This blog looks at the discussion on Geo-engineering, climate change and risk management. I missed this lecture and therefore wanted to read some more external literature on geo-engineering and risk management theory.
The American Meteorological Society categorise climate change risk strategies in to four categories
1) mitigation—efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
2) adaptation—increasing society’s capacity to cope with changes in climate; resiliance
3) geo-engineering or climate engineering—additional, deliberate manipulation of the earth system that is intended to counteract at least some of the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions; by carbon dioxide removal or storage and Solar Radiation management
4) knowledge-base expansion—understanding the climate system to support proactive, risk management.
Carbon Dioxide Removal CDR – capturing CO2 and storing it either in land or ocean storage (afforestation, agricultural management, biochar, carbon capture and storage, ocean fertilisation, silicate weathering and ocean alkalinity
Solar Radiation Management SRM – increasing the earth’s reflectivity e.g. painting roofs Sulphate aerosols, space mirrors, cloud whitening,
(Australian Chief Scientist 2012)
Firstly I read pollard et al on environmental decision making and risk management. From this I decided to rank the information I had extrapolated from the literature out on geo-engineering according to the AMS categories of climate change risk. It was evident that authors had varying opinions on the capability safety and need for geo-engineering. This could cause different stakeholders to rank risks differently for example stakeholders for geo-engineering could state that climate change is already happening, we are already altering the atmosphere with CO2 emissions so we are not causing any more harm by altering it further with various geo-engineering strategies of CDR or DRM. Stakeholders against Geo-engineering would argue that we should try to address the root cause of climate change by reducing CO2 emissions rather than trying to mitigate the symptoms. Geo-engineering will not reduce the human activity emitting CO2 so therefore in the long term will not prevent climate change.
From my ranking system I established that some of the key concerns with Geo-engineering:
- Geo-engineering does not reduce or address human educed CO2 emissions, therefore leading to growing emissions of GHG, not reversing the underlying cause of climate change
- Two of the main techniques proposed for ocean fertilisation and sulphate aerosols lead to increased pollution or altering the ecosystem with unknown long-term consequences
- Affects to the hydrological cycle, profound changes to precipitation leading to extreme weather events
- Ocean acidification
- Affects to biodiversity, considerable risk to ecological system both on land and in the oceans
- Ozone depletion
- Once started geo-engineering cannot be stopped and with continued CO2 emissions how long can CDR and SRM continue to work
So evaluating from a from a risk perspective:
Indeterminacy – many of the issues cannot be determined, scientist state that it is still better to prevent CO2 emissions with emissions reductions strategies first
Risk – known risks are that CO2 emissions and human induced pollution have caused climate change. Unknown is what will happen to the hydrological cycle and ecosystem as a whole. What are the long term advantages, how long can these strategies continue to work.
Uncertainty – there is some research that geo-engineering can work but we do not know what the long term effects will be
Ignorance – We should certainly be adopting the precautionary principal to geo-engineering
Geo-engineering is certainly a controversial subject, I can see the views from both sides but I keep coming back to some of my basic concerns
Finite or infinite system – earth is a finite system cannot continue to try to respond to pollution with further pollution.
Ecological system – pollution is suffocating the ecosystem
Technology as a solution – how long can we continue to survive in a world of continued growth, and how long can technology continue to provide solutions to environmental problems
Social impacts – there is continued displacement of people and gaps between the rich and poor. In Geo-engineering the effects of changes in the hydrological cycle will cause food and resources stress firstly to the disadvantaged communities.
Governance – we need global action against climate change to