Call me crazy but there’s something about the notion of global geoengineering that would seem to require a lot of public discussion. And so I was intrigued by news of a recently launched National Academy of Sciences study, partly funded by the CIA, examining various schemes to intentionally alter the global climate – ostensibly to counter the changes we are making to the climate unintentionally.
I found out about the study from a story in Mother Jones by Chris Mooney and Dana Liebelson, headlined, CIA Backs $630,000 Scientific Study on Controlling Global Climate. I found little coverage of this new study elsewhere – and while I am inundated with press releases from NAS and NASA, I got nothing on this. I might have missed it – or it might not have been promoted.
Here’s what Mother Jones says about the study:
Scientists will attempt to determine which geoengineering techniques are feasible and try to evaluate the impacts and risks of each (including "national security concerns"). One proposed geoengineering method the study will look at is solar radiation management—a fancy term for pumping particles into the stratosphere to reflect incoming sunlight away from the planet.
The money isn’t much by science funding standards. The subtitle of the story is, conspiracy theorists rejoice!, but the fact that scientists are seriously considering “solar radiation management” might be of some concern to non-paranoid people who nevertheless count on this planet for various necessities.
It’s not just pie-in-the-sky, according to one of the scientists involved:
Although previous efforts to manipulate weather and climate have often been met with mockery, many geoengineering proposals "are fundamentally doable, relatively cheap, and do appear to be able to reduce climate risk significantly, but with risks," explains David Keith, a Harvard researcher and top geoengineering proponent.
This might all be well and good if we had a couple of practice planets on which to experiment.
Beyond the risk of causing harm, geoengineering hype could convince the public that climate change is fixable so we should not worry about the root of the problem. The fact that the geoengineering researchers are using the word "cheap" suggests that they could make a scheme appealing to the public. Who in America doesn't perk up at the promise of a bargain?
Mother Jones has run a number of previous stories on this topic. Kudos to them for giving geoengineering some much-deserved and properly skeptical attention.