By Alex Kirby
The global watchdog responsible for protecting the world's wealth of species, the UN's Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), has looked at the hopes for reining in climate change through geoengineering. Its bleak conclusion, echoing that reached by many independent scientists, is that the chances are "highly uncertain."
"Novel means," in this context, describes trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in two main ways: removing them from the atmosphere and altering the amount of heat from the sun that reaches the Earth. A third method—trying to increase the amount of carbon in the oceans—has so far shown disappointing results.
Biofilm used in research into carbon capture: Doubts persist about geoengineering.Energy.gov / Wikimedia Commons
Some scientists and policymakers say geoengineering, as these strategies are collectively known, is essential if the world is to meet the goals of the Paris agreement. This is because current attempts to reduce emissions cannot make big enough cuts fast enough to keep global average temperatures from rising more than 2 C above their pre-industrial levels, the agreement's basic goal.
But the CBD says in a report that geoengineering, while it could possibly help to prevent the world overheating, might endanger global biodiversity and have other unpredictable effects.
Many independent analysts have raised similar concerns. One report doubted that geoengineering could slow sea-level rise. Another said it could not arrest the melting of Arctic ice. A third study found that geoengineering would make things little better and might even make global warming worse.
The lead author of the CBD geoengineering report is a British scientist, Dr. Phillip Williamson, of the UK's Natural Environment Research Council. He is an associate fellow in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia, UK.
The CBD originally became involved in climate geoengineering in 2008, because member governments were concerned that experiments to fertilize the oceans could pose unknown risks to the environment (they were then unregulated when carried out in international waters).
National Academy of Sciences Says #Geoengineering Is Not the Answer to #Climate Change » EcoWatch http://t.co/Ci32M0Ubqk— Selina (@Selina)1427473595.0
The CBD's concern expanded to include other geoengineering techniques, especially atmospheric methods which could have uncertain transboundary impacts. Some scientists argue that "geoengineering" is a hazily-defined term and prefer to speak instead simply of "greenhouse gas removal."
Dr. Williamson and his colleagues say assessment of the impacts of geoengineering on biodiversity "is not straightforward and is subject to many uncertainties."
On greenhouse gas removal they warn that removing a given quantity of a greenhouse gas would not fully compensate for an earlier "overshoot" of emissions.
In some cases, they say, the cure may be worse than the disease: "The large-scale deployment of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage seems likely to have significant negative impacts on biodiversity through land use change."
When it comes to attempts to reflect sunlight back out into space or to manage solar radiation, a familiar theme recurs: "There are high levels of uncertainty about the impacts of SRM [solar radiation management] techniques, which could present significant new risks to biodiversity."
Time and again, it seems, a potential advance is liable to be cancelled by an equally likely reverse: If SRM benefits coral reefs by decreasing temperature-induced bleaching (as it may), in certain conditions "it may also increase, indirectly, the impacts of ocean acidification." There could even be a risk in some circumstances of loss to the Earth's protective ozone layer.
Dr. Williamson and his colleagues believe that geoengineering is essential—if it can be made to work—because of the diminishing chances that anything else will.
They write: "It may still be possible that deep and very rapid decarbonization by all countries might allow climate change to be kept within a 2 C limit by emission reduction alone. However, any such window of opportunity is rapidly closing."
Repeatedly, those two words recur: a suggested technique or development will be "highly uncertain." Most of the report amounts to a very cautious call for more research, coupled with an implicit acceptance that in the end geoengineering is unlikely to prove capable of contributing much to climate mitigation.
Dr. Williamson told the Climate News Network: "I'm skeptical. That's not to say bio-energy with carbon capture and storage is impossible, but it seems extremely unlikely to be feasible (for all sorts of reasons)" at the scale needed.
When the CBD member governments meet in December they are expected to call for more research: A safe option in most circumstances, but far from a ringing endorsement of a technology once seen as very promising.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.
- Thom Yorke of Radiohead Releases Song With Greenpeace to Help ... ›
- Patti Smith, Thom Yorke, Flea and More Featured on Just Released ... ›
- Musicians and Activists Unite at 'Pathway to Paris' - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
A national park in Thailand has come up with an innovative way to make sure guests clean up their own trash: mail it back to them.
- Supermarkets in Thailand and Vietnam Swap Plastic Packaging for ... ›
- Malaysia Sends Plastic Waste Back to 13 Wealthy Countries, Says It ... ›
- Thailand Begins the New Year With Plastic Bag Ban - EcoWatch ›
- Coronavirus Worsens Thailand's Plastic Waste Crisis - EcoWatch ›
- Marium, Thailand's Beloved Baby Dugong, Is the Latest Victim of ... ›
By Ilana Cohen
Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.
But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.
Fractures Among Young Climate Conservatives<p>While young conservatives have united around the urgency of climate change, they remain divided over how to bring their concerns to the ballot box. Some embrace right-wing <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-attacks-republican-convention/2020/08/24/434e5b46-e66d-11ea-970a-64c73a1c2392_story.html" target="_blank">attacks</a> painting Biden as a "tool of the left" and find his climate agenda "radical." Others can't find a way to justify voting for Trump, even if it means breaking with their party.</p><p>Patrick Mann from Orange County, California, voted for Trump in 2016. But today, he's leading Aggies for Joe at Texas A&M University and is co-founder of Texas Students for Biden. </p><p>Mann grew up watching wildfires ravage his home state, nearly forcing his family to evacuate in 2017. The GOP is failing to "meet the moment" for climate action, Mann said. He's hoping Biden will deliver on a promise to "<a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/caucus/2020/01/06/joe-biden-democrat-president-iowa-caucus-restore-soul-our-nation/2806422001/" target="_blank">restore the soul of our nation</a>." </p><p>Taylor Walker from Pensacola, Florida, is also determined to make her voice heard on climate, including by casting her first-ever vote for president—but not for Biden.</p>
A False Equivalency<p>Young climate conservatives may fear climate denial and delayed climate action, but more than that, they fear the growing political momentum around the Green New Deal, the massive spending it entails and <a href="https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/" target="_blank">Biden's citing of it</a> as a "crucial framing for meeting the climate challenges we face."</p><p>Many don't want to split with their party to support a Democrat whose <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/09/03/757220130/joe-biden-on-bipartisanship-gun-control-and-regrets-over-inaction-after-a-traged" target="_blank">allegedly bipartisan intentions</a> they doubt. If stymieing what they consider a radical green agenda means re-electing a climate change denying president, so be it. </p><p>"I'm scared of climate change, but I'm also scared of the Green New Deal and what it means for America," said Ben Mutolo, a republicEN spokesperson and junior at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. </p><p>Mutolo felt encouraged by former Ohio Governor John Kasich's <a href="https://www.rollcall.com/2020/08/17/kasich-speech-to-democratic-convention-follows-years-of-building-conservative-credentials/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appearance</a> at the Democratic National Convention, but he still struggles to see himself voting for Biden. Though the candidate paints himself as a <a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-08-12/harris-biden-different-generation-similar-political-instinct" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">centrist,</a> Mutolo believes he's "cozying up to the ultra-progressive left." </p><p>Mutolo, who wants to see market-based climate solutions like a carbon tax, feels torn between a candidate whose climate plan relies on taking an "<a href="https://joebiden.com/environmental-justice-plan/#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">All-of-Government approach</a>," and one with no efforts to reign in global warming at all. <span></span></p><p>Leiserowitz said he appreciated how a conservative might feel Biden's climate plan "doesn't jive with their limited government, free-market approach."</p><p>But he sees a strong distinction between voting for a presidential candidate with a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan</a> that includes large renewable energy investments, which have <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-april-2020/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bipartisan support</a>, and a candidate trying "to take the country in the opposite direction, towards more fossil fuels."</p>
- 7 Republicans Joined Senate Democrats in Vote to Fight Climate ... ›
- Climate Change Acknowledged by Increasing Number of ... ›
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Monday that 64 high-income nations have joined an effort to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine fairly, prioritizing the most vulnerable citizens, as Science reported. The program is called the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or Covax, and it is a joint effort led by the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
- Trump Denies CDC Director's 2021 Timeline for Coronavirus Vaccine ›
- CDC Tells States to Prepare for a Vaccine Before November Election ›
- Fauci Warns Pre-Pandemic Normalcy Not Likely Until Late 2021 ... ›
By Gloria Oladipo
In the face of dangerous heat waves this summer, Americans have taken shelter in air conditioned cooling centers. Normally, that would be a wise choice, but during a pandemic, indoor shelters present new risks. The same air conditioning systems that keep us cool recirculate air around us, potentially spreading the coronavirus.