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Bill Gates Supports Controversial Climate Change Plan

| Wednesday February 15th, 2012 | 11 Comments

With the help of a group of very wealthy and well known individuals, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Chairman of the Virgin Group, Richard Branson, a group of leading climate scientists are advocating for the use of controversial geoengineering as a way to prevent catastrophic climate change. The scientists are lobbying national governments and international organizations to fund experiments that would involve manipulating the atmosphere on a large scale to counteract high concentrations of greenhouse gases. These might include methods like fertilizing the oceans to create a huge carbon sink or spraying reflective particles or other chemicals into the air to reflect sunlight and prevent it from warming the atmosphere.

The Guardian is reporting that the scientists support the tactic as “plan B” should the UN and global politicians fail to come to agreement on making significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Pressure is mounting to find a technological fix to climate change, as no international agreement to reduce emissions has been made. Although a process for negotiating one was set as a result of the COP17 climate negotiations that took place in December, it’s unclear whether reductions can be made in time to reverse the negative effects of the warming atmosphere. A recent report from the Department of Energy found that 2010 had the largest increase in carbon emissions ever reported, and according to the International Energy Agency, global temperatures could reach dangerous levels unless internationally coordinated action is taken to reduce emissions by 2017.

Geoengineering is an appealing alternative because it’s cheap relative to what it would take to make emissions reductions and the effects would be experienced more quickly. However, these techniques are highly controversial due to the risks they pose. These include:

  • The possibility of unilateral implementation with impacts that are experienced on a global scale
  • The risk that these efforts would fail to reverse climate change and would discourage efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or to make necessary adaptations
  • The high potential for unintended consequences that would create other more serious environmental problems
  • Fear that these new technologies could be used as a weapon

With the exception of small scale studies, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity even banned geoengineering experiments.

There is concern that this move by Bill Gates and other powerful parties in support of geoengineering could give this one group of scientists greater influence over decisions that are made about geoengineering research and policy. Jane Long, director at large for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory recently said at a conference on geoengineering and ethics, “We will need to protect ourselves from vested interests [and] be sure that choices are not influenced by parties who might make significant amounts of money through a choice to modify climate, especially using proprietary intellectual property.”

The scientists deny that they have undue influence over the issue. David Keith of Harvard University, one of the leading advocates of geoengineering research said, “Even the perception that [a small group of people has] illegitimate influence [is] very unhealthy for a technology which has extreme power over the world. The concerns that a small group [is] dominating the debate are legitimate, but things are not as they were,” said Keith. “It’s changing as countries like India and China become involved. The era when my voice or that of a few was dominant is over. We need a very broad debate.”

I’m not sure what’s worse, the idea of unleashing such powerful human controlled forces on our planet or the possibility that they be undertaken by rogue individuals and not properly researched or tested.

[Image credit: World Economic Forum, Flickr]

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Kara Scharwath is a corporate social responsibility professional, marketing consultant and Sustainable Management MBA Candidate. She is currently working as a Graduate Associate in Corporate Citizenship at the Walt Disney Company while pursuing her degree at Presidio Graduate School. Follow her on Twitter @karameredith.


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  • Dicynodont

    The sad but true situation is that geoengineering is necessary to avoid the “Game Over” scenario of climate change in the next 10-20 years. Once the Arctic Ice Cap melts, it’s essentially game over as 1000 times the historical total of GHG emissions will be released from the permafrost.

    However this article raises a key question on who will “dominate” the debate and direction of geoengineering. David Keith and his buddies have clearly done this in the recent past, and it has not been healthy for the “movement” as good people and good ideas have been squashed unfairly. The concept of geoengineering is radical and difficult enough for the general public, and there’s no room for such infighting if we actually want to prevent Game Over.

    To really solve this problem, we need to enhance natural “regenerative” processes on the Earth that absorb CO2 while increasing biologic productivity. The most obvious example of this is reforestation. Ocean Iron Seeding is the exact same concept, but only using the ocean. Ocean Iron Seeding can take much larger quantities of CO2 out of the atmosphere, and is safe and actually beneficial for marine life if it is conducted in the Southern Ocean only.

    Geoengineering is a “scary” concept, but it’s actually really quite tame when compared to doing nothing about CO2 emissions. Or, in other words, allowing CO2 to grow exponentially as positive feedback mechanisms kick-in. I’m talking about the melting of the permafrost, and the global forest fires that are going to become commonplace by 2050.

    Dicynodont

  • Firefox

    There’s an easier way to destroy humanity, our forests and our entire ecosystem: blow the atomic bombs. At least we won’t die slowly. This is the sickest thing I’ve ever heard of, haven’t we learned from Monsanto? Don’t play with our environment like it’s your doll house.

  • Anonymous

    PLEASE READ: “GEOENGINEERING IS ALREADY HAPPENING” https://thenaturaleye.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/climate-geoengineering-is-already-happening/
    This is such a shill game by Gates and his Cohorts as you will see from articles from The Guardian and intensive research done by legitimate entities.

    Climate Geoengineering (is chemical bioengineering).  The cartel wants us to keep on keeping on with fossil fuels and all factors creating climate change that make them money and, at the same time, put the entire planet and all life at risk.   We are already experiencing climate shifts, some say to the geoengineering experiments in out atmosphere that have been going on since the 90′s, with an ill-informed public. Aluminum and Barium have been pumped into the skies for over a decade.

    I think it prudent not to take this at face value and look into who will profit from this?  Certainly the Chemical companies, Monsanto, and the fossil fuel companies. We humans have very little understanding of how the entire planetary ecosystem and weather truly operates and science is still discovering how our planet operates This would be the ultimate playing of “God” with so many unknowns and potential irreversible affects that this has to be stopped.  It is arrogant, irresponsible and should not be taken at face value. Again, if you want a legitimate background to this geoengineering proposal please go to https://thenaturaleye.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/climate-geoengineering-is-already-happening/

  • http://www.kingironworks.com/ Iron gates

    Organized content is the best way to display or post an article, thank you for making it easy to digest your post.

  • Sunseed Ning

    did i really see someone say this is necessary…LOL…AS IF…don’t buy into this folks if u care ’bout future generations…it’s quite ingenious, albeit absolutely insanely so…it won’t continue for much longer…there is much work going on behind the scenes & we are VERY successful!!! there will still b attempts to play this out, but it’s end game for this et al; diabolical deeds…smiles

  • Bflaherty

    See this important report from the ASILOMAR INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON CLIMATE INTERVENTION TECHNOLOGIES. Download at http://climateresponsefund.org

  • Defend_our_commonwealth

    Geoengineering is to Real World Climate as Genetically Engineered (GE) Foods are to Real Food. This is a fraudulent solution enabling the continued reliance on Oil, Gas, Coal and Nuclear, brought to you by the same self-aggrandizing mogul who bankrolls the corporate privatization of the public schools. What a load of bullshit. Like the development of Oilgae to create fuels and avoid the capital investments needed to move away from fossil fuels, geoengineering is another investors pipe dream that just delays the time of decision to make the commitment to renewable energy and drastically cut the carbon release by wars of aggression. It’s all tied together.

  • sheezie

    “Geoengineering is a “scary” concept, but it’s actually really quite tame
    when compared to doing nothing about CO2 emissions. Or, in other words,
    allowing CO2 to grow exponentially as positive feedback mechanisms
    kick-in. I’m talking about the melting of the permafrost, and the global
    forest fires that are going to become commonplace by 2050.”

    REEEEAALLY!!  Have you actually BEEN there to 2050 and back, in the Time Machine that you obviously invented…???

    No-NickDick-rodent gets to have his post listed first– is that supposed to mean that whatever he says is right and any other facts, including common sense, are all wrong?

  • Dicynodont

    As a geologist, I study the past to predict what the future will be like. At least far as Earth’s climate is concerned. So in a sense, yes I do have a time machine.

    There is a significant body of scientific work that suggest that large, rapid CO2 emissions have caused most of the major mass extinctions in the Earth’s history. The biggest, called the Permo-Triassic mass extinction occurred 250 million years ago, and is called the “Great Dying” because about 95% of all life died out. Today in the 21st Century, we have the same exact initial conditions and we can expect a similar result. The only difference is that humans are emitting CO2 about 1000 times faster than the Siberian Traps did 250 million years ago.

    Do a google search on CO2 and mass extinctions.

    Some interesting links are:

    Recent news article on the latest science confirming CO2 triggers mass exctinctions:
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2011/11/17/science-mass-extinction.html

    NOVA short video on the cause of the PT Mass Extinction:
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/earth/mass-extinction.html

    CO2 is the Primary Temperature Control Knob lecture by Dr. Richard Alley:
    http://www.agu.org/meetings/fm09/lectures/lecture_videos/A23A.shtml

    Cynodonts are the rodent-like mammals that survived the Great Dying and through 200 million years of dinosaurs to eventually become humans. Don’t be a Dicynodont, which didn’t survive.

    The comforting thought is that for many thousands of years, Native Americans and other native peoples have used geoengineering techniques extensively to create a more bountiful, productive ecosystems for both humans and non-humans. We just need natural wisdom guiding our efforts to prevent Game Over.

  • http://www.facebook.com/MarcGunther Marc Gunther

    Where is the evidence that “leading climate scientists are advocating for the use of controversial geoengineering as a way to prevent catastrophic climate change.” That’s in  the first paragraph.

    Some scientists are advocating research into geoengineering. That’s a big, big difference from advocating the use of geoengineering.

    Please back up this statement. Facts matter.

  • dave

    I, like everyone else posting here, believe that solutions are needed to address the threat of climate change and should be fully explored. If such research includes the the potential associated with geoengineering then so be it. However when reading about geoengineering I’m always reminded of human’s (patently wrong) assumption that infinitely complex ecosystems can be augmented or changed in positive ways by introducing a single input or by making simple changes such as ‘seeding our oceans.’ 

    The idea that we can engineer ‘solutions’ in the natural world seems a bit anthropocentric and hasn’t worked particularly well in the past. We’ve tried this before by introducing novel species into ecosystems and the law of unintended consequences always seems to surprise us, when the intended results spiral out of control. See Japanese kudzu for example. 

    While geoengineering may not be a 1 to 1 comparison, I can’t help but notice the similarities.