Geo-Engineering Climate Change

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With policymakers and political leaders increasingly unable to control global climate change, more scientists are considering the use of other engineering approaches other than control at the source to reduce warming impact. The problem is whatever you do, it will have some impact somewhere and somehow. The impact may be good but it also may be bad. University of Iowa law professor believes the legal ramifications of this kind of geo-engineering need to be thought through in advance and a global governance structure put in place soon to oversee these efforts.

The concept of geoengineering refers to the deliberate large-scale intervention in the Earth’s climate system, in order to moderate global warming. The discipline divides broadly into two categories: Carbon dioxide removal techniques [which]address the root cause of climate change by removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and solar radiation management techniques [which]attempt to offset effects of increased greenhouse gas concentrations by causing the Earth to absorb less solar radiation.

“Geo-engineering is a global concern that will have climate and weather impacts in all countries, and it is virtually inevitable that some group of people will be harmed in the process,” says Jon Carlson, professor of law at the UI College of Law. “The international community must act now to take charge of this activity to ensure that it is studied and deployed with full attention to the rights and interests of everyone on the planet.”

There are many geo-engineering schemes which read like science fiction at times. Some are:

Oceanic foams

Bering Sea dam

Space sunshade

Diffraction grating or lens in space,

Carlson is an expert in environmental law and international law who believes geo-engineering is inevitable and will likely happen sooner than later. He considers the issue in a new paper, Reining in Phaethon’s Chariot: Principles for the Governance of Geoengineering, published in the current issue of the journal Transnational Law and Contemporary Problems. His co-author, Adam D.K. Abelkop, is a UI law graduate now in the doctoral program at the Indiana University School of Public Health and Environmental Affairs.

Carlson says geo-engineering comes with obvious international legal implications because no one country can implement its own geo-engineering plan without causing weather or climate changes in other countries. There’s also the law of unintended consequences, because while many geo-engineering concepts have proved hopeful in the lab, nobody knows what will happen when actually put into practice. For instance, Carlson says that while manually cooling the ocean may be seen as a generally good idea, what impact will that have on farmers in India whose crops depend on rain from heat-induced tropical monsoons?

When one takes from one portion of the world, another portion must suffer without.

To address these issues, Carlson urges the creation of an international governing body separate from any existing organization that approves or rejects geo-engineering plans, taking into consideration the best interests of people and countries around the world. Geo-engineering is a true global phenomena.

For further information see Geo-Engineering or Projects.

Article by Andy Soos, appearing courtesy Environmental News Network.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.