Paul Lachine

The Geoengineering Temptation

Together with mitigation and adaptation, geoengineering - either by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or managing solar radiation - has emerged as a major strategy for dealing with global warming. But geoengineering may present too many costs and risks of its own to justify relying on it.

NEW BRUNSWICK – Let’s be clear: man-made global warming is real. As a result of all the carbon dioxide, methane, soot, and other substances that we human beings pump into the atmosphere every year, global average temperatures have been rising over the past half-century.   

While some northern countries relish the prospect of extracting minerals from an ice-free Arctic Ocean and using the Northwest Passage, global warming is not good for most of the planet. After all, it means continued sea-level rise, stronger storms and more frequent flooding, drier and longer-lasting droughts, enhanced heat-stress episodes, ocean acidification (destroying corals and other sea life), and the northward migration of malarial mosquitoes and pine beetles. Moreover, fundamental threats to the food and water supply – especially food in the tropics and water in the subtropics – are coming if we continue business as usual.

Unlike the questions surrounding climate change and its consequences, all of which can be answered by scientists, what we want to do about it depends on values – that is, what is important to us. The choices, singly or in combination, are: 1) nothing (the current response); 2) mitigation (reducing emissions of greenhouse gases); 3) attempted adaptation to the ongoing climate changes; and 4) geoengineering.

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