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In Support Of Geoengineering

December 13, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 50

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In “Geoengineering Ban,” C&EN reports a blatant suppression of sound and extremely important science without any commentary (C&EN, Nov. 8, page 12). More than 190 nations (not including the U.S.) agreed on Oct. 30 to ban geoengineering—large-scale technological intervention to address climate change—until it has an adequate scientific basis and all risks to the environment; biodiversity; and associated social, economic, and cultural impacts receive appropriate consideration. For all practical purposes, it is banned forever. Small-scale studies would be conducted only if their results “are needed” and their environmental impacts have been assessed “thoroughly.”

All this is simply unconscionable. In no other area must researchers show that results “are needed” to anyone, let alone to the United Nations. Nor must they thoroughly assess environmental impacts prior to getting any project funding. Several geoengineering technologies offer global cooling at modest cost compared with drastically cutting carbon dioxide emissions, with minimal apparent environmental impact.

Global warmers know geoengineering will probably be successful, and public support for reducing CO2 emissions will wane. They will do everything possible to avoid any large-scale tests. The fact that the world will not reduce emissions enough to prevent possibly serious warming has been emphasized in many publications. Thousands of papers decry the multiple environmental consequences of such warming. If they’re correct, then successful geoengineering will reduce or reverse these terrible effects. Surely this would outweigh possible adverse consequences of geoengineering tests, especially since a test can be terminated at any time.

It was a serious lapse for C&EN to publish “Geoengineering Ban” without a word about the issues it raises concerning (1) freedom of scientific inquiry; (2) the ability of competent scientists and engineers to evaluate the risks involved in large-scale testing free of interference from UN scientists and bureaucrats who may be inadequately qualified and/or politically biased; and (3) the fact that geoengineering may well be a better way to mitigate global warming than reducing CO2 emissions sufficiently, something which is extremely unlikely.

Elliott Doane
Oklahoma City



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