Climate Engineering

From: Josh Martin (
Date: Wed Feb 07 2001 - 20:46:25 MST

Someone posted recently about research towards Mega-scale Engineering. Here
is a website I ran across about climate engineering. I haven't had the
chance to review it fully, but it may have some interesting ideas.

Climate Engineering
A critical review of proposals, their scientific and political context,
and possible impacts.

compiled for Scientists For Global Responsibility, November 1996

Ben Matthews
School of Environmental Sciences, UEA, Norwich NR47TJ
Fax 01603 507719, Tel (wk) 01603 593733,

This review of climate engineering proposals aims to provide a
comprehensive resource of up to date information and ideas for
people concerned about the development of large-scale technical
fixes to counter the problem of global warming. The proposals fall
into three main categories: increasing the reflection of solar
radiation back to space, enhancing natural sinks of carbon dioxide,
and direct disposal of carbon dioxide captured at source. In
addition, proposals involving weather modification, ozone chemistry
and terraforming Mars are mentioned briefly. Direct disposal of
carbon dioxide is included because it involves exploitation of "global
commons" such as the deep ocean, and because it is often
compared with schemes to increase natural sinks. Some of these
proposals are realistic and thus a real cause for concern, whilst the
reader may find amusement in reading some of the crazier
schemes! All of these technical fixes are intended to tackle the
symptom of the problem of fossil fuel consumption. The
development of technology to encourage energy efficiency or
renewable energy, on the other hand, which is intended to reduce
that consumption, is much less controversial, and is not considered

Some academic research projects which may lead to climate
engineering, such as fertilisation of the Southern Ocean with added
Iron, have recently received much media attention. However, the
media seems to be less aware of the much larger community of
researchers who are employed by the fossil fuel and power
industries to investigate similar proposals for enhancing CO2 sinks.
This review aims to clarify not only how each proposal might work or
fail, but also who is promoting each idea. Sponsorship by the fossil
fuel industry is closely linked to the bluffing game of international
greenhouse politics, where excuses for doing nothing are always

Hidden political values are concealed in cost-benefit analyses, in
which a trade off can be made between climate engineering or
climate warming damages, implying that consumption is already
non-negotiable. The "just in case" argument for backing climate
engineering research may become a self-fulfilling prophesy in this
political context, but in the real world the choice might then be
between two potential catastrophes, for positive feedback
processes make the climate system inherently surprising. I conclude
by asking whether such research should continue, and how we might
check its momentum in the future.

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