Open coal mine, photo: Bert via flickr.
The vast, vast majority of geoengineering researchers acknowledge that their proposals are a last ditch effort to stop runaway climate change, to be deployed only if rapid and deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions aren't made. But what about those climate change deniers-cum-geoengineering advocates who are more interested in dragging their feet to preserve their polluting industries? WorldChanging has a run down of who is supporting geoengineering for ecologically nefarious, if financially advantageous ends:Don't Change Ourselves, Change the World Around Us
The one common theme among all of these groups is that they dangle geoengineering in front of people to delay action on what should be job number one for individuals and nations in addressing climate change: Reducing global greenhouse gas emissions to levels which will prevent a global average temperature rise of more than 2°C.
The message is: We don't need to change our more, more, more business-as-usual scenario to prevent climate change, wait a little bit and we can change the planet to suit our consumptive behavior.
Emissions Cuts Unnecessary With Geoengineering...
Though long-time climate change deniers the Reason Foundation, the Cato Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Hoover Institution and the Heartland Institute all have turned to supporting geoengineering, this quote from the Hudson Institute sums up the sentiment:
Successful geoengineering would permit Earth's population to make far smaller reductions in carbon use and still achieve the same retarding effect on global warming at a lower cost. The cuts in carbon use proposed by international leaders and presidential candidates would have a drastic effect on the economy, especially since substitutes for fossil fuels will be expensive and limited for a number of years.
Not Acting on Climate Change More Expensive Than Acting
All of which ignores that: 1) According to many economists the costs of preventing climate change on the global economy are far lower than not addressing the issue; 2) There are actually economic opportunities to be had because of climate change and transition to a low-carbon economy. (Just not in the industries which back the climate denial lobby.); 3) Not downplaying the amount of effort required to deploy alternatives to fossil fuels, the comparatively lower costs of fossil fuels can be largely attributed to hidden subsidies on these fuels and the lack of accounting for all the environmental costs of these fuel in the price paid. And a whole slew of other environmental issues surrounding climate change, but I'll leave it there...
De-spinning the Geoengineering Debate
Author Alex Steffen goes on to list a number of good ways in which we in the green community can take the spin out of the climate change debate, but the one which really seems the most important is emphasizing the order of climate change action:
Get the order right: zero-out first, adapt next, engineer last. We need to be clear that because of the experimental nature of geoengineering projects, their use should be a last resort, not a primary option. Megascale geoengineering should not yet be part of any national strategies for addressing climate change, or a part of any offset systems in carbon trading regimes. We need first to drive greenhouse gas concentrations down with proven methods, and then begin preparing to adapt to the climate change we know we've already set in motion. We should only turn to megascale geoengineering as a last resort.
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