We have to at least consider geoengineering.
And that’s where the problems start.
The 2015 Paris climate agreement was a
major milestone, but the truth is, achieving its ambitious goal of keeping temperatures to within 1. 5 °C to 2 °C of
preindustrial levels would require rates
of mitigation far in excess of what’s been
achieved—or even what’s been planned.
Because of this, more people are contemplating geoengineering—notably solar
radiation management, which involves
reflecting a portion of the sun’s radiation
back into space. The idea raises many
questions. We don’t know how e;ective it
would be, and we don’t fully understand
its potential impacts. There are also ethical issues about its use and its governance.
We need to acknowledge that the
aggregate environmental and socioeconomic risks of solar radiation management would probably be small in
comparison with the benefits of reducing
global temperatures. But those benefits
and harms would be unequally spread
among regions of the world, and between
current and future generations.
In the absence of multilateral agreements, there’s no way of controlling who
might execute such a geoengineering
plan. It’s possible that a small group of
countries, or a single country, or a large
company, or even a wealthy individual
might take unilateral action on geoengineering. Others might subsequently
engage in their own climate engineering
strategies to counter such action.
To avoid such a future, we should
establish global governance frameworks. Currently there’s really only one
forum that could give legitimacy to any
such framework for geoengineering: the
United Nations General Assembly.
Here are the kinds of questions such
a framework would have to address: Who
controls the “global thermostat”? How
would decisions be made to balance the
need to reduce the global temperature
with the inequality of regional and local
impacts across the globe? How would
trans-border and trans-generational ethical issues be addressed? How would the
required governance frameworks withstand potentially substantial geopolitical
changes over the decades, and possibly
centuries, over which they would need to
be deployed? How might such techniques
be deployed without undermining the will
to cut emissions (which will continue to be
necessary no matter what)? How would
decisions relating to the rate of starting,
continuing, and stopping those techniques be governed?
This last issue is of particular concern, as suddenly stopping a geoengineering scheme would result in a rapid and
probably catastrophic rise in temperatures. Many of these governance issues
might turn out to be unresolvable and
thus might keep us from attempting this
kind of fix in the first place.
The research community has been
addressing many of these issues, but the
global policy community and the public
have not. It’s time to begin doing so.
Janos Pasztor is executive director of
the Carnegie Climate Geoengineering
The Elusive Male Pill
Many forces have slowed the development
of better contraceptives for men.
It seems as if every few months the press
heralds a scientific breakthrough that
could lead to a new male contraceptive—
in five to 10 years. But then the years go AN