Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Solar geoengineering may be Trump's favoured solution to climate change

As if Donald Trump's latest executive order, the so-called Energy Independence Executive Order (which I looked at in some detail in my last blog entry), were not enough, I have been reading about some of the other planks of his War on the Environment (or at least War on Environmentalism). One such is the issue of solar geoengineering, which, although not well advanced, or even well regarded, from a scientific point of view, is apparently firmly in the sights of the Trump administration.
Solar geoengineering is the idea that the atmosphere can be engineered (for example, by spraying sulphate particles into the atmosphere, or cloud whitening) to reflect more sunlight back into space, thus theoretically controlling the increase in atmospheric temperatures that are occurring due to global warming. The idea has been around for decades, but Harvard professors David Keith and Frank Keutsch are making a lot of noise recently about a possible large-scale test in 2018 (their last planned test, back in 2012 had to be cancelled, but now they seem to think they are ready).
The Obama administration sensibly distanced itself from such rash, and potentially dangerous, large-scale manipulations of the Earth's ecosystems. Many scientists have warned that such tinkering could have catastrophic implications for the Earth's weather systems, including a high possibility of droughts and food supply threats for much of Asia, Africa and South America. The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity recommended a moratorium on such geoengineering projects back in 2010, and reaffirmed that position just last year.
The USA never ratified that motion, though, and the current administration seems quite enthusiastic about the technology. In particular, David Schnare, a major player in Trump's scheme to turn the Environmental Protection Agency into an Environmental Destruction Agency, has strongly lobbied for a multi-phase geoengineering plan, involving real world testing within 18 months, followed by massive stratospheric spraying for up to a hundred years. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is also a big fan, seeing in it a method of appearing to make a move on global warming while not impacting his beloved oil sector.
This administration just gets scarier and scarier.

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