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Uncategorized Tropical Storm Nargis

Published on June 2nd, 2008 | by Michelle Bennett

22

Geo-Engineering for a Tailor-Made Planet

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June 2nd, 2008 by  

Tropical Storm NargisGeo-Engineering is “the deliberate modification of Earth’s environment on a large scale “to suit human needs and promote habitability”‘ (via Wikipedia). Until recently it was the stuff of science fiction, a god-like power regulated to unseen aliens or super-futuristic societies. Occasionally planetary catastrophe also ensued.

Yet with climate change and global warming sparking alarm across the globe, some scientists have started to explore the possibility of altering the natural environment on a global scale. Several strategies are outlined below: More..

Geo-Engineering ChartThere are other proposed methods, of course, so consider these as an introduction only. It’s important to note that geo-engineering scientists do not propose this as solutions to global warming, but as emergency measures to avert large-scale human suffering. The only reason it has been suggested that we consider implementing these strategies in the near future is because, in the view of Dr. Paul Crutzen, “there is little reason to be optimistic.” He was referring to current international political efforts to reduce greenhouse gasses.

Of course there is controversy and plenty of people who disagree with implementing geo-engineering. Scientifically, there’s the problem of data; we simply don’t know enough about these huge natural systems to safely manipulate them. There’s also the consequences we are certain about: in most cases, the benefits and detrimental effects will be unevenly distributed across the planet. While one part of the world prospers under cooler climes, another would have their problems compounded.

Who can make that decision? What are the ethics? What would be the social, economic, and cultural implications of upheaval, conflict, and/or refugees in the areas that benefit? Even if we do manage to (partially) improve the weather, the social impact across the globe could negate the benefits. Geo-engineering (but not necessarily geo-engineers) assumes that humans being can and should manipulate the planet to improve their lot, but many people have pointed out that we must still change our habits and lifestyles regardless. Whether we attempt geo-engineering or not, we must still invest in renewable resources.

one meeeeeeellion dollars!Geo-engineers propose this as an “emergency only” measure, but in my opinion, using it with even the best intentions could set a dangerous precedent. Global warming is an unintended form of geo-engineering; is it wise to fight fire with fire? Is it ethical to combat one “evil” with something slightly “less evil”? Could any nation, organization, or individual with enough money hijack the globe by using, or threatening to use, geo-engineering against the populous?

Technology will play a critical role in combating and adapting to climate change, but at some point we will have to limit ourselves. Where should we draw the line, and who will decide? Many critics of geo-engineering agree that we should spend our energy and resources on a solution to the problem, not just to treat the symptoms. There is no fast or simple fix; if we intend to live well for the long haul, we’ll just have to adapt to the limitation of our planet – or expand onto another.

What do you think? Take part in a discussion on our Green Options forum

(Tropical Storm Nargis courtesy of NASA)

(Dr. Evil via SolarNavigator.net)

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About the Author

is an environmentalist who loves to write. She grew up across the southeastern USA and especially love the Appalachian mountains. She went to school in the northeast USA in part to witness different mindsets and lifestyles than those of my southern stomping grounds. She majored in English Lit. and Anthropology. She has worked as a whitewater rafting guide, which introduced her to a wilderness and the complex issues at play in the places where relatively few people go. She also taught English in South Korea for a year, which taught her to take nothing for granted.



  • james braselton

    HI THERE WOW RUSSIA GOING DRILL ICE CAPS FASTER RUSSIA DOSE NOT HAVE GLOBAL WARMING AND CO2 SKYS THE LIMIT ANTI CONSERVATION ON GREEN HOUSE GASES JUST LIKE CHINA AND MEXICO NO OTHER CONTRY IS CAPING CO2 GREEN HOUSE GASES UNLIMTE

  • james braselton

    HI THERE WOW RUSSIA GOING DRILL ICE CAPS FASTER RUSSIA DOSE NOT HAVE GLOBAL WARMING AND CO2 SKYS THE LIMIT ANTI CONSERVATION ON GREEN HOUSE GASES JUST LIKE CHINA AND MEXICO NO OTHER CONTRY IS CAPING CO2 GREEN HOUSE GASES UNLIMTE

  • Emil Kleinfeld

    I don’t quite follow the rational. Imagine a sixty-two year old man whisked into the emergency room with shortness of breath and sharp chest pains. The doctor crosses his arms and says that the man needs to quit smoking. Now understand, I have a problem with those that say we should practice birth control, reduce our expulsion of greenhouse gasses and the like, your reasoning is flawed. I am looking for something effective, economical and controllable. Geo Engineering is the only means we have to survive long enough to quit smoking.

  • Emil Kleinfeld

    I don’t quite follow the rational. Imagine a sixty-two year old man whisked into the emergency room with shortness of breath and sharp chest pains. The doctor crosses his arms and says that the man needs to quit smoking. Now understand, I have a problem with those that say we should practice birth control, reduce our expulsion of greenhouse gasses and the like, your reasoning is flawed. I am looking for something effective, economical and controllable. Geo Engineering is the only means we have to survive long enough to quit smoking.

  • Raymond

    I think if we set up mirrors in the actic to refect the suns warmth, and this should cool the earth, and as the caps are replenished. We can blackout or take down the mirrows, and to a level that is indirect compliance with temps and weather world-wide.

  • http://cleantechnica.com Michelle Bennett

    Wow, great comments! I’m just going to add my 2 cents:

    @Travis: you’re right, 99% of species that ever existed are now extinct, and extinction is a natural phenomenon. Even climate change can be a natural phenomenon.

    Unfortunately this time around we are witnessing climate change at an unprecedented speed, which coincides exactly with the spread and intensity of industrialization. This data comes to us from ice cores, which record tens of thousands of years of climate history – some even from before humans existed. We can even go back farther through geology, but probably with less accuracy.

    Scientists have been searching for natural causes because that’s just good science. It’s true that climate change might have begun to heat up on its own, but again – not at the rate we’re seeing today. Scientists haven’t been able to find a naturally-occurring explanation for the current rate of climate change, but all the data we do have correlates very closely with human causes.

  • http://cleantechnica.com Michelle Bennett

    Wow, great comments! I’m just going to add my 2 cents:

    @Travis: you’re right, 99% of species that ever existed are now extinct, and extinction is a natural phenomenon. Even climate change can be a natural phenomenon.

    Unfortunately this time around we are witnessing climate change at an unprecedented speed, which coincides exactly with the spread and intensity of industrialization. This data comes to us from ice cores, which record tens of thousands of years of climate history – some even from before humans existed. We can even go back farther through geology, but probably with less accuracy.

    Scientists have been searching for natural causes because that’s just good science. It’s true that climate change might have begun to heat up on its own, but again – not at the rate we’re seeing today. Scientists haven’t been able to find a naturally-occurring explanation for the current rate of climate change, but all the data we do have correlates very closely with human causes.

  • Jim

    Star Trek refers to it as ‘terra-forming”.

  • Jim

    Star Trek refers to it as ‘terra-forming”.

  • Mark Zellers

    Perhaps we should try this on some other planet we don’t care so much about.

  • Mark Zellers

    Perhaps we should try this on some other planet we don’t care so much about.

  • John Thomas

    I think if we spend more time trying to save energy we wouldnt be in the position we are today. Most people feel “Who cares, it wont happen in my generation” and do not care about future generations.

    JT

  • John Thomas

    I think if we spend more time trying to save energy we wouldnt be in the position we are today. Most people feel “Who cares, it wont happen in my generation” and do not care about future generations.

    JT

  • Travis

    Mark 99% of earth’s species have been extinct before humans even exsisted. The climate change is not because of humans but is natural.

    The best solution to our energy needs would be looking to building new nuclear power plants. They are realitivly cheap and can produce plenty of power.

  • Travis

    Mark 99% of earth’s species have been extinct before humans even exsisted. The climate change is not because of humans but is natural.

    The best solution to our energy needs would be looking to building new nuclear power plants. They are realitivly cheap and can produce plenty of power.

  • Mark Stutzman

    The real problem is Too Many Humans. Unfortunately, most people seem preoccupied by the side effects: Global climate change, pollution, deforestation, extinction of other species, etc. Basically, we’re treating the symtoms (and doing a bad job, at that) rather than looking at the root cause of the disease.

    Until we realize that our continued survival requires us to manage our population growth (not to mention making radical lifestyle changes), we’re merely prolonging our doom, ever so slightly.

    PS – Before we begin “Geo-engineering the planet”, we should make damn sure we fully understand the mechanisms we are playing around with. And we sure don’t, right now.

  • Mark Stutzman

    The real problem is Too Many Humans. Unfortunately, most people seem preoccupied by the side effects: Global climate change, pollution, deforestation, extinction of other species, etc. Basically, we’re treating the symtoms (and doing a bad job, at that) rather than looking at the root cause of the disease.

    Until we realize that our continued survival requires us to manage our population growth (not to mention making radical lifestyle changes), we’re merely prolonging our doom, ever so slightly.

    PS – Before we begin “Geo-engineering the planet”, we should make damn sure we fully understand the mechanisms we are playing around with. And we sure don’t, right now.

  • http://www.PlanetThoughts.org David Alexander

    Heather, you are right. There is a certain amount of arrogant self-confidence by many, even those with relatively good intentions, which causes ignoring of large unknown risks. Tinkering with the planetary environment just might fall into that category!

    Would it be SO TERRIBLE to cut back on energy use, re-structure how we live, and focus 100% on developing wind, solar, and renewable hydro (currents, waves, tidal) power generation? Even that is only part of the overall solution which will require controlling population, restoring the health of soil and water resources, and replacing the many uses of fossil fuels in transport, fertilizer, plastics, electricity, and so on. There is no quick fix for this problem, as it is many faceted and really results from pushing the planet into overdrive 24×365. Any system, natural or human-made, will break down in those conditions.

    It is time to break the addictions and find a way to protect the planet from the ground up.

  • http://www.PlanetThoughts.org David Alexander

    Heather, you are right. There is a certain amount of arrogant self-confidence by many, even those with relatively good intentions, which causes ignoring of large unknown risks. Tinkering with the planetary environment just might fall into that category!

    Would it be SO TERRIBLE to cut back on energy use, re-structure how we live, and focus 100% on developing wind, solar, and renewable hydro (currents, waves, tidal) power generation? Even that is only part of the overall solution which will require controlling population, restoring the health of soil and water resources, and replacing the many uses of fossil fuels in transport, fertilizer, plastics, electricity, and so on. There is no quick fix for this problem, as it is many faceted and really results from pushing the planet into overdrive 24×365. Any system, natural or human-made, will break down in those conditions.

    It is time to break the addictions and find a way to protect the planet from the ground up.

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  • http://www.ourgreenempire.com Heather

    It seems we’ve been altering the planet to suit our needs for a long time now. Unfortunately, nothing is really “proven” until it’s been out “in the wild” for a while.

    We don’t find out the ramifications of our actions until many, many years later.

  • http://www.ourgreenempire.com Heather

    It seems we’ve been altering the planet to suit our needs for a long time now. Unfortunately, nothing is really “proven” until it’s been out “in the wild” for a while.

    We don’t find out the ramifications of our actions until many, many years later.

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