As climate change transforms from a “distant problem” to a “major threat” in public perception, governments and billionaire philanthropists scramble to mitigate the effects of global warming. Geoengineering, the radical alteration of the environment and ecosystem, has been the subject of considerable interest. There are two main approaches to man-made climate intervention: aerosol geoengineering, the spraying of particles into the atmosphere to partially block the sun, dominates discussions, while aqueous geoengineering is comparatively unknown.
Too many proposals involving dangerous engineering of vast areas of the ocean are getting funding and not much scrutiny. Ambiguity shouldn’t be a defense for bad policy or junk science. The ocean is the world’s largest carbon sink and public good, and re-engineering two-thirds of the planet’s surface is not only dangerous and risky but completely unnecessary and counterproductive at this level of our knowledge, or lack thereof. Is.
In May 2020, an open-air trial of Marine Cloud Brightening (MCB) began in Australia, where nano-sized salt crystals were sprayed into the air through an experimental turbine, producing large amounts of unusually small water droplets. Drops formed, which would brighten the lower layer above. Water clouds thus reflect sunlight back into space. The results were inconclusive.
The Stratospheric Controlled Disturbance Experiment (ScoPEx), funded by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, spent great efforts and resources to solve humanity’s environmental problems in this way. Scopex attempted to employ similar strategies in the Swedish Arctic. Scopex was eventually canceled by the Swedish Space Corporation due to objections from environmentalists and indigenous peoples where the experiments were being conducted. Who would have thought that plunging cities into darkness by reducing sunlight would be unpopular?
Aquatic geoengineering is not limited to MCBs, but also includes water spray techniques, such as those theorized under the UCLA strategy of carbon sequestration and storage. This process of “single step carbon sequestration and storage” (SCS2) involves cycling vast quantities of seawater out of the ocean, separating solid carbon dioxide from the water (which is re-deposited in the ocean), and then Involves returning less carbon-heavy water to the ocean. scs2 The water spraying process is designed to squeeze the CO2 trapped in the seawater, allowing it to subsequently absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Another proposed use of aquatic geoengineering is to use unusually small water particles to eliminate air pollution, by diffusing the water into the atmosphere, trapping the particles in the water, which can then be filtered by precipitation and runoff. Proponents argue that water sprinkling aquatic geoengineering techniques can be a solution for managing the heavily polluted air of megacities. They argue that if cities install water sprinkler systems on top of buildings with water obtained from nearby sources, the implementation cost will be lower.
It would be plausible to remove billions of metric tons of carbon dioxide from seawater containing about 150 times more carbon dioxide than in the air. Nevertheless, there are many reasons to be skeptical of hydraulic geoengineering. It is easier said than done to ensure a steady supply of water and frequently clean it (sometimes after rain washes down its potentially harmful particles), while in the process dangerously increasing the humidification of the lower atmosphere. Around 1800 SCS2 would cost trillions of dollars to build Plant to eliminate 10 billion metric tons of CO2 every year.
This is to say nothing of the unintended environmental consequences; A study shows that MCB can reduce impenetrable rainfall in the Amazon
The environmental impracticality is matched by the monumental legal and enforcement nightmare that will lead to widespread adoption of geoengineering. Current international agreements on climate change cannot address the free-rider problem even with basic solvable economic incentives due to a lack of political will. Any climate change agreement that would actively hurt the environment or the agricultural production of countries in the developing world trying to adopt geoengineering would be counterproductive.
The central tragedy in hydraulic geoengineering is its redundancy and cost. We already know how to combat climate change. Investment in alternative renewable energy, nuclear power including fusion, sensible environmental regulations and protections, and investment in public transportation all work.
All this requires sacrifice and political will. Geoengineering is a pie in the sky. It is a pipe dream, a perennial and enticing concept because it allows humanity to solve the problems of decarbonisation, and energy transformation, without fundamentally changing the technology, behavior or structures that caused the problems in the first place. causes.
Geoengineering introduces a moral hazard that doesn’t require sacrifice, only a new, insanely expensive quick fix. This is a dangerous fantasy. Planet Earth is not ready for this and may not survive.