Green Groups Blast U.N. Climate Panel for Alarmism


BELLWORT TECHNOLOGIES PVT. LTD.

If you haven’t yet heard, hell froze over last week. Oddly enough, this is likely to be bad news for a warming planet.

Last Monday, more than 125 environmental groups sent a scathing letter to Rajendra Pachauri, the Nobel prize-winning head of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the institutional nerve center within the United Nations’ global-warming juggernaut.

The letter accused the IPCC of taking climate change ‘too’ seriously. In particular, the letter argued that the IPCC had no authority to sponsor a small meeting of climate scientists taking place tomorrow in Lima, Peru. The meeting will consider so-called “geo-engineering” options for responding to worst-case scenarios of catastrophic climate change.

By attacking the IPCC for responding to the risks of climate change too aggressively, the letter marks a major pivot in the politics of climate change, which have officially crossed into the twilight zone.

Over the past month, a series of reports have surfaced in the news media speculating about the significance of a small meeting of climate scientists sponsored by the IPCC taking place next week in Lima, Peru.

The meeting, which the IPCC organized, will evaluate the feasibility of so-called “geo-engineering” strategies to avoid or mitigate the adverse impacts of worst-case scenario climate change.

The term “geo-engineering” is a portmanteau used to describe two broad technical strategies “for the deliberate large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment,” according to the 2009 report by the United Kingdom’s Royal Society.

The strategies are categorized into two main groups: Solar Radiation Management (SRM) and Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR). The specific proposals in each category range from deploying massive mirrors in outer space to deflect sunlight from entering the earth’s atmosphere to burying prodigious amounts of biochar to increase the amount of carbon dioxide sequestered in soil.

The IPCC, which is developing a scientific assessment of geo-engineering technologies, has described these categories like so:

SRM techniques attempt to offset the effects of increased greenhouse gas concentrations by reducing the amount of solar radiation absorbed by the Earth. This may be achieved by increasing the surface reflectivity of the planet, for example by brightening human structures, planting crops with a higher albedo, or covering deserts with reflective material. Other techniques aim to enhance marine cloud reflectivity by introducing sea salt aerosols in low clouds, mimic the effects of volcanic eruptions by injecting sulphate aerosols into the lower stratosphere, or place shields or deflectors in space to reduce the amount of incoming solar radiation.

CDR techniques aim to address the cause of climate change by removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. This would include advanced land use management strategies to protect or enhance land carbon sinks, and the use of biomass for both carbon sequestration (including biochar) and as a carbon neutral energy source. The removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, either through the enhancement of natural weathering processes or direct capture from ambient air are further examples, as well as the enhancement of oceanic CO2 uptake through ocean fertilisation with scarce nutrients or the enhancement of upwelling processes.

The purpose of the meeting in Lima tomorrow is NOT whether to discuss actually doing any of these things, but rather whether to support research on the feasibility of doing so in the worst-case scenarios of climate change.

The IPCC explained the focus and objective of tomorrow’s meeting on its website: “Geoengineering . . . is increasingly being discussed as a potential strategy to counteract anthropogenic climate change . . . [the potential for] abrupt, nonlinear changes in the Earth system with possible significant impacts on human and natural systems suggest that research is needed into geoengineering options.”

In other words, the IPCC is considering whether it should support calls for expanding funding of geo-engineering research.

“Asking a group of geo-engineering scientists if more research should be done is like asking bears if they would like honey,” said the letter sent to the IPCC by groups including ETC, Friends of the Earth International and Via Campesina.

Many of the groups that signed the letter were instrumental in securing a moratorium on geo-engineering research under the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity last year.

Ironically, while geo-engineering has provoked strong objections from environmental groups, it has simultaneously been embraced by politically conservative organizations like the American Enterprise Institute, which have historically opposed a strong policy response to climate change.

The geoengineering concept has also attracted significant interest from venture capitalists and investors like Bill Gates. Intellectual Ventures, a venture capital fund established by a former Microsoft executive, has invested in several start-up companies pursuing solar radiation management technologies.

BELLWORT TECHNOLOGIES PVT. LTD.

SWATI JAIN

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