News about the climate has become alarming over the last few months. In December, startled scientists revealed that temperatures in some parts of the Arctic had spiked more than 35 degrees Fahrenheit above their historical averages. In March, others reported that sea ice in the Arctic had dropped to its lowest level on record. A warming ocean has already killed large chunks of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Let’s get real. The odds that these processes could be slowed, let alone stopped, by deploying more solar panels and wind turbines seemed unrealistic even before President Trump’s election. It is even less likely now that Mr. Trump has gone to work undermining President Barack Obama’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions..
The world is not cutting emissions fast enough to prevent global temperatures from spiking into dangerous territory, slashing crop yields and decimating food production in many parts of the world, as well as flooding coastal cities while parching large swaths of the globe, killing perhaps millions of mostly poor people from heat stress alone..
Critically, the academics noted, the research agenda must include an open, international debate about the governance structures necessary to deploy a technology that, at a stroke, would affect every society and natural system in the world. In other words, geoengineering needs to be addressed not as science fiction, but as a potential part of the future just a few decades down the road.
Geoengineering would be cheap enough that even a middle-income country could deploy it unilaterally. Some scientists have estimated that solar radiation management could cool the earth quickly for as little as $5 billion per year or so. What if the Trump administration decided to focus American efforts to combat climate change on geoengineering alone?
There are serious dangers with the application of geoengineering solutions to global warming, but it may be our last chance.