Friday, 23 October 2009

Geoengineering is like hiding rubbish under the couch

If you want a professional definition of geoengineering, click here. Otherwise, I can tell you what it is in a few words: it is trying to find technological solutions in order to counteract the effects of climate change. For example, Solar Radiation Management which seeks to reflect sunlight and reduce global warming (painting all of the world's roofs white). In other words, geoengineering is a way for us to maintain our current lifestyle while using technology to oust the CO2 from the atmosphere.

It's quite stupid because it doesn't solve the real problems caused by climate change, like ocean acidification, it just gives a potential short term solution so that we continue polluting. As much as it is great to explore all the possibilities to solve the climate change issue, I believe that geoengineering isn't the solution. I am no scientist, but this doesn't sound like a great idea - we could keep investigating it, but we have to keep our focus on the real issues: reducing our CO2 emissions.

Because unfortunately, some people seem to think that geoengineering could be our best bet out of this crisis. Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, authors of Freakonomics and now SuperFreakonomics say: "Meaningfully reducing global carbon emissions has proven to be difficult, if not impossible. This isn’t likely to change, for the reasons we discuss in the book. Consequently, other approaches represent a more promising path to lowering the Earth’s temperature". So technically, these guys lost faith and go for the easy way out. They have received huge criticism, including from Nobel economist Paul Krugman - but their book is not even out yet!

Another influential figure said some dumb things as well: Sir Richard Branson. While interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, he says, and I quote: "If we could come up with a geoengineering answer to this problem, then Copenhagen wouldn’t be necessary. We could carry on flying our planes and driving our cars".

So yes we should keep exploring geoengineering, but let's not abandon our fight on climate change. Geoengineering really is like putting all the rubbish under the couch and saying "I'm done cleaning the flat, can I watch the match now?" It's an excuse for us to keep polluting and hiding the actual issues. It reminds me of this Futurama episode, which is brilliant!

We have to ask ourselves "why is there so much CO2 in the atmosphere?", not just try to get rid of it. Geoengineering won't save the forests that we are depleting, it won't save the Great Bareer Reef nor will it help us preserve the land quality on which we rely on to plant food. The real problems are overpopulation and overconsumption. The fact that we are 6 billion today and 9 billion in 2050 is not sustainable because we will all need to eat, drink and buy computers and cars. If we manage to be sensible consumers and also reduce the world's population we could maintain a reasonable lifestyle close to the one that we have today.

Because some of these pragmatic people are right, it will be hard to implement all these regulations, especially on booming economies like India and China, hence we need to be more sustainable in our current lifestyle. It's really up to us. Do we need to have 5 kids? Do we need to have 3 TVs, 3 cars and 2 phones?

If individuals + companies + governments make some efforts in the way they live, they produce and they govern, then we could start solving the problem like responsible adults.

No comments:

Post a Comment