'Giving geo-engineering to this US govt is like giving a child a loaded gun'

Climate 'hacking' 'wildly, utterly, howlingly, barking mad'

Reconstruction of past climate. Credit: Insititute of Geography, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz

An official US government report just has recommended that further research should be carried out into various methods of "geoengineering" the climate so as to combat global warming. But one of its authors disagrees with himself, saying that giving such technology to the current US leadership would be "like giving a loaded gun to a child".

The report in question - actually two reports issued together - is from the hefty US National Academy of Sciences.

According to the NAS:

Present-day global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by at least 90 percent ... Although emissions reductions are technologically feasible, they have been difficult to implement for political, economic, and social reasons that may persist well into the future ... It is thus prudent to also examine other options for countering the impacts of climate change.

But one of the authors of the report, Professor Raymond T Pierrehumbert, begs to differ. In a post on the popular blogging service Slate.com, he lays out his personal views. He feels that some of the other options - in particular those covered in the second report, dealing with the reflection of more sunlight back into space - are just too dangerous even to do research into.

He writes:

The idea of “fixing” the climate by hacking the Earth’s reflection of sunlight is wildly, utterly, howlingly barking mad.

Professor Pierrehumbert feels that a future world in which the atmosphere is full of carbon but disastrous heating is only averted by a continually maintained effort to reflect sunlight away is not only dangerous but "an evil choice". He also seems to have very little faith in the United States in particular in such a scenario. He goes on:

In the United States, can we actually have a reality-based, serious deliberative process about anything anymore? Can a serious deliberative process about climate change materially involve a Congress that cannot even muster a Senate majority to agree that humans can and are changing the climate? With the present state of leadership (and not just in the United States), developing albedo-modification technology would be like giving a loaded gun to a child. (OK, in the US some people actually do that; it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.)

(Our emphasis.) ®

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