Study: 'Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card' Doesn't Exist for Climate Peril

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Common Dreams

Study: 'Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card' Doesn't Exist for Climate Peril

Unintended consequences of geoengineering would harm world's most vulnerable

by
Jon Queally, staff writer

Grimsvotn volcano erupts in Iceland in 2011. Solar radiation management schemes spray particles into the atmosphere to simulate cooling effects of volcanic eruptions. (Photograph: Egill Adalsteinsson/EPA)

Unproven and large-scale geoengineering schemes designed to offset the global warming impacts of greenhouse gas emissions should not be allowed without global consensus, say researchers in the UK.

And due to the profound dynamics of nature, say scientists at the Met Office Hadley Centre, efforts to manufacture planetary cooling—by spraying sulphate particles into the atmosphere, for example—could go "spectacularly wrong."

The researchers who modeled some of the scenarios of geoengineering found that though there is some hope that they could impact the atmosphere enough to drive down warming, the unintended consequences of such experiments could greatly harm other systems, especially in vulnerable or developing areas.

As The Guardian reports:

The dangers arose in projects that cooled the planet unevenly. In some cases these caused devastating droughts across Africa; in others they increased rainfall in the region but left huge areas of Brazil parched.

"The massive complexities associated with geoengineering, and the potential for winners and losers, means that some form of global governance is essential," said Jim Haywood at the Met Office's Hadley Centre in Exeter.

There is 'Get-out-of-jail-free card' when it comes to climate change.

Speaking to The Guardian, Matthew Watson, who leads the Spice project at Bristol University, said the team's study exposes the "dramatic consequences" of uninformed geoengineering. He continued:

"This paper tells us there are consequences for our actions whatever we do. There is no get-out-of-jail-free card[...]"

"Whatever we do is a compromise, and that compromise means there will be winners and losers. That opens massive ethical questions: who gets to decide how we even determine what is a good outcome for different people?

"How do you get a consensus with seven billion-plus stakeholders? If there was a decision to do geoengineering tomorrow, it would be done by white western men, and that isn't good."

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