Illustration for article titled Is Planet Hacking The Only Way To Save The World?

Is the only way to survive global climate change to try and change it even more through geoengineering? Possibly - if doing so doesn't trigger an international political "incident" accidentally.


A report in the latest issue of New Scientist discusses the growing feeling amongst climate scientists that the only way to defeat global warming is to "hack" the planet - that is, create new artificial ways to reverse the change that's taking place altogether:

Previously, the idea of tweaking the climate in this way was anathema to most scientists. Apart from the technical challenges and environmental risks, many argued that endorsing the concept might scupper international negotiations for a post-Kyoto protocol to reduce global emissions. But it's becoming clear that moves to cut global carbon emissions are too little and too late for us avoid the worst effects of climate change. "There is a worrying sense that negotiations won't lead anywhere or lead to enough," says Lenton. "We can't change the world that fast," says Peter Liss, who is scientific adviser to the UK parliamentary committee investigating geoengineering. Extraordinary measures may now be the only way of saving vulnerable ecosystems such as Arctic sea ice.


But not without risk; not only would such efforts be untested on such a scale necessary to be effective in this aim, but the political implications may be even greater:

If a sunshade triggered drought elsewhere, this could be interpreted as "hostile use" of weather modification, in which case the action would fall foul of the UN Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques (ENMOD)... "Almost everyone agrees that some form of international regulation and authorisation is necessary," says John Shepherd, a deputy director of the UK Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and chair of the Royal Society working group investigating geoengineering. But as for how, "we just don't know", he says.

If this were a movie, the next scene would be our hero striding into the UN to give a stirring speech about the need for countries to put aside their differences (or an alien squid may appear and destroy Manhattan, of course), but sadly real life offers less handy solutions; the report closes with the prospect that the only viable geoengineering in our future may be that which we have to do ourselves.

Hacking the planet: The only climate solution left? [New Scientist]


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