Regulating Geoengineering Research

Posted on | juli 17, 2012 | No Comments

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Policy and governance concerns are priorities atop geoengineering preference scale for now. The science, though upcoming, is easily overcome by findings of different sort, but dealing with processes & results as policy issues, and control as governance issues appear to be more important since one earth is involved and the biosphere also is.

Deployment of geoengineering and the form it will take have pegged serious and possible concerns for the earth, biodiversity and agreements. Geoengineering is some headache and its capabilities are fearful, it is not coming because scientists want to test their climate tinkering prowess, but because of situations surrounding a global mitigation agreement.

Geoengineering is unlikely to be deployed anytime soon, but tests and research are expected to grow. Tests can be controversial in that they might appear as deployment because of scale or may appear like acting alone – to prompt others to. Geoengineering deployment is not taken off the table, as the world in reality, cannot earmark 2% of annual global GDP for climate change anytime soon.

Climate change tipping point or indubitable moment for large scale deployment of geoengineering comes when there are series of devastating events around the world, with extremes everywhere affecting everyplace in one year or so. The situation will get the world to convey to act fast and tinker with the climate to save a little while caution goes to mitigation and possibilities are laid with geoengineering.

Aerosols can quickly be injected for this in a huge way, and to continue in the next year and subsequently at reduced scale. As such, a 10-year plan for aerosols with droplet radius of around 0.1µm, injected initially at 3.5Tg S can be reduced to 1Tg S over the next 10years, to stay further climate change catastrophe and save from new ones, due to geoengineering.

Knowing what amount can be used or distribution size of aerosols or best positions or rate of deployment, require research. Lab models can help to many extents, theories and studies of natural equivalent can be useful but field test cannot be taken away. Issues with the field test aside appearing like deployment or unilaterally done, is for others to do theirs in what may be more dangerous than some of the initial and carefully considered ones.

This calls for answers on asked questions on geoengineering research regulation. It is necessary to worry so much about policy and governance concerns over deployment, but that is somewhat far, and time & situations can evolve to reveal answers. But quite urgent is research regulation because geoengineering for now is at the research level and largely within the academe.

Regulating field tests was necessary after the suspension of SPICE test last year (and cancellation this year).  SPICE test, to certain people tell of the extent to which geoengineering has gone and how they are left behind or how they can do their own thing. SPICE also had issues with climate activists expressing their concerns about the test before a major UNFCCC.

Avoiding this sort of chagrin in the future calls that the ‘small class’ involved in geoengineering begin work on research regulations. This should not be extremely difficult because it is pundits aboard pundits about the academe. Going rogue at this level is not so expected and since the environment belongs to all, it is necessary that the class in front, open up well to let others see and do same in future.

Having informal meetings to work something out and later a major meeting — within this class and a little more from without that have shown interest — for research regulation is necessary within the next year.   Talk of letting research methodologies accessible; involving colleagues both near and far; ensuring that the work is ‘sort of insured’ by a counter climate process, such that solar radiation is reduced during summer; having the process live on video with information for folks to follow; suggesting tests at territories that may be testy and making friends in many places whose government will depend on for geoengineering decisions are points with research regulation.

Professor David Keith mentioned of an SRM test in a recent interview. His years of work on geoengineering and reputation let most people trust him and assured on his checks before the decision and research. He also understands the policy part of the subject and knows the good the research may do. The issue then is, if he does this successfully, publishes the report and opens further conversation, can some others from some other place be stopped if they decide to try?

Avoiding conflict in careful steps at present is necessary to undercut issues that will pare down a promising subject or limit its growth with further studies. Getting all the concerns and questions together and finding answers informally, is becoming necessary even as more questions are raised in new locations. Questions cannot just continue to grow, and control of the research cannot be left undecided, it should be decided fast.

The New York Times Columnist and Princeton University Professor, Paul Krugman stated in a recent blog post – Europe’s Great Illusion – that “the point is that the prospect of disaster, no matter how obvious, is no guarantee that nations will do what it takes to avoid that disaster”. This is true of response for mitigation by nations, but should not be for scientists and policy makers in regulating geoengineering at the research level, before things get out of hand while within control.

Geoengineering research regulation is extremely important. It should be attended to quickly, as it is the one thing needful.

AUTHOR: David Stephen
E-MAIL: Stephen [at]


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