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Our Geoengineering Age (Part 2) Printer friendly page Print This
By Ian Baldwin
The Vermont Independent
Monday, Jun 5, 2017

BEYOND GLOBAL CLIMATE TALKS

Earth Day 2017 geoengineered skies over the U.K. – photo courtesy of Facebook

A wall of silence surrounds the subject of geoengineering past and present. But now geoengineering future bubbles brightly in our ears. The disconnection between a fecund and little understood past and its presumed, shortly-to-be-hatched progeny is an unsettling one. Neither parent nor child seems to recognize each other.

The Royal Society begins its definition of geoengineering as “the deliberate large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment” and by itself this serves as a historically valid definition. The Society adds: “to counteract anthropogenic climate change,” which serves to make the new but more narrow definition of geoengineering as climate engineering, or in its most current iteration, “climate intervention.”[1] Broad or narrow, for nearly three-quarters of a century geoengineering has been conducted for reasons that have little to do with the mandate to ameliorate climate change and much to do with war, and secondly with commerce.

This odd paradox has shadowed the world climate negotiations that took place, most recently, in the Paris suburb of Le Bourget during December 2015 to try and achieve, after over 20 years of trying, a legally binding universal agreement to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and limit the rise of global temperatures to 2° C above pre-industrial levels. According to John Shepherd, chair of the Royal Society’s 2009 geoengineering study that featured ‘Plan B’, “We are already staring 1.6° C in the face.”[2]  Six years later climate scientists warn Greenland and Antarctic ice melt is already so rapid that the 2° C increase limit is no longer reliable and that a “sea level rise of several meters” could render such coastal cities as London, New York, and Shanghai uninhabitable during this century, unless immediate countervailing global action is taken.[3]

We have been prepped to bite the new geoengineering bait for some time now. In 1997, Edward Teller popularized the idea of a “sunscreen” for planet Earth in the Wall Street Journal.[4] Two years later Dr. Teller’s protégé Ken Caldeira co-wrote the paper that “crunched the numbers” to show that indeed a stratospheric aerosol sunscreen could work to counteract the effects of sharply increasing CO2.[5] Ever since geoengineers and their funders[6] have inched their way toward a rough consensus, hedged about with caveats, that solar radiation management (SRM) — placing reflective aerosols in the stratosphere — is the best, and least expensive, “solution” currently available to “the climate problem.”

In June 2015 geoengineer Caldeira proclaimed, “There is a chance climate change will prove truly catastrophic, with people suffering and dying in many parts of the world….The only thing politicians can do to cause Earth’s climate to cool within their terms in office is to reflect more of the sun’s warming rays back into space” [emphasis added].[7] Though the movement toward consensus about climate intervention is not without serious debate and strenuous dissension, the repetitive warnings of imminent climate disasters sways the dialogue ineluctably toward eventual “intervention.” And this is likely the outcome the US and its NATO allies wish for, and perhaps as well the Russians, as it would serve as a perfect cover for what many believe are ongoing, classified geoengineering activities.

The path of climate intervention is well worn. It reveals tracks old as well as fresh, footprints we are ill advised to ignore, despite the complicit silence of corporate media, academia, and of course, governments and their military establishments.

And so the road to future world climate negotiations is paved with intentions both good (Jeykllian) and above all unknown (Hydean), and obscured by a long history of denial, prevarication, outright deceit, and collective inattention.

SOURCES:

[1] The Royal Society, “Geoengineering the Climate: Science, Governance and Uncertainty,” September 1, 2009. Accessed June 6, 2015, See also Jeff McMahon, “Four Reasons to Study a Bad Idea: Geoengineering,” Forbes, February 25, 2015. Accessed August 3, 2015.

[2] Catherine Brahic, “Top Science Body Calls for Geoengineering ‘Plan B’ “, New Scientist, September 1, 2009. Accessed May 30, 2015.

[3] James Hansen et al, “Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2° C global warming is highly dangerous,” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussion, European Geosciences Union, July 23, 2015. Accessed July 30, 2015,

[4] Edward Teller, “The Planet Needs a Sunscreen,” Wall Street Journal, October 17, 1997 (Reprint, Hoover Digest, January 30, 1998). Accessed June 06, 2015.

[5] Bala Govindasamy and Ken Caldeira, “Geoengineering Earth’s Radiation Balance to Mitigate CO2-induced Climate Change,” Geophysical Research Letters, 27, no.14 (2000). Accessed June 15, 2015,

[6] Marc Gunther, “The business of cooling the planet,” Fortune, October 7, 2011. Accessed July 29, 2015,

[7] Ken Caldeira, “One Known Way to Cool the Earth: Another View,” USA Today, February 15, 2015. Accessed June 15, 2015.


Find Part 1 of this series here.


Ian Baldwin is a life-long environmentalist and co-founder and Publisher Emeritus of Chelsea Green. After working for several national environmental organizations in the 1970s, he co-founded the EF Schumacher Society (US) before launching Chelsea Green in 1984 with his wife Margo Baldwin. In 2005, he and Rob Williams co-founded Vermont Commons: Voices of Independence to explore the possibilities of rescaled living in a future Vermont republic.


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