Climate Control a Means to Prevent Climate Wars?
|Monday, 23. March 2009 0 comment(s)||
International Politics of Natural Resources and the Environment research programme
According to Dyer, the 21st century will be peppered with internal and external conflicts over water and arable land that will affect every region of the globe. Food production worldwide is due to collapse, leaving societies armed with modern weaponry, some of it nuclear, with unsustainably large populations to feed. Internal and external conflicts over water and arable land erupt, and countries become less and less squeamish about the use of violence in keeping unprecedented numbers of refugees at bay.
Mr Dyer draws a number of worrying scenarios:
Reducing atmospheric CO2 concentration is within our technological capabilities. Mr Dyer covers a range of conventional ways of reshaping society’s current energy mix, offering a level-headed and thorough review of wind, nuclear, tidal and geothermal energy, as well as 3rd generation biofuels. But he contends that simply weaning ourselves from fossil fuels may be insufficient. Breaking what he calls a climate change taboo, he raises the controversial point of using so-called geoengineering to complement the traditional policies and measures targeting global warming.
Geoengineering simply means planet-wide coordinated human action aimed at lowering the global temperature. Climate control, if you will. Examples include seeding the stratosphere with sulphur dioxide to increase the planet’s albedo, decreasing the amount of sunlight hitting the surface and diminishing the temperature. Alternatively, one could dump iron or very low concentration urea into the oceans to create controlled phytoplankton blooms to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. Dead plankton would simply fall to the ocean floor, sequestering carbon there in the exact same process that oil forms. More phytoplankton incidentally also means more fish, which addresses the problem of food shortage.
These suggestions are of course controversial, but it is people such as Nobel Prize winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen who came up with them in the first place. They reject arguments claiming that one should not pursue geoengineering because one ought not interfere with the climate by pointing out that humanity is in fact already doing that. All proponents also take pains to point out that geoengineering should never be thought of as a primary means of getting rid of global warming, which should always be the introduction of a sustainable energy mix based on renewables.
There are plenty of options on the table, but the need for speedy coordination remains great. As Mr Dyer pithily puts it, “every degree that the average global temperature rises will sabotage the global cooperation that is the only way to stop the temperature from continuing to climb”. Sobering reading for the flight to Copenhagen.
Texts reflect the opinions of the individual authors