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Geoengineers to Start Volcano-Inspired Experiment in Risky Climate Manipulation

- Common Dreams staff

Two investigators are continuing down the risky path of geoengineering by readying a field experiment involving spraying chemicals into the atmosphere that would theoretically bounce sunlight back into the air to cool the Earth, the Guardian reports. But risks of geoengineering are high, and pinning hopes on a technological fix to climate change may thwart greenhouse gas reduction efforts while doing nothing to change the paradigm that created climate change.

Beat the Heat(photo: EJP Photo)

One of the two Harvard engineers in the Fort Sumner, New Mexico, experiment is David Keith, manager of "a multimillion dollar geoengineering research fund provided by Microsoft founder Bill Gates." Their idea is to mimic the planet-cooling effect that happens when volcanoes release sulphates.

Yet many say the risks are serious and potentially disastrous.

In June scientists warned that large-scale engineering projects could reduce global rainfall by about 5 percent, and as much as 15 percent in areas of North America and Europe. "Climate engineering cannot be seen as a substitute for a policy pathway of mitigating climate change through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions," the scientists said in a study published in Earth System Dynamics.

Explaining on Democracy Now! why geoengineering is a false solution, environmentalist and scientist Vandana Shiva said that "it is the idea of being able to engineer our lives on this very fragile and complex and interrelated and interconnected planet that’s created the mess we are in. It’s an engineering paradigm that created the fossil fuel age, that gave us climate change. And Einstein warned us and said you can’t solve problems with the same mindset that created them. Geoengineering is trying to solve the problems with the same old mindset of controlling nature."

Pat Mooney, executive director of technology watchdog ETC Group, also warned of the dangers. "Impacts include the potential for further damage to the ozone layer, and disruption of rainfall, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions – potentially threatening the food supplies of billions of people," he said. "It will do nothing to decrease levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere or halt ocean acidification. And solar geoengineering is likely to increase the risk of climate-related international conflict – given that the modelling to date shows it poses greater risks to the global south."

Mooney previously referred to geoengineering as "a political strategy aimed at letting industrialized countries off the hook for their climate debt."