Sunday, 26 February 2012


Interesting post from Josh Horton yesterday (25/02) here:

I agree with most of his interpretation but find the last paragraph somewhat negative. Josh writes:

'On balance, geoengineering did not fare well in the hearing. This is not surprising given that its implementation in the Arctic is clearly premature at present. The absence of support from the scientific establishment for rapid implementation ought to signal to advocates of Arctic deployment that the case for action now is not persuasive, and calls for geoengineering in the near future are unwise. Unfortunately, AMEG and its sympathizers may draw the opposite conclusion, and redouble their efforts to convince sceptical scientists and policymakers that the end is nigh, further marginalizing geoengineering in the process.'

I agree, after reviewing the video (thanks Josh) that geoengineering did not fare that well. I also highly doubt AMEG are going to change their minds. However, what I find comforting is that researchers into geoengineering have been very quick to argue strongly that rapid deployment in the artic is hugely premature and exceptionally unwise. Those researching both cloud whitening and stratospheric aerosols (both presented as potential solutions by AMEG) have been exceptionally clear on this.  Surely this points to strong self-governance and undermines the argument that those seriously researching geoengineering are desperate to deploy?

The researchers within SPICE are universally opposed to rapid (timescale months) deployment, specifically using SPICE technology, as proposed by AMEG. Deployment cannot be undertaken due to:

(1) our total lack of understanding of the risks
(2) serious ethical and governance issues as yet wholly unresolved
(3) a lack of consensus (in fact the AMEG are in the minority) about methane production from the arctic, as described by Tim Lenton
(4) practical technological developmental times (absolute minimum 3-5 years - specific to SPICE - this development time is for the technology only and does not consider the impacts of deployment in the arctic).

We simply cannot deploy any such technologies without fully considering all the facets of all the consequences of geoengineering (especially true for SRM) and even then it may not be apposite, legal or ethically acceptable to do so.

It is worth noting (lest I fall into a trap I've already highlighted) - - that the situation in the artic (in terms of sea ice loss) is real and serious. The most alarming thing to me is the lack of understanding of this issue from within the environmental audit commission itself.

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).