Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Geoengineering: solution or suppression?

On this week's The New Yorker, Michael Specter publishes a very good article on geoengineering. From a conflict analysis point of view I pose the question whether a technological solution will fix climate change or whether, instead, it will merely suppress one of the symptoms that are employed to diagnose and measure the conflict.

For example, if a giant hose will inject a sulphide aerosol deep into the stratosphere and cool the earth's temperature for certain period of time, this would by no means be a reason to celebrate the "end of climate change" as we know it.

In fact, reducing the conflict to one of its elements is misleading. Saying that climate change is caused by greenhouse gases or, more specifically, by carbon emissions, is not addressing the issue holistically. Deforestation and desertification, contamination of water reservoirs and degradation of land and ocean ecosystems has a net negative effect on the state of the natural environment.

A geoengineering solution would definitely buy us time. The question is what would we do with that extra time if we have been unable to hardly make any progress towards effectively transforming the conflict since the Earth Summit in Rio 1992 when world leaders vowed to tackle the issue.

Suppressing a symptom will not change the way in which humanity behaves, degrading the planet's ecosystems and bio-capacity: in sum, its natural capital. Most particularly, the culture embraced by a minority of human beings that utilize far more natural resources than the rest and even more than what the planet can naturally regenerate, is the most pressing issue amounting to an unprecedented change in the world's climate. Any geoengineering solution for that matter will be more than welcome.

No comments: