Geo-engineering to get mainstream scientific support

US climate scientists are about to support research into geo-engineering, according to New Scientist. The magazine says a final draft of the American Meteorological position paper on the subject endorses further research on manipulating the earth’s environment to counteract the effect of CO2 emissions, making it the first major scientific body to do so.

The document states that “deliberately manipulating physical, chemical, or biological aspects of the Earth system” should be explored alongside the more conventional approaches to climate change. Conventional approaches means reducing emissions – “mitigation” in policy-speak – and adjusting to the unavoidable effect of climate change – known as “adaptation”.

The all too predictable reason is not so much that shooting sulfur into the sky or dumping iron filings into the ocean looks like a good way to address climate change, but rather that the more conventional options don’t look likely to be adequate:

The paper states that “even aggressive mitigation of future emissions cannot avoid dangerous climate changes resulting from past emissions.

Note that the paper will reportedly call for more research, and that it is not an out and out endorsement of geo-engineering. The association also wants that research to include the moral, legal and ethical aspects of  geo-engineering.

Stephen Holdren, the White House scientific advisor, raised eyebrows earlier this year when he made supportive comments about geo-engineering – although there was later some confusion about whether he was referring to his own personal views, or to White House policy.

The Atlantic’s current edition has a good piece explaining the most prevalent geo-engineering ideas, and highlights their crucial advantage is that they are not only potentially simpler than the myriad of efforts needed to avert the worst of climate change – they are also likely to be a lot cheaper.

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