GEOENGINEERING IDEAS have been around for decades. Few such ideas have progressed past the thought experiment stage, due in part to concerns that the cure could be worse than the disease. But as dire warnings about climate change’s impacts increasingly dominate the news, geoengineering may once again be getting a closer look.
Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang proposes funding large-scale government research into massive climate intervention projects such as giant solar radiation-reflecting space mirrors or seeding the ocean with iron to promote blooms of carbon-sequestering algae.
Not everyone is sure this is a good idea. When it comes to ocean seeding, for example, “there is considerable uncertainty and disagreement . . . whether this would do more harm than good,” says David Karl, an oceanographer at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Many scientists agree that the climate crisis is so severe at this point that geoengineering should at least be on the table, albeit with caveats.
Ocean seeding, or iron fertilization, is unusual among geoengineering projects: Unlike most geoengineering proposals, ocean seeding has actually been tried in the real world. But the experiments also prompted a powerful response from environmental groups, effectively halting follow-up ocean seeding experiments.
Unprecedented risks posed by climate change over the next few decades may require a willingness to at least consider even seemingly absurd geoengineering ideas.
The above was taken (and liberally edited) from the article “In a Climate Crisis, Is Geoengineering Worth the Risks?” by Carolyn Gramling for Science News (October 6, 2019).
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