Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cancun Agreements Underscore Need for Geoengineering

The outcome of the UNFCCC COP16 meeting held earlier this month in Mexico was a package of decisions known as the "Cancun Agreements." These include:
  • a "Cancun Adaptation Framework"
  • incremental progress on REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, including conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks)
  • a "Technology Mechanism"
  • a "Green Climate Fund"

Taken together, these agreements keep the UNFCCC process on life support.

From the perspective of climate engineering, the most important result of the meeting was continued delay in negotiating a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. For years, the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) has been working to reach agreement on binding emissions cuts to take effect after the first Kyoto "commitment period" expires in 2012. AWG-KP missed its original deadline at Copenhagen last year, and pushed back the deadline again at Cancun to a date uncertain. This is hardly surprising given the complexity of the issues and the stakes involved. Furthermore, any mitigation targets eventually agreed upon will almost certainly be insufficient in scale and scope to reduce the likelihood of catastrophic climate change. The results of Cancun underline just how sclerotic mitigation efforts have been up to now, and the necessity of augmenting emissions reductions with some form of climate intervention.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Friends of the Earth Steps Up

Friends of the Earth (England, Wales & Northern Ireland) has joined the growing ranks of environmental groups open to the possibility of geoengineering (see "NRDC and EDF Lead the Way," 12/2). In a recent report, FOE urges strong and swift action to reduce global carbon emissions, but acknowledges that the scale of cuts required to avoid "dangerous" climate change may not be feasible or even possible: "Urgent research and debate needs to be carried out - alongside urgent action to reduce emissions - to identify exactly how to share out the remaining global carbon budget and whether these reductions are technically possible and, if not, whether approaches using negative emissions or even geo-engineering are possible or acceptable." Like NRDC, EDF, and others, FOE has begun to recognize that mitigation alone is incapable of averting the likelihood of catastrophic climate change, and must be supplemented with some form of intervention.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Where Do the Major Powers Stand?

Geoengineering is still in its infancy, and policies are nearly nonexistent, but given growing interest and gathering momentum, it is intriguing to attempt to assess the state of world opinion on climate engineering. More precisely, what are the views of the major powers of today (and tomorrow) on the subject of geoengineering? This exercise is inescapably speculative and subjective, and ultimately rests on nothing more than informed judgments. But since these powers would play essential roles in any international deployment scenario, it is worthwhile to try to elucidate their emerging positions.

US – The US is best regarded as guardedly open to the idea of geoengineering. Particularly over the last year, geoengineering has gained currency in influential policy circles, both liberal and conservative. The House Science and Technology Committee inquiry into geoengineering, starting in 2009, helped raise the profile of climate intervention and stimulated the production of multiple CRS, GAO, and Committee reports. Conservatives based at AEI are pushing the concept, and a growing number of leading environmental groups such as NRDC and EDF have begun to constructively engage with climate engineering. The bipartisan National Commission on Energy Policy is preparing to release a report on geoengineering rumored to be sympathetic to intervention. For the moment, organized and effective opposition to geoengineering in the US is insignificant.

China – The opacity of China’s political system makes it more difficult to gauge internal views on geoengineering, but available evidence indicates receptiveness to climate intervention strategies. The majority of Chinese leaders are engineers by training, which suggests a mechanistic mindset comfortable with manipulative system frameworks. Large-scale public projects such as the Three Gorges Dam and Olympics weather modification demonstrate the predominance of this interventionist mentality. China was one of the few countries to resist adoption of the CBD moratorium, and spoke out strongly in favor of geoengineering research.

Russia – Russian opinion on geoengineering can be described as undecided. Many Russian elites believe that Russia will benefit from climate change, gaining from increased agricultural productivity, increased access to Arctic oil and gas resources, etc. However, the wildfires that engulfed the country over the summer appear to have checked such enthusiasm, with renewed vows to combat global warming coming from both president and prime minister. Given the hierarchical nature of Russian government, it is noteworthy that Yuri Izrael, former vice chair of the IPCC and the first scientist to conduct SRM field experiments, is an influential adviser to Prime Minister Putin. Russia was also one of the handful of states prepared to question the appropriateness of the CBD moratorium.

Europe – Europe is conflicted over climate engineering. The UK is at the forefront of geoengineering research and related policy considerations. The Royal Society has played a preeminent role in framing the public discussion of geoengineering, and leads the way on international regulatory issues with its SRM Governance Initiative (SRMGI). House of Commons hearings were held in conjunction with US House hearings, DEFRA and the Met Office have engaged the issue, and the government provides support to the IAGP and SPICE projects. In Germany, a strong Green Party is skeptical of climate engineering, yet the German government co-sponsored LOHAFEX. In France, a powerful neo-Luddite anti-globalization streak colors national politics, but this may be counterbalanced by the tradition of state dirigisme. The EU itself was divided on the recent moratorium, but continues to fund limited research on geoengineering.

India – India appears unresolved on climate engineering. Predictions that sulfate aerosol injections will disrupt seasonal monsoons have raised serious concerns among Indian leaders, and prominent activists such as Vandana Shiva have spoken out against geoengineering. However, India’s unique vulnerabilities to climate change, and anticipated high costs of adaptation, also affect national calculations. Rajendra Pachauri is held in high esteem, and Pachauri has signaled growing if circumspect openness to climate engineering. The Indian government was also a co-sponsor of the LOHAFEX project.

Japan – First indications are that Japan is amenable to geoengineering. Concepts of adaptive management and purposeful intervention, implicit in the idea of geoengineering, accord well with traditional Japanese constructions of nature and notions of environmental stewardship and instrumentality. The Japanese government voiced public worry about the potentially negative impact of the CBD ban. And Japan has a lively history of challenging Western environmental orthodoxy (e.g., bans on ivory trading, whaling, etc.), an orthodoxy which for now must be regarded as anti-geoengineering.

Comments on these characterizations are welcomed.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

NRDC and EDF Lead the Way

The antics of ETC Group have attracted a lot of (negative) attention over the past few weeks, but other environmental groups are displaying exemplary openness to the idea of geoengineering. NRDC just released an excellent report titled "Biochar: Assessing the Promise and Risks to Guide U.S. Policy." The report is cautiously supportive of biochar, declaring that "biochar production systems clearly merit further investigation and support as one of many promising technologies in the global energy-climate mix." The authors advocate a $107.5-$145 million US federal research program over eight years. NRDC was also an active participant at Asilomar. EDF, for its part, is a co-sponsor (along with the Royal Society and TWAS) of the SRM Governance Initiative, or SRMGI. This initiative is currently considering a range of governance options for SRM research, and will host a major conference on the subject in March 2011.

Contrast these positive contributions to the clownish behavior of ETC Group. Earlier this year it launched a bizarre assault on biochar (see "Attack on Biochar," 9/1). Then came the infamous CBD moratorium. Two days ago ETC Group staged a press conference titled "False Solutions to Climate Change: Nuclear, Coal, Geoengineering and CDM Funding." ETC Group may be getting the press, but it is thankfully becoming marginalized in the process.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Geoengineering at Cancun

In his opening statement at the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Rajendra Pachauri brought geoengineering front and center. Referring to the Fifth Assessment Report, he stated that "The scope of the AR5 has also been expanded over and above previous reports, and would include, for instance, focused treatment of subjects like clouds and aerosols, geo-engineering options, sustainability and equity issues, and much greater focus on the economics and social implications of climate change." Geoengineering was largely relegated to sideshow status at Copenhagen just last year, now it is figuring in opening remarks by the head of the IPCC. It will be very interesting to see what happens at the IPCC Expert Groups' discussion of climate engineering in Peru later this month.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Can "Enlightened Capitalism" Geoengineer?

Sir Richard Branson has declared that "enlightened capitalism" must play a leading role in constructing arrangements to govern geoengineering research. Is this the case? There are many philosophical, moral, ethical, and political arguments against commercial participation in climate engineering, particularly SRM. Whatever their various merits, the intensity of opposition to commercial involvement in SRM research is a good reason, from a practical political point of view, to consider excluding private firms from initial research and development. If deployment becomes necessary, multilateral consensus will be essential to successful implementation. For better or worse, commercial participation would present one of the most significant threats to such a consensus.

Apart from the political aspect, private capital has so far failed to drive any serious advances in geoengineering research. In 2007, Branson organized the Virgin Earth Challenge offering $25 million to any inventor of practicable CDR technology. The contest has attracted problematic entries and suffered numerous other setbacks, and the prize money has not been awarded. Time will tell, but the market may be the wrong way to pioneer climate engineering.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

ETC Group Behaving Badly

In the days since adoption of the CBD moratorium, the ETC Group has made a series of misleading statements and patently false assertions in what appears to be an attempt to steamroll advocates of geoengineering research. The following is one such comment from Diana Bronson, ETC Group Program Manager:

“There are many complex reasons which explain why the UNFCCC is a such a disappointing failure in terms of emissions reduction … But the failure of a specific international mechanism to achieve results in a given time frame is not a reason to give up on multilateralism altogether.”

It is ridiculous to suggest that supporters of research into geoengineering are in favor of abandoning multilateral solutions to the problem of climate change. To the contrary, scientists, policymakers, and most others amenable to intervention strategies strongly back international arrangements to govern research and possible deployment. This is common knowledge in the field and ETC Group is certainly aware of it. ETC Group discredits itself and its message when it resorts to twisting facts and misrepresenting opposing views.

Monday, November 1, 2010

More Momentum for Geoengineering

Following on from yesterday's alternative perspective on the CBD moratorium (see "The Meaning of the Moratorium," 10/31), several other recent developments suggest that geoengineering is in fact gathering momentum among scientists and policymakers:
  • Last month, the London Convention/London Protocol on ocean dumping adopted an Assessment Framework to facilitate research on ocean fertilization (see "LC/LP Agrees on Ocean Fertilization AssessmentFramework," 10/19).
  • Last week, the co-chair of IPCC Working Group 1 (WG1) confirmed that the panel will formally consider geoengineering next year in preparation for the Fifth Assessment Report due in 2014. This follows multiple indications that the IPCC is growing more open to the idea of climate intervention (see "More Pachauri," 10/18).
  • The US House Committee on Science and Technology released a report calling for significantly greater research on geoengineering. This report was the result of a series of hearings the committee held on different aspects of climate engineering, in conjunction with a UK House of Commons inquiry.
  • In response to a request by Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a comprehensive report titled "Climate Change: A Coordinated Strategy Could Focus Federal Geoengineering Research and Inform Governance Efforts."

This is hardly an exhaustive list, yet it underscores the extent to which geoengineering is gaining in legitimacy and credibility, and the speed with which this is occurring. Those who celebrate the new moratorium as a repudiation of geoengineering not only misread the CBD decision, but look past the mounting evidence that climate intervention is going mainstream.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Meaning of the Moratorium

CBD COP10 has adopted a moratorium on geoengineering, and many have portrayed this development as the imposition of a UN ban on all geoengineering activities. But this is not quite right. Following are core elements of the moratorium (from "Climate Change and Biodiversity (UNEP/CBD/COP/10/L.36)"):

8(w) Ensure, in line and consistent with decision IX/16 C, on ocean fertilization and biodiversity and climate change, in the absence of science based, global, transparent and effective control and regulatory mechanisms for geo-engineering, and in accordance with the precautionary approach and Article 14 of the Convention, that no climate-related geo-engineering activities[1] that may affect biodiversity take place, until there is an adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities and appropriate consideration of the associated risks for the environment and biodiversity and associated social, economic and cultural impacts, with the exception of small scale scientific research studies that would be conducted in a controlled setting in accordance with Article 3 of the Convention, and only if they are justified by the need to gather specific scientific data and are subject to a thorough prior assessment of the potential impacts on the environment;

9.9(p) Taking into account the possible need for science based global,

transparent and effective control and regulatory mechanisms, subject to the availability

of financial resources, undertake a study on gaps in such existing mechanisms for

climate-related geo-engineering relevant to the Convention on Biological Diversity,

bearing in mind that such mechanisms may not be best placed under the Convention on

Biological Diversity, for consideration by the Subsidiary Body on Scientific Technical

and Technological Advice prior to a future meeting of the Conference of the Parties and

to communicate the results to relevant organizations;

A moratorium is by definition temporary. The CBD Decision specifies that the moratorium is instituted "in the absence of science based, global, transparent and effective control and regulatory mechanisms." Given the "possible need for science based global, transparent and effective control and regulatory mechanisms," the provision then directs the convention Secretariat to "undertake a study on gaps in such existing mechanisms for climate-related geo-engineering relevant to the Convention on Biological Diversity, bearing in mind that such mechanisms may not be best placed under the Convention on Biological Diversity."

In other words, the CBD has asked governments to call a temporary halt to geoengineering activities while it explores alternative governance arrangements, arrangements the CBD acknowledges may fall outside its field of competence. This is not the same thing as a ban. Rather, this resolution has established a road map for developing international governance mechanisms to regulate (not outlaw) climate engineering techniques. Viewed in this light, the moratorium may turn out to be a hollow victory for opponents of geoengineering that, over the long run, does more to facilitate climate intervention than inhibit it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Momentum Building for Ban at CBD

The moratorium on geoengineering activities proposed at CBD COP10 is gaining traction in informal talks at the conference. Revised text of the ban has been leaked, and there are indications that a consensus is forming in support of a prohibition.

What would a ban mean in practice? The CBD itself entails few concrete obligations other than implementing national action plans to protect biodiversity. Any moratorium would take the form of a "Decision," and the legal force of such rules is unsettled. But a formal ban on geoengineering would signal a normative shift against climate intervention. Norms matter because they frame debates, shape opinions, and inform international legal discourse. In the LOHAFEX case, opponents disrupted ocean fertilization experiments by appealing to the normative sensibilities of the German government. A more general CBD prohibition may jeopardize other types of geoengineering research.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Update on CBD COP10

Discussions have begun on a proposed moratorium on geoengineering at CBD COP10, and coalitions are starting to crystallize.

  • Those in favor of a ban include: Tuvalu, the Philippines, Costa Rica, the "African Group" (representing the continent), Switzerland, the "ALBA Group" (Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, led by Venezuela and including Bolivia), and Grenada. These countries are supported by Greenpeace, Ecosystems Climate Alliance, and ETC Group.

  • Those more favorably disposed toward geoengineering include Japan and Russia, supported by the Royal Society.

  • Those in the middle, expressing some combination of openness and caution, include Brazil, the EU, and Norway.

Other countries have yet to take public positions. It is notable that none of the major powers has expressed support for the moratorium. Discussions continue ...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

LC/LP Agrees on Ocean Fertilization Assessment Framework

Last week, the London Convention/London Protocol (LC/LP) formally adopted an "Assessment Framework for Scientific Research Involving Ocean Fertilization." Development of this framework was set in motion by a 2008 resolution accepting the value of "legitimate scientific research" on ocean fertilization, but stipulating that "scientific research proposals should be assessed on a case-by-case basis using an assessment framework to be developed by the Scientific Groups under the London Convention and Protocol." The Assessment Framework is a stepwise evaluation tool summarized by the following LC/LP figure:
One of the more interesting issues associated with the Assessment Framework is how it will affect ongoing deliberations on geoengineering more broadly within the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), where a prohibition is currently under consideration (see "Moratorium on Geoengineering Proposed at CBD.") In 2008, parties to the CBD agreed "to ensure that ocean fertilization activities do not take place until there is an adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities" (an exception was made for research in coastal waters). The LC/LP Assessment Framework appears to fill this void. However, the CBD also requires an effective governance mechanism for ocean fertilization to proceed, and has been silent up to now on other climate intervention techniques.

Monday, October 18, 2010

More Pachauri

In a post last month ("Lomborg Shifts ... and So Does Pachauri?"), I speculated that IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri may be edging closer to the possibility of geoengineering. This was based on Pachauri's endorsement of Bjorn Lomborg's latest book, which calls for cloud brightening and other forms of intervention. Pachauri offered more evidence of an evolving position at a meeting of the IPCC in South Korea last week. In an interview with Reuters, he stated that "Geo-engineering is an area that will get clearer focus" in the next IPCC report, due in 2014. Of course the exact nature of this focus remains unclear.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Moratorium on Geoengineering Proposed at CBD

Tomorrow, the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) opens in Nagoya, Japan, and geoengineering is on the agenda. A coalition of governments and interest groups, most notably ETC Group, are pushing for adoption of the following draft decision:

[(w) Ensure, in line and consistent with decision IX/16 C, on ocean fertilization and biodiversity and climate change, and in accordance with the precautionary approach, that no climate-related geo- engineering activities take place until there is an adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities and appropriate consideration of the associated risks for the environment and biodiversity and associated social, economic and cultural impacts;]

Adopting this decision would effectively place a moratorium on geoengineering within the context of the CBD. Such a ban would be important in terms of symbolism, precedent, and global norms, but its practical effects would be unclear, as the convention is largely aspirational and lacks significant international obligations or commitments. The text was bracketed by Canadian diplomats, signaling a lack of consensus on its proposal to COP10. Despite this objection, a prohibition on geoengineering will be considered by delegates during the two-week conference. It will be very instructional to watch which positions national governments take on this issue, and to attempt to deduce their motives.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Federal Research Program in 2012?

One of the featured speakers at yesterday's Future Tense Event in Washington, D.C., was Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN). As Chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology, Gordon oversaw a series of groundbreaking hearings on geoengineering over the past year. At the conference Monday, Gordon raised the possibility of introducing a bill to authorize a federal geoengineering research program, perhaps in late 2012. Apart from Ehsan Khan's abortive attempt to initiate research at DOE during the Bush Administration, this would constitute the first federal proposal to sponsor and support research into the feasibility of climate intervention strategies.

I would like to see more details about this proposal. What funding levels? Which technologies? Which agencies? How does this reconcile with Gordon's plans to retire after this session of Congress? This is potentially a very important development.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Holdren Back in the News

John Holdren, chief science advisor to President Obama, is making news again on the subject of geoengineering. Earlier this month, Holdren delivered a presentation titled "Climate-Change Science and Policy: What Do We Know? What Should We Do?" at a scientific conference held in Oslo. Among his list of "conceivable mitigation policies" was geoengineering. While this mention was peripheral in the context of his overall remarks, it is interesting that Holdren would raise the issue at all after the ruckus he caused last year. Regardless, this is unlikely to signal any greater openness to geoengineering on the part of the Administration.

(For those unfamiliar with the story, Holdren said of geoengineering in a 2009 interview, "It's got to be looked at. We don't have the luxury of taking any approach off the table." This caused some commotion and resulted in Holdren clarifying that these were only his "personal views.")

Friday, September 17, 2010

What Moral Hazard?

The UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) recently released a study on public opinion regarding geoengineering titled Experiment Earth?. One of the more interesting findings pertains to the "moral hazard" argument against geoengineering, that is, people will embrace geoengineering as an excuse to avoid emissions reductions, and current levels of fossil fuel consumption will persist if not increase. Moral hazard has emerged as one of the principal arguments against climate engineering, despite the fact that geoengineering advocates generally support aggressive mitigation as the preferred option, and are quick to note the limitations of specific strategies, such as continued ocean acidification and the so-called "termination problem" in the case of stratospheric aerosol injections.

Evidence from the public dialogue summarized in the NERC report indicates that participants viewed mitigation and geoengineering as complementary policies, not as mutually exclusive alternatives. Stakeholders saw a link between geoengineering and emissions controls, and preferred a suite of mitigation and geoengineering measures to reliance on any single approach. "This evidence is contrary to the 'moral hazard' argument that geoengineering would undermine popular support for mitigation or adaptation," notes the report. While this study represents only one set of empirical data gathered in one particular sociocultural context, it is to my knowledge the first time the moral hazard argument has been tested, and demonstrates little support for this proposition.

(As a side note, I am currently polishing a chapter/article for publication that takes on another major argument against geoengineering, the supposed threat of unilateral deployment. I contend that the threat of unilateralism is a myth, and that climate engineering is in fact governed by a multilateral logic.)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Lomborg Shifts ... and So Does Pachauri?

Bjorn Lomborg is turning heads with his revised position on climate policy. In his new book, Smart Solutions to Climate Change, the "skeptical environmentalist" calls for spending $100 billion per year to fight climate change. Lomborg favors a global carbon tax to pay for mitigation, adaptation, and geoengineering (including marine cloud whitening). Equally startling is an endorsement by Rajendra Pachauri of the IPCC. Pachauri states that "This book provides not only a reservoir of information on the reality of human-induced climate change, but raises vital questions and examines viable options on what can be done." Does this signal a new willingness by Pachauri and the IPCC to consider climate engineering as a "viable option?"

Attack on Biochar

Last month an intriguing study was published in Nature Communications arguing that sustainable use of biochar on a global scale could offset up to 12% of annual GHG emissions. Now opponents of biochar have struck back. In an August 30 press release, a coalition of 21 groups(including ETC Group) hostile to biochar technology accused its supporters of promoting "large-scale land grabbing in the global South." This is a curious fight to pick. In addition to carbon sequestration, biochar produces clean bioenergy, enhances agricultural productivity, and improves the condition of soils. These benefits are widely regarded as particularly advantageous to the rural poor in the developing world. Biochar is viewed by many as a good way to reduce poverty and empower poor farmers. Furthermore, biochar derives from the terra preta soils manufactured by indigenous peoples of the Amazon. In condemning this study and biochar in general, these organizations have opened themselves to charges of working against the interests of poor agriculturalists, rural communities, indigenous peoples, and the global South more broadly, which are precisely those constituencies these groups claim to represent. This is a puzzling political strategy.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Bill McKibben and Geoengineering

In his warmly received new book Eaarth, Bill McKibben (environmental activist and founder of 350.org) argues that we have already entered the era of significant climate change and must adapt our ways to restore some semblance of balance. For most of us these claims are uncontroversial and indisputable. But McKibben offers a spectacularly inadequate analysis of geoengineering, consisting solely of the following three sentences:

"If you're in the developed world, [maintaining economic growth] might mean embracing "geoengineering" schemes: filling the atmosphere with sulfur to block sunlight (on purpose smog), or filling the seas with iron filings to stimulate the growth of plankton that would soak up carbon. But the early tests have found only "negligible" results, and the costs are huge, measured in the tens of trillions of dollars. Not only that, but we'd be experimenting on the same scale that we've experimented with carbon, and look how well that turned out." (p. 100)

This is shocking in its inaccuracies, distortions, and outright laziness. For such a prominent environmentalist to dismiss geoengineering on this basis borders on the irresponsible. The mainstream green movement deserves much better than this.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

One Vision of the Future

Geoengineering necessarily involves rethinking how we relate to nature and what it means to be human. These transmission tower "caryatids" in Iceland represent such a shift in perspective, as they literally redefine the boundary between nature and society. For more on this project visit www.choishine.com/port_projects/landsnet/landsnet.html.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Biochar Update

There are a couple of noteworthy developments to report on the biochar front. On July 1, the Gates Foundation held a meeting on scientific, commercial, and policy aspects of biochar. On July 13, Cornell University hosted briefings on biochar for US House and Senate staff. Needless to say, in the current political environment work by the Gates Foundation, IBI, Carbon Consulting, and Blue Source merits considerably more attention than any initiatives within the US government.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Too Warm for Russia

Russia is currently in the throes of a deadly heat wave, complete with soaring temperatures, forest fires, widespread drought, and the spontaneous combustion of peat bogs on the outskirts of Moscow. While the received wisdom is that Russia will offer a "bear hug" to a warmer world, the reality may be more complicated. Many observers argue that Russia will benefit from increased agricultural productivity driven by warmer temperatures. However, officials estimate that grain production will decline by up to 25 percent as a result of the current heat wave. In the end, Russia may not be as implacably opposed to geoengineering as many commentators assume.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

An Opening for Ocean Fertilization?

Yesterday Nature published a study indicating that global phytoplankton has declined by 40 percent over the last century. This is startling news from a scientific point of view, but may represent an opening for supporters of ocean fertilization insofar as this technique can now be portrayed not only as sequestration but also as conservation. Advocates can argue that, with phytoplankton populations plummeting as a result of global climate change, strategies such as OIF produce the twin benefits of removing carbon from the atmosphere and stabilizing the base of the ocean food chain. In political terms, "conservation" is much more palatable than "tinkering."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Welcome to my Geoengineering Politics blog. There are a number of good geoengineering sites out there, but the majority are focused on scientific and technical aspects of climate engineering. The purpose of this blog is to monitor, document, and discuss the politics of geoengineering, within countries and among them. Geoengineering, like mitigation and broader climate policy, will be governed as much by politics, power, and interests as by technological capabilities. Going forward, no assessment of geoengineering will be complete without comprehensive political analysis, and that is what Geoengineering Politics aims to foster. In this spirit, I intend to consider a wide variety of national and international political issues that will shape geoengineering research and deployment, and indeed the planet itself. All political perspectives are welcome, and I encourage feedback of any sort.

More to come shortly ...