The National Academy of Sciences released two reports today that evaluate geoengineering strategies to counteract man-made global warming. One is Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool the Earth and the other is Climate Intervention: Carbon Dioxide Removal and Reliable Sequestration. The NAS reports argue that both should be pursued. Here are some recommendations:
Recommendation 2: The Committee recommends research and development investment to improve methods of carbon dioxide removal and disposal at scales that would have a global impact on reducing greenhouse warming, in particular to minimize energy and materials consumption, identify and quantify risks, lower costs, and develop reliable sequestration and monitoring.
Recommendation 4: The Committee recommends an albedo modification researchprogram be developed and implemented that emphasizes multiple benefit research that also furthers basic understanding of the climate system and its human dimensions.
Basically, the research suggested by the NAS studies would provide humanity with an emergency back up plan to cool the planet should man-made warming turn out to be on a truly catastrophic trend. More analysis later, but these are reasonable recommendations.
Many environmentalists oppose this research because they fear that humanity will choose to use it rather than give up cheap fossil fuels. For example, the technophobic ETC Group emailed a statement on the NAS report from its director Pat Mooney:
Fossil fuel escape hatch:
"With climate denial on the ropes and rising concerns of a 'carbon bubble', the overblown and risky promise of geoengineering is the only escape hatch left that the fossil fuel industry can use to justify continuing to burn its reserves – estimated at $20-28 trillion in booked assets. If carbon dioxide removal technologies are given credence, experimental research is funded and 'Plan B' for the climate moves forward, it will be much harder to generate the political will to transition to just and resilient low-carbon economies, which remains the only viable long-term solution to climate catastrophe."
The latest geoengineering-is-normal set piece:
"The NAS reports are the latest in a series of highly-public policy performances with the aim of normalizing geoengineering. In reality, geoengineering experimentation makes the planet into a test tube where a few scientists can try out dangerous and unpredictable formulas at our expense: that should never be normalized. As this latest performance comes to a close, we shouldn't let ourselves be distracted by flashy PR spin, and pay attention to the multi-trillion dollar industry behind the curtain who will benefit most from political acceptance of geoengineering."
If the ETC folks are right about the dangers of global warming, it is even more urgent that research into how to cool down the planet proceed.