Even if a technological fix did prove possible is it something we should really think about doing? We've messed with the climate since the industrial revolution and look where it's got usby Bill McGuire / June 19, 2019 / Leave a comment
The idea of hacking the planet to make climate change go away has been around for quite some time. Embraced early on by neocons and the alt-right seeking a solution that would allow the planet to be trashed without consequences, it is becoming increasingly mainstream, with suggested solutions including manipulating cloud patterns and removing carbon from the air.
In fact, the idea has become so normal that Cambridge University recently announced the opening of a research centre, headed-up by former government chief scientist David King, to look into the feasibility and practicality of “geoengineering” ourselves out of the ongoing climate crisis.
But even if a technological fix did prove possible—at least in theory—is it something we should really think about doing? We have, after all, been messing with the climate ever since the wheels of the industrial revolution began to turn, and look where it has got us.
A sticking plaster for the planet
The key point about drafting in technology to tackle climate breakdown is that this is not an alternative to the wholesale greening of society and economy. In other words, it can never be an excuse for business as usual. Simply using technology to cool the planet, without simultaneously slashing greenhouse gas emissions, would set us on the road to catastrophe.
For one thing, it would do nothing to stop the ongoing acidification of the oceans. For another, it would lock-in the need to maintain artificial cooling far into the future. Once established, should the technology fail—for whatever reason—our world could be transformed into a hothouse hell almost overnight.
A techno-fix can never, then, be anything more than a supplementary aid; a sticking plaster to buy time for the planet’s climate to begin to heal. Before it can be used in anger, there needs to be hard evidence that we are serious about slashing our carbon dioxide emissions, which in 2018 reached a record 41.5 billion tonnes.
So far, despite the pledges made at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, there is still no sign of the rate of annual emissions falling and based upon the sloth-like rate of progress it may be quite some time until any change becomes apparent.
The thinking goes that to be certain of keeping the global average temperature rise (since…