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The setting of the sun over the Pacific Ocean as seen from the International Space Station - expedition 7. (Photo/NASA).

Is Geoengineering the Way of the Future?

The setting of the sun over the Pacific Ocean as seen from the International Space Station - expedition 7. (Photo/NASA).

By Brendon Bosworth (Originally published at Bosworth’s blog, Oct. 21, 2011).

Scientists predict a daunting set of potential consequences of climate change. With the possibility of increased droughts, a higher frequency of wildfires, rising sea levels, the decimation of deep ocean sea creatures, and threats to global food security, the future of a warmer world appears bleak.

What if the unpredictable effects of climate change arrive quicker than expected? Advocates of geoengineering, which involves manipulating the Earth’s climate with technological mechanisms, some of which, like blasting large mirrors into space to reflect sunlight, come straight from the annals of science fiction, argue that geoengineering could offer a last resort fix to save the planet. It could be used as a form of “insurance,” as Graeme Pearman of Monash University has put it. Critics, however, worry that if climate quick fixes are on hand there will be little reason for nations to cut their carbon emissions and reduce the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

In October 2011, the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington based think-tank, released a report that urges the U.S. government to implement an official geoengineering research program, overseen by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, starting in fiscal year 2013.

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