In numerous previous posts (for example: The Need for a New View of Humans in the Cosmos; Emissions Cuts: The Gap between Ambition & Reality; The Futility of Emissions Cuts; The Growing Realisation of the Need for Geoengineering the GMST) I have cited cutting-edge research and emerging opinions which provide evidence and support for my philosophical worldview. This month has seen a wave of further support for my view, notably from several articles in The Guardian. Earlier in the month astronomer royal Lord Rees expressed the opinion that:
If the effect [rising atmospheric carbon dioxide/temperature leading to climate change] is strong, and the world consequently seems on a rapidly warming trajectory into dangerous territory, there may be a pressure for 'panic measures'... These would have to involve a 'Plan B' – being fatalistic about continuing dependence on fossil fuels, but combating its effects by some form of geoengineering.
A few days ago another relevant article appeared on The Guardian website entitled: Why Geoengineering suits Russia's carbon agenda. In this piece Professor Clive Hamilton states that:
There are some more reasonable Russian voices talking about geoengineering, including a handful of scientists modeling the impacts of sulphate aerosol spraying. However, they argue that geoengineering is inevitable because carbon emissions are growing by more than the IPCC’s most pessimistic projections: "Therefore, humankind will be forced to apply geoengineering to counter the unwanted consequences of global warming."
I also came across another Guardian article by Professor Hamilton from March of this year (Why geoengineering has immediate appeal to
). In this article he cites the scientific
evidence that the human perturbation of the atmosphere is currently
accelerating rather than declining, levelling off, or declining: China
efforts nor those of other countries over the next two or three decades are likely
to do much to slow the warming of the globe, nor halt the climate disruption
that will follow. Global emissions have not been declining or even slowing. In
fact, global emissions are accelerating. China
Today another article appeared on The Guardian website: Why has geoengineering been legitimised by the IPCC? In this article Jack Stilgoe says he is “scared” by the mention of the word ‘geoengineering’ in the latest just-published IPCC report:
To include mention of geoengineering, and its supporting "evidence" in a statement of scientific consensus, no matter how layered with caveats, is extraordinary. If I were one of the imagined policymakers reading this summary, sitting in a country whose politicians were unwilling to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions (ie any country), I would have reached that paragraph and seen a chink of light just large enough to make me forget all the dark data about how screwed up the planet is. And that scares me.
One theme that underpins all of these opinions expressed in the various Guardian articles is the assumption that the technological regulation of the temperature of the atmosphere should be seen as a 'weapon of last resort'; it should be seen as something that we do only because we are incapable of sufficiently reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases. I have commented on this very widespread view of geoengineering as a 'weapon of last resort' in previous posts. All of the advocates of geoengineering that I have ever come across (except for me!) stress that they are only reluctantly advocating the measure as a regretful 'weapon of last resort'; in other words, if human greenhouse gas emissions could be magically slashed overnight this would be preferable to geoengineering.
One of the most important conclusions that falls out of my philosophical worldview is that the technological regulation of the temperature of the Earth's atmosphere is a joyous event which should be actively and vigorously pursued. Such an activity is required for the continued existence and flourishing of the life that has arisen on the Earth. Such an activity is in the interests of life. If humans were not to carry out geoengineering then they would be condemning the Earth to a barren and lifeless existence.
On my view we are likely to technologically regulate the temperature of the atmosphere in the belief that this is a 'weapon of last resort' in response to irresponsible human activities; and then, at a future date, we will come to realise that such an activity was actually a positive joyous event. We may even widely come to appreciate that the carrying out of such an activity was actually the reason that we came into existence as a species. However, it is at least possible that the collective awareness of our place on the planet will reach such a level that the joyous and positive nature of geoengineering will be realised before we carry out the activity.
As I have noted before, such a realisation would have many benefits, including saving the enormous amount of money which is spent on futile schemes which attempt to avoid the need for geoengineering. Such money could be spent much more wisely on both geoengineering projects and other environmental and developmental projects. So, the recognition of geoengineering in the IPCC report is a very small step in the right direction.