Geo-Engineering: Potential and Pitfalls

Dan Smith, Head of Energy Services, discusses his concerns about the latest geo-engineering project designed to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Geo-engineering refers to large-scale climate interventions designed to counteract climate change. The most recent example of geo-engineering is known as Stratospheric Aerosol Injection (SAI). The objective is to inject sulphate aerosols into the highest reaches of the Earth’s sky to form a barrier to block solar radiation in order to counter carbon dioxide’s ability to trap heat in the atmosphere. The project is funded by Breakthrough Energy, founded by Bill Gates.

Dan Smith finds several complications in this project. “As well as the obvious engineering challenge, for me there is a huge moral problem with this specific solution and this type of solution – namely this would be seen by fossil fuel companies and interested parties as an excuse to continue burning the fossil fuels that add to atmospheric CO2.”

Adding atmospheric CO2

Smith added that offering protection from the risks found in adding atmospheric CO2 would “reduce the incentive to eliminate CO2. Keep in mind that fossil fuel companies do not need many excuses to keep burning and hence keep generating profits.”

Another potential problem with SAI is that such a project would require participation and contribution from all countries. Should SAI suddenly stop for any reason (such as countries not being able to afford to participate or geo-political issues interfere) and the heat trapping effects “kick in”, there is the potential for catastrophic heatwaves to wash over the globe

A test run of SAI was meant to take place in June 2021 in Sweden. However, local indigenous peoples along with their representatives to action to delay the test. “The technology has been driven from Harvard University, but nobody from Harvard thought to talk to the indigenous people about this,” Smith added. “These are the same people who had tonnes of radiation dumped on them from Chernobyl in 1986.”

“I think Bill Gates saw this solution as a ‘break-glass-in-emergency’ type of fix,” Smith continued. “In other words, if we have all miserably failed to do anything about climate change in the next 30 years, we would desperately need this kind of solution. I see his point, but I sincerely hope we do not ever get to this state of affairs.

“By the way, it would turn the sky white as well.”

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