengineering.

“That scientists are even considering technological interventions should be a wake-up call that we need to do more now to reduce emissions,” Marcia McNutt, the panel’s chairwoman and a former director of the U.S. Geological Survey, said in a statement. “But the longer we wait, the more likely it will become that we will need to deploy some forms of carbon dioxide removal to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”

The recommendation comes with plenty of caveats: geoengineering faces economic hurdles, poses uncertain environmental risks and shouldn’t be seen as an alternative to cutting fossil-fuel emissions, the committee of 16 scientists said. Still, the methods merit further study as potential “last-ditch” tools in the future, the panel said in the report.

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