Government Technology

Science Adviser: Geoengineering Could Be Option to Combat Global Warming



April 8, 2009 By

Radical technologies to cool the Earth's air may be the next step in fighting global warming, according to John Holdren, director of the U.S. Office of Science & Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President.

Holdren discussed the idea of geoengineering the climate with The Associated Press during his first interview since being appointed March 20. The radical technologies may include shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun's rays or creating artificial trees that will remove carbon dioxide from the air and store it.

He told the AP he has raised these ideas during administration discussions, but he characterized them as his personal view. For the complete story, visit the article.

Prior to joining the federal government, Holdren was the Teresa and John Heinz professor of Environmental Policy and director of the Program on Science, Technology and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. He served concurrently as professor of Environmental Science and Policy in Harvard's Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and as director of the independent nonprofit Woods Hole Research Center.

What is Geoengineering?

The American Meteorological Society released a statement that it's accepting comments regarding geoengineering. The statement says geoengineering proposals fall into three broad categories:

o managing atmospheric greenhouse gases;

o cooling the Earth by reflecting sunlight; and

o moderating specific impacts of global warming (e.g., limiting sea-level rise by increasing storage of water on land).

The society's current draft also states: "Geoengineering could conceivably offer targeted and fast-acting options to reduce acute climate impacts and provide strategies of last resort if abrupt, catastrophic or otherwise unacceptable climate change impacts become unavoidable by other means. However, geoengineering must be viewed with great caution because manipulating the Earth system is almost certain to trigger some adverse and unpredictable consequences. Furthermore, these impacts would almost certainly be distributed unevenly among nations and people, raising serious ethical issues. Research to date has not determined that there are large-scale geoengineering approaches for which the benefits would substantially outweigh the detriments."

 


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