Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Side Effects

Tony Brenton argues that we'd better start looking seriously at geoengineering, because "our current approach to climate change is failing."

It's no wonder, given that reducing GHG emissions is widely seen as a tyrannical, big-government solution that relies on dubious computer models and will bankrupt the planet.

Geoengineering, by contrast, is relatively straightforward: it's a simple matter of convincing world governments to agree on, and pay for, a global climate-modification regime based on expert risk assessment and robust computer models. What kind of lunatic would oppose that?

Of course, there are some risks:

There could be catastrophic side-effects. While the global climate may be tamed, there could be regional variations even worse than the problem that we are trying to fix. Above all, how would these techniques be managed? Whose hand would be on the thermostat?
Well, the UN's out of the running, because it's a hotbed of socialistic one-worlders and a probable incubator for the Antichrist. And Algore's disqualified because he's a horrible fat fraud and all good-hearted people hate him. And we can't trust climatologists to do it, because their credibility was destroyed forever by Climategate. If we want maximum buy-in, I think we'd better angle for some sort of joint venture between DARPA, Bechtel and a forward-looking energy company like BP.

Brenton argues that unilateral weather-modification is likely to become commonplace. A while back, I blogged on an interesting conflict caused by China's effort to clean Beijing's air by means of cloudseeding:
One Zhoukou official accused Pingdingshan of intercepting clouds that would probably have drifted to other places.
Brenton imagines a far more drastic situation, in which China would be able to adjust "the planetary thermostat" for fun and profit. Failure to create global "ground rules" for geoengineering, he claims, will make such scenarios more likely. Therefore, he proposes a regulatory system based on nuclear arms treaties:
These combine an effectively global agreement designed to restrain proliferation and keep the technology in as few hands as possible with a web of specific agreements among the nuclear-weapons states designed to maximise transparency, create predictable behaviour, limit warhead numbers and generally minimise the likelihood of a runaway arms race or nuclear war by accident.
I'm especially interested in deterrence. Should we punish cloud-theft with drought or floods?

Kidding aside, if the world isn't capable of reaching "an effectively global agreement" on reducing CO2 emissions, despite 20 years of effort, why would it be capable of reaching one on geoengineering, which is arguably more complicated and dangerous, and can just as easily be portrayed as Socialist Tyranny or Neocolonialism or what have you?

Brenton calls geoengineering a "Third Way." I call it business as usual: ignore long-term problems until it's too late, improvise a short-term response and hope for the best.

Speaking of which:
A massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico has become the testing ground for a new technique where a potent mix of chemicals is shot deep undersea in an effort to stop oil from reaching the surface, and scientists are hurriedly weighing the ecological risks and benefits.
In other news, doctors say that an old lady who swallowed a fly is expected to make a full recovery, now that she's swallowed a spider.


grouchomarxist said...

Sometimes I think our civilization's epitaph will be: "Hey, what could go wrong?"

Rmj said...

Don't you realize the only problem with technology is not relying on it enough?

"O machine! O machine!"

Phila said...

Don't you realize the only problem with technology is not relying on it enough?

OMG IRRATIONALISM!!! How dare you complain about technology when you're using the Internets as we speak?

BTW, shouldn't you be out "policing your own"? I heard a Christian say something obnoxious just yesterday...what do you propose to do about it?

Wit's End said...

Blackwater? I think Blackwater could do a fine job of outsourcing geoengineering! I say, give them a contract or two.