Geoengineering a Biosphere: Stupid, Dangerous and Doomed to Failure
Serious consideration is being given to the mad proposition of engineering the biosphere as a solution to climate change [ark]. Technological pseudo-scientific proposals for humans to engineer atmospheric processes are dubbed “geoengineering” [search] and generally seek to either reflect solar radiation or absorb greenhouse gases. They include such shortsighted, ill-conceived and risky ideas as mass release of aerosols into the atmosphere, fertilizing oceans with iron, and others, including my personal favorite, stationing mirrors above the Earth. Given the complexity of the Earth System, almost certain unintended consequences and the risk of doing immense further damage to global ecology; geo-engineering amounts to ecological vandalism.
Geoengineering is indicative of both humanity's ignorance and laziness when confronted with tremendous challenges of their own making such as climate change. Don't try to change society to massively reduce emissions, don't sacrifice or give up anything, don't try to change the government through protest or revolution. Instead, take a craps shoot and bet the whole planet that you can engineer the biosphere. This “Plan B” comes as there have been little serious efforts at a “Plan A”. What of using all resources at our disposal — including politically engaged ecologists and other Earth scientists — to conserve energy, reduce emissions and pursue renewable alternatives? Have we really, fully tried that yet? We are unable to control even most invasive species, for example getting zebra mussels out of the Great Lakes. Yet now humanity is going to be responsible for engineering a livable biosphere forever?
Throbgoblins International: Cantankerous Frank, by Marc Roberts
To seek to engineer a biosphere — something given freely for billions of years by Gaia, which still exists and operates, and has tremendous regenerative powers — is the ultimate in hubris. Geoengineering is the equivalent of throwing a wrench at a broken grandfather clock in the hope that by smashing through its natural workings some good may come. There is huge potential for unforeseen consequences. What if some major ocean current or atmospheric oscillation shuts down or changes to a completely different state, as will almost certainly be the case? What will become of terrestrial ecosystems including forests, and water availability, as climate conditions shift in unknown, unforeseen and almost certainly unstable manners?
Illustrious scientists proposing such ecologically bereft madness [ark] are arrogant, and exemplify everything wrong with atomistic science and the ivory tower. Shame on any scientist not working on scientific rationale for, and otherwise supporting, perfectly sufficient and attainable solutions to climate change such as ending the use of coal and ancient forest logging. To instead propose engineering the biosphere — something that ecological complexity and human imperfections strongly suggest can never be achieved — reserves these masters of the universe a special place in ecological hell. Giving up on Earth's natural regenerative powers and humanity's ability to transform itself, to offer ecocidal, desperate plans for a one off gamble that almost certainly guarantees planetary extinction, is monstrous and evil exemplar.
No one has the right to propose such dangerous actions for our shared Earth, stymieing real solutions with pie-in-the-sky techno-fixes, and threatening with one master-stroke to ensure the destruction of being. Our ancestors waged revolution over the price of tea and for the principle of liberty. Today we are hard pressed to get our asses off the lazy-boy to fight for continued air, water and land for our children — preferring instead Star Trekesque fantasies that allow us to continue our ecosystem destroying life of illusory comfort. Earth's biosphere cannot be engineered, efforts to do so will destroy her, and only personal and social transformation can save us now.