by Derrick Broze
At a recent geoengineering conference two Harvard engineers announced plans for a real-world climate engineering experiment beginning in 2018.
The science of geoengineering has increasingly become a part of the public conversation around climate change and an ever-controversial topic within the scientific community. Geoengineering is a type of weather modification (or climate engineering) which has been researched, but, until recently, has been considered too unpredictable to attempt on a large scale. According to a 2013 congressional report:
The term ‘geoengineering’ describes this array of technologies that aim, through large-scale and deliberate modifications of the Earth’s energy balance, to reduce temperatures and counteract anthropogenic climate change. Most of these technologies are at the conceptual and research stages, and their effectiveness at reducing global temperatures has yet to be proven. Moreover, very few studies have been published that document the cost, environmental effects, socio-political impacts, and legal implications of geoengineering. If geoengineering technologies were to be deployed, they are expected to have the potential to cause significant transboundary effects.
In general, geoengineering technologies are categorized as either a carbon dioxide removal (CDR) method or a solar radiation management (SRM) (or albedo-modification) method. CDR methods address the warming effects of greenhouse gases by removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. CDR methods include ocean fertilization, and carbon capture and sequestration. SRM methods address climate change by increasing the reflectivity of the Earth’s atmosphere or surface. Aerosol injection and space-based reflectors are examples of SRM methods. SRM methods do not remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, but can be deployed faster with relatively immediate global cooling results compared to CDR methods.
The U.S. government’s caution with geoengineering programs seems to be shifting as indicated by a new announcement related to an upcoming real-world climate engineering experiment. At the recent “Forum on Solar Geoengineering Research,” Harvard engineer (and consistent proponent of climate engineering) David Keith announced his plan for a new project that will assess the risks and benefits of deploying geoengineering on a large public scale. Keith and fellow engineer, Frank Keutsch, will research the benefits and risks by spraying particles such as sulfur dioxide, alumina, or calcium carbonate from a high-altitude balloon over Arizona during 2018.
The move to real-world testing of geoengineering should not come as a surprise given the fact that in the final days of former-President Obama’s administration the U.S. Global Change Research Program released a report detailing the path of research into climate change, including new research on geoengineering. With the release of their report the GCRP became the first scientists in the federal government to formally recommend studies involving geoengineering. “The move will likely further normalize discussion of deliberate tinkering with the atmosphere to cool the planet, and of directly collecting carbon from the sky, both topics once verboten in the climate science community,” Science Mag predicted at the time.
David Keith said there will be a multi-phase plan for research and conducting real-world testing within the next 18 months. Keith also called for stratospheric spraying within three years and continuous spraying for at least a century. Technology Review reports that Keith said his team is already in the process of “engineering design work with Arizona test balloon company World View Enterprises,” and discussing the “appropriate governance structure for such an experiment.”
“In terms of governance, they have distributed, there’s more actors involved than we expected there would be,” Keith stated. “There’s more need to understand and to speak openly about the associated risks and what they imply for governance.” The very notion of unilateral geoengineering means that other countries could face potential risks. This creates a need for new governance structures, or possibly, a global government. This makes the Trump administration’s support for geoengineering curious since President Trump has been very outspoken against “globalists.”
However, as The Guardian notes, “David Schnare, an architect of Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency transition, has lobbied the US government and testified to Senate in favour of federal support for geoengineering.” The Guardian also notes that while Energy Secretary Rex Tillerson was still CEO at ExxonMobil his company was involved in developing geoengineering techniques.
David Keith did note that his next move depends on what an advisory committee recommends. “Our long term goal is to build a sustainable effort in solar geoengineering research that allows us to say more about ways it might actually provide public benefit.” Keith’s experiments are publicly acknowledged as some of the earliest, large-scale geoengineering experiments conducted outside of a lab or computer model, although this view is disputed by some researchers (more on that in a moment). Despite this lack of real-world knowledge, Keith has been adamant that any environmental impacts would be negligible. Again, this view is disputed by geoengineering research.
The Possible Dangers of Geoengineering
Most recently, in late October 2016, the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity released a report examining the problems of geoengineering and whether or not humanity will be forced to employ the practice in an attempt to halt climate change. The report, Update On Climate Geoengineering In relation to the Convention on Biological Diversity: Potential Impacts and Regulatory Framework, found that geoengineering “would reduce the impacts of climate change on biodiversity at the global level,” but also cause unpredictable rain and temperature distribution on the local level.
The U.N. report states that the effectiveness of geoengineering is “uncertain” and “in reducing the scale of one problem, other new problems would be created. Thus, there would also be risk of the geoengineering action also contributing to other drivers affecting biodiversity loss and ecosystem integrity.” Dr. Phillip Williamson, lead author of the report and scientist with the Natural Environment Research Council in the United Kingdom, says he is skeptical of geoengineering.
The U.N. concludes that although SRM may possibly slow the loss of Arctic sea ice, but not without “unacceptable climatic impacts elsewhere.” One particular method of SRM involves injecting aerosols into the atmosphere via airplanes. The study found that the use of sulphur aerosols for SRM would be associated with a risk of stratospheric ozone loss. There is also a risk that stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI) would have a small impact on climate change but could lead to negative impacts on biodiversity.
In 2016 Activist Post also reported on an analysis released by the Finnish Meteorological Institute. The FMI is the government agency responsible for reporting weather data and forecasts in Finland. The Institute’s study, “Modelling radiative and climate effects of aerosols: from Anthropogenic emissions to geoengineering,” examined the potential for SRM to combat climate change. The study specifically looked at two types of SRM. The first involved marine aerosol concentrations use to increase clouds, while the second looked at increasing the amount of sulphur concentrated in the stratosphere. The researchers stated that their key objectives were to “investigate the potential of aerosols to cool the climate at the global scale, and identify the possible limits in the effectiveness of the Solar Radiation Management techniques as well as the risks related to these techniques.”
The researchers found that the geoengineering techniques which were studied do in fact have the potential to cool the climate and slow down warming. “However, the cooling effect has limitations,” the team writes.“The cooling effect attributable to aerosols would be rather small due to the geographical change in tropospheric aerosol emissions or change in energy production studied here when compared to the warming due to the increased greenhouse gas emissions,” the paper states.
In other words, the effort, money, and time it would take to invest and create geoengineering methods would likely do very little to actually limit the amount of greenhouse gas emissions. The researchers even state that, based on their models, if the world replaced coal with nuclear power for energy production it would lead to a “temporal cooling effect,” but after several years “the warming effect from simultaneously increased GHG emission would exceed the cooling effect.” Also, the cooling that does result from an increase in aerosols is “often achieved at the cost of air quality” which could “lead to an increase in premature mortality.”
In February 2015, an international committee of scientists released a report stating that geoengineering techniques are not a viable alternative to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to combat the effects of climate change. The committee report called for further research and understanding of various geoengineering techniques, including carbon dioxide removal schemes and solar-radiation management before implementation.
The scientists found that SRM techniques are likely to present “serious known and possible unknown environmental, social, and political risks, including the possibility of being deployed unilaterally.” The report was sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. intelligence community, NASA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Department of Energy.
According to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, if geoengineering programs were started and then suddenly halted, the planet could see an immediate rise in temperatures, particularly over land. The study, titled, “The Impact of Abrupt Suspension of Solar Radiation Management,” seems to indicate that once geoengineering begins, the programs cannot be suspended without causing the very problem the engineering was intended to solve.
Geoengineering to save humanity? Or something more nefarious?
There is also a dispute among many researchers as to whether geoengineering programs are already active. What the geoengineering researchers describe – specifically spraying aerosols from planes as SRM describes – is eerily reminiscent of various conspiracies involving the government using weather control technology to manipulate world events. This is what is derogatorily called the “Chemtrails Conspiracy.” Essentially, some believe geoengineering is actively taking place in our skies. They say the “contrails” you see behind planes are actually geoengineering programs being carried out covertly. The “chemtrails” label comes from the portion of the crowd that believes these programs are delivering dangerous chemical additives to the food, water, soil, and humans below for population control.
Despite the knee-jerk dismissal from many casual researchers, the theories might be grounded in reality. It’s important to know the United States government has a history of weather modification. In a 1996 document entitled “Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather by 2025,” the U.S. Air Force discussed a number of proposals for using weather as a weapon. The Air Force document was not the first time the U.S. military mentioned weather weapons. A New York Times piece from June 15, 1947 quotes General George C. Kenney, commander of the Strategic Air Command, as saying, “The nation that first learns to plot the paths of air masses accurately and learns to control the time and place of precipitation will dominate the globe.” It is these fears of weather as a weapon which lead the United States and other nations to sign the Environmental Modification Treaty, which called for halting global weather modification.
But the government did not simply research these ideas. It actually implemented them. During the Vietnam War, the U.S. government operated covert weather modification programs under Operation Popeye. In 2012 it was also revealed that the U.S. Army sprayed toxic chemicals over the skies of St. Louis without informing the public. In February 2015, while speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Jose, California, Professor Alan Robock discussed the possibility that the CIA is using the weather as a weapon of war. Robock has done research for the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) in the past. Robock’s theory that the CIA was using weather as a weapon of war was later proven somewhat correct when the CIA discussed weather modification.
Obviously, the fact that the U.S. has researched weather modification in the past does not necessarily indicate that the technology is still in use. However, when considering all of the evidence – historical documentation, actual implementation of technology via geoengineering and cloud seeding, and visual confirmation of spraying from planes – one can start to make an educated judgement. We know that the U.S. government (and other governments) have studied and researched weather modification for over 100 years. We also know they have written about using the weather as a weapon of war. Based on the government’s pattern of lying and concealing technologies from the public, is it that difficult to imagine they could be secretly testing out geoengineering programs?
Finally, we know that proponents of geoengineering claim to want to fight global climate change. Even with a wealth of studies warning about the potential pitfalls, these scientists push forward. One must assume they are either lost in their hubris or intentionally ignoring the evidence. If we consider the possibility that they are ignoring the evidence and lying, we must ask why? This leads me to the darkest corner of the geoengineering conspiracy.
Who is funding Geoengineering and why?
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