Friday, December 20, 2013

Hack the planet? Geoengineering research, ethics, governance explored

Hannah Hickey at UW Today: Hacking the Earth’s climate to counteract global warming – a subject that elicits strong reactions from both sides – is the topic of a December special issue of the journal Climatic Change. A dozen research papers include the most detailed description yet of the proposed Oxford Principles to govern geoengineering research, as well as surveys on the technical hurdles, ethics and regulatory issues related to deliberately manipulating the planet’s climate.

University of Washington researchers led the three-year project to gather leading thinkers and publish a snapshot of a field that they say is rapidly gaining credibility in the scientific community. “In the past five years or so, geoengineering has moved from the realm of quackery to being the subject of scientific research,” said co-editor Rob Wood, a UW associate professor of atmospheric sciences. “We wanted to contribute to a serious intellectual discourse.”

Creating clouds over the ocean that would reflect back sunlight is the subject of a chapter by Wood, whose research is on the interaction among air pollution, clouds and climate. He and co-author Tom Ackerman, a UW atmospheric sciences professor, look at what it would take to test the idea with a field experiment.

 “I don’t want to prove it right, I just want to know if it’s feasible,” Wood said. “If you look at the projections for how much the Earth’s air temperature is supposed to warm over the next century, it is frightening. We should at least know the options. Is geoengineering feasible if there were to be what people call a ‘climate emergency’?”....

Image by Beckyq6937, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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