Extreme controversial measures are underway in order to combat climate change.
Worldwide, efforts to sustainably reduce greenhouse gasses are feeble, especially since, undeniably, “economic growth tends to trump vague and elusive global aspirations”. While initiatives such as the Paris Agreement are a sort of “emergency response” to climate change, there are even more extreme strategies on the horizon (literally!).
Geoengineering refers to large-scale endeavors to reverse, slow or offset climate change through manipulating or mimicking the earth’s natural atmosphere cleansing processes. Two principal types of geoengineering and some practices are described here:
Solar Radiation Management (SRM):
Albedo enhancement— Artificially increasing reflectiveness of clouds (“cloud whitening”), land masses and structures.
Space reflectors— Placing metallic plates in the atmosphere to redirect sunlight.
Aerosols— Launching reflective sulfate aerosols or aluminum oxide dust into the upper stratosphere to serve as a sunshade.
Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR):
Afforestation— Grand-scale tree planting efforts.
Biochar— Burying “charred” biomass to lock carbon in the soil.
Ocean fertilization— Supplementing oceans with nutrients that grow carbon-absorbing plankton.
These weather modification programs are usually actualized without public disclosure, given environmental issues are classified as “national security”, and such information is kept private. Currently, the most prevalent and controversial of these practices is the injection of aerosols into the stratosphere, which involves spraying the particles from a high-altitude balloon.
Opponents of geoengineering are concerned that these programs will be supported by the Trump Administration. Apart from Trump’s blatant antagonism towards natural resource preservation, he has made David Schnare a major player in the newly renovated Environmental Protection Agency. Schnare has a history of lobbying for federal support and funding for geo-engineering.
Schnare’s plans include testing massive stratospheric spraying within the next 18 months, thereby initiating a 100-year weather modification project. These methods are touted as inexpensive ways to curtail global warming, as well as a “win” for the power of technology. Trump confidant and Former House speaker Newt Gingrich was one of the first to publicize his support, saying
“We would have an option to address global warming by rewarding scientific innovation. Bring on American ingenuity. Stop the green pig.”
However, research suggests this atmospheric shift could have catastrophic consequences, such as causing a decline in rainfall that could trigger severe droughts across Asia, Africa, and South America. Furthermore, there is evidence that the particles have incited a type of air pollution with serious health repercussions, as discussed in the peer-reviewed research “Aluminum poisoning of humanity and Earth’s biota by clandestine geoengineering activity: implications for India.”
As expressed by Silvia Riberio of the technology watchdog ETC Group, these methods take the focus off of reducing emissions, and likely only serve as a bandage to growing crisis, “Worryingly, geoengineering may emerge as this administration’s preferred approach to global warming. In their view, building a big beautiful wall of sulphate in the sky could be a perfect excuse to allow uncontrolled fossil fuel extraction. We need to be focussing on radical emissions cuts, not dangerous and unjust technofixes.”