Monday, 20 February 2012

Back from Central America

There's nothing like a trip to the global South (or third, or even fourth, world according to here - to give one a sense of perspective. The volcanic highlands of Guatemala provide a visual stunning backdrop to some of the most grotesque manifestations of abject poverty I've ever witnessed. This is my eighth year in a row leading the 'natural hazards in central America' fieldtrip (and my fifteenth (or so) visit to the region) and I am still shocked.

Of course, most of my thinking whilst in the field is about hazards, risk and resilience as well as physical volcanology (my day job). That said, the ethics of climate engineering seems to infuse my consciousness these days. Some questions arose:

What do they [the impoverished indigenos of Guatemala] want? - they can see things changing and they don't have any tolerance for additional stress from climate, but do they really want climate engineering?

Whilst I am possibly more qualified to think about climate engineering, does that give me/anyone the right to decide for them? - No, it doesn't. Simple as that.

Will they have say in what happens? - I seriously doubt it, they are largely invisible in their own country let alone the world stage.

All of this does nothing to change my mind that we are better of knowing about geoengineering (i.e. researching it) than not. How can a position of ignorance ever be better? As for deployment [SRM]? - every day I become less convinced it's a good idea (and I started off from a pretty sceptical viewpoint).


  1. Thanks for this perspective. You say that "every day you are becoming less convinced that geoengineering is a good idea".

    There might be some material on my blog which will help you to become more convinced rather than less convinced:

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Hi Neil - I certainly will take a look. I've read Mark Lynas's work, which was predicted to make me feel better too (it didn't!). However, I am prepared to state for sure that I am still of the mindset to accept a persuasive argument. I think what I meant by the comment above is more like - 'every day my instincts that geoengineering is not a good idea'. What I do know is that making the subject taboo and preventing open debate is a 'counsel of despair'.

      Note - deleted first reply as I mistyped 'still' with 'not' (implying I'm close minded).