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The dilemma of geoengineering

12/13/2011 – End-of-the-chimney fixes for anthropogenic global warming are becoming increasingly popular in public debate. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), now sheds some light on the fundamental dilemma of geoengineering in a comment published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). “This is a tale of two fairies: the rather wicked one conjures up solar radiation management, and the tolerably good one delivers CO2 removal through schemes like industrial ‘air capture,” says Schellnhuber. The latter however would generate “a multitrillion dollar bill,” he points out.
The dilemma of geoengineering

Smoking chimneys (Foto: Thinkstock)

“On closer inspection, solar radiation management exhibits MAD traits,” says Schellnhuber. “The latter acronym stands for ‘mutual assured destruction’, that is, the ominous doctrine of the arms race frenzy. If the climate can be influenced rather inexpensively by sending aerosol rockets to the stratosphere, then who decides when and where the buttons are pushed?” Certain countries like Russia might actually welcome some warming of their territories, Schellnhuber says, while others might not.

“The (moderately) good schemes involving CO2 capture are not affordable, and the (moderately) affordable schemes involving radiation management are no good, so what are we going to do? The answer seems obvious and utterly sensible, namely intentionally aborting unintended geoengineering as resulting from careless fossil fuel use,” says Schellnhuber. In other words: decarbonization.


Weblink to PNAS “Geoengineering: The good, the MAD, and the sensible”

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