Solar Geoengineering Should Be Led By “Developing Countries,” Report Argues

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A new commentary just published in the journal Nature argues that so-called developing nations should be more involved in research related to geoengineering, particularly with regard to solar geoengineering, owing to the reality that these countries are and will be more affected by climate change.

The commentary published in Nature was authored by 12 researchers — collectively based out of many of the world’s “developing nations,” including those that are being most affected by climate change such as Bangladesh and India. Other researchers involved in the work hail from Brazil, Ethiopia, China, Thailand, and Jamaica, among others countries.

The basic argument used is that since these countries are the ones that will be most affected by climate weirding and warming that they should be most involved in geoengineering research and decision-making. As it stands, most such research takes place in and/or is led by researchers based out of the US, the European Union, and the UK.

The researchers involved in the commentary mentioned above singled out solar geoengineering approaches — such as spraying large quantities of reflective chemicals and compounds into the earth’s atmosphere in order to lower temperatures, in mimic of the effect of some large volcanic eruptions — as a subject of importance.

“Developing countries must lead on solar geo-engineering research,” the commentary read.

It’s not clear yet, whether support for such proposals would follow from such research. In an interview with Reuters, lead author Atiq Rahman of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies stated: “The overall idea (of solar geo-engineering) is pretty crazy but it is gradually taking root in the world of research.”

If it’s “pretty crazy” then why pursue the subject? According to Rahman, because the world is currently on track to see at least 3° Celsius (5.7° Fahrenheit) of temperature rise by 2100. In other words, the goal of limiting the temperature rise that occurs by 2100 to well under 2° Celsius (as per the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement) isn’t going to happen.

Developed nations have “abysmally failed” with regard to pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Rahman stated, leaving the door really only realistically open to geoengineering, if extreme warming isn’t to occur in the relatively near-term.

The Reuters coverage continued: “The solar geo-engineering studies would be helped by a new $400,000 fund from the Open Philanthropy Project, a foundation backed by Dustin Moskovitz, a co-founder of Facebook, and his wife, Cari Tuna, they wrote.”

“The fund could help scientists in developing nations study regional impacts of solar geo-engineering such as on droughts, floods or monsoons, said Andy Parker, a co-author and project director of the Solar Radiation Management Governance Initiative. Rahman said the academics were not taking sides about whether geo-engineering would work. Among proposed ideas, planes might spray clouds of reflective sulphur particles high in the Earth’s atmosphere.”

It’ll be interesting to see what ultimately follows from such research. My take hasn’t changed much in recent years — widespread geoengineering of the type discussed above would likely lead directly to large-scale warfare (even if not immediately). Also notable, is that such approaches would likely be accompanied by rising or stable greenhouse gas emissions in many places, because why slash emissions when you’ve got a quick tech fix?

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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