Exclusive: Dysfunctional, Lop-Sided Geoengineering Panel Tries to Launch Greenwashing Euphemism, “Climate Remediation”

Revealing Interview with Ethicist Who Withdrew from Panel, Equally Revealing Article by Panel Member on Report’s Dysfunctional Process

Earlier this week a panel of experts released a report calling for more research into geoengineering — directly manipulating the Earth’s climate to minimize the harm from global warming.  This panel, put together by the Bipartisan Policy Center, inanely — and pointlessly — tried to rename “geoengineering” as “climate remediation.”

Geoengineering is not a remedy.  No one should try to leave the public with any such impression.

Frankly, it would be more literally accurate to rename geo-engineering “smoke and mirrors,” as those are two of the most widely discussed measures for managing incoming solar radiation.

Climate Progress has an exclusive interview with Prof. Stephen Gardiner, an ethicist who has written extensively on climate change and geoengineering — and who withdrew from the panel earlier this year.   I contacted him when I learned he had originally been on the panel.  He confirmed “I was indeed originally on the panel.”  He “withdrew in March of this year when it became clear to me that there wasn’t going to be movement on some of the report’s recommendations, and I wouldn’t be able to endorse them.”

I also interviewed a number of the leading experts on geoengineering for this post, including a panel member, Ken Caldeira.  I will publish his response in full in a subsequent post.

As science advisor John Holdren reasserted in 2009 of strategies such as aerosol injection or space mirrors — called solar radiation management (SRM) these days — “The ‘geo-engineering’ approaches considered so far appear to be afflicted with some combination of high costs, low leverage, and a high likelihood of serious side effects.

I appreciate that since a serious mitigation effort appears to be non-imminent, people are casting about for other ways to avoid multiple catastrophes (see “Real adaptation is as politically tough as real mitigation, but much more expensive and not as effective in reducing future misery“).  But geo-engineering without aggressive mitigation makes even less sense than adaptation without aggressive mitigation (see Caldeira calls the vision of Lomborg’s Climate Consensus “a dystopic world out of a science fiction story”).  So I’m glad the panel stated upfront:

This task force strongly believes that climate remediation technologies are no substitute for controlling risk through climate mitigation (i.e., reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases) and climate adaptation (i.e., enhancing the resilience ofhuman-made and natural systems to climate changes)

I don’t think it’s terribly surprising that a panel stacked with advocates of geoengineering research (and some actual researchers) ends up advocating for more research into geoengineering.  A number of people I talked to raised questions about the composition of the panel and the lack of disclosure that some of the panel members have a financial interest in geoengineering research (see below).

Many thought the effort of the “Task Force on Climate Remediation” to replace the term geoengineering was particularly misguided.

Here are the comments of journalist Jeff Goodell, author of the award-winning (!) book, How to Cool the Planet: Geoengineering and the Audacious Quest to Fix Earth’s Climate:

The phrase “climate remediation” is almost as bad as the phrase “clean coal.”  In both cases, it’s a phrase that reeks of spin and marketing.  And while I can understand why Big Coal wants to push it, I think it was a mistake for this panel to choose this phrase.  The idea, of course, is to make geoengineering — or, if you must, climate engineering — sound gentle and comforting.  It is not gentle and comforting, it is a big, complex, morally-fraught, and dangerous idea, and attempts to disguise this with cuddly language are just going to backfire.  And let me add that this is nothing new.  Virtually every meeting and panel about geoengineering that I’ve attended in the last five years has started with a few hours of hang-wringing about what the “term of art” should be.  It’s just silly.  Geoengineering is not a fix, quick or otherwise.  It is not a remedy.  It is, at best, a way to reduce the risk of catastrophic climate change and maybe a way to protect fragile ecosystems like the arctic while we solve the real problem, which is getting off fossil fuels and repowering our lives with clean energy.

Gardiner writes me:

As for ‘climate remediation’,  I agree that it has its own defects.  Nobody really thinks that SRM is a “remedy” for anything. And I’m also skeptical about whether large-scale and rapid CDR [carbon dioxide removal] would really be completely benign,  as many people seem to assume.

The term “climate remediation” is not merely defective and inaccurate spin and marketing.  It has zero chance of becoming the term of art because it is transparently defective and inaccurate spin and marketing.  The fact that this Task Force actually ended up choosing this for its name and embraced the term throughout the report seriously calls into question the entire process and its output. As we’ll see, one panel member actually went public in a major science journal with a discussion of just how dysfunctional the entire process was.

Let me make clear, though, that I know about a third of the members personally and another third or so professionally — and they are generally very high caliber individuals, which is what makes this all the more head-exploding.  This is really a cautionary tale.

Three of the panel members actually dissented on this point.  David Keith and Granger Morgan and David Victor have asterisks (**) next to their names indicating:

These members support the recommendations of this report, but they do not support the introduction of the new term “climate remediation.

Yes, three members of the “Task Force on Climate Remediation Research” reject the official name of their task force and the report they put their name on.   I wonder how many times that has ever happened.

Gardiner said he “can’t really understand what all the fuss is about when people argue vehemently against” the term geoengineering.  He directed me to “Dan Sarewitz’s comments in Nature” — “The voice of science: let’s agree to disagree.”

Substantively, Sarewitz’s piece itself has little to recommend itself, since he tries to use the bizarrely fierce debate over ” climate remediation” to help discredit consensus-based processes like the one used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — which is like comparing an apple (and a not very good one at that) with, say, half the world’s orange fields.

What is noteworthy, however, is that Sarewitz opens the window to the inner dysfunctionality of the panel.  He notes the report title, Geoengineering: A National Strategic Plan for Research on Climate Remediation, and then writes:

The discussions that craft expert consensus, however, have more in common with politics than science. And I don’t think I give too much away by revealing that one of the battles in our panel was over the term geoengineering itself.

This struggle is obvious in the report’s title, which begins with ‘geoengineering’ and ends with the redundant term ‘climate remediation’. Why? Some of the committee felt that ‘geoengineering’ was too imprecise; some thought it too controversial; others argued that it was already commonly used, and that a new term would create confusion.

I didn’t have a problem with ‘geoengineering’, but for others it was a do-or-die issue. I yielded on that point (and several others) to gain political capital to secure issues that had a higher priority for me. Thus, disagreements between panellists are settled not with the ‘right’ answer, but by achieving a political balance across many of the issues discussed.

Well, that may be how this dysfunctional panel operated — and it would have to be dysfunctional to brand itself with such a transparently nonsensical greenwashing term that simply isn’t going to catch on and thankfully so, as Goodell makes clear.

But it is ludicrous for Sarewitz to write this kiss and tell in one of the most prestigious science journals in the world in order to help discredit that other famous “expert consensus” effort, the IPCC.

This isn’t the place for a full debunk of Sarewitz, but what he apparently misses is that the IPCC process is indeed dysfunctional, as I’ve said, but mostly because the way it deals with achieving consensus is to water things down to satisfy the least common denominator — not horse trading so that some small group gets to say something absurd so that another clique gets to say something absurd.  Indeed, this report explicitly doesn’t use the IPCC process, where any member nation can basically veto any word in  the final summary reports.

The IPCC ends up with generally reasonable science — but a serious underestimation of likely future impacts, a conclusion that the recent scientific literature has made all too clear (see “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts: How We Know Inaction Is the Gravest Threat Humanity Faces“).

In fact, had this report given every member a veto, it would have avoided the ridiculous euphemism of “climate remediation” and probably come up with a superior product.  But I digress.

For the record, climatologist Ken Caldeira wrote me:

When I am putting my name on a scientific paper,  that means I agree with everything in the paper.

When I put my name on a document like this report,  it means that on balance I think this document will do more good than harm and there is no recommendation in the report that I am unable to live with. I conceive of it more like voting for some omnibus legislation where there may be some particular things that do not make me happy, but overall I think the report makes a positive contribution.

I was arguing that we should not issue one report,  but two:  one on carbon dioxide removal and one on sunlight reflection methods.  If I had my way,  there would be no reason to coin any term to refer to this disparate collection of possible activities….

I see the term “climate remediation” as aspirational:  the goal is to try to remedy some of the causes or consequences of climate change. The extent to which such efforts can be successful is an open question,  but there is no doubt that the environmentally safest path is to avoid emitting greenhouse gases in the first place.

I will publish Caldeira’s entire email to me this weekend.

The report itself says a new term is needed because, “Geoengineering is controversial—indeed, the term itself is controversial because it is both broad and imprecise.”  Uhh, not quite.   I’d say 99% of the reason the term is controversial is because the idea is controversial.  Giving it a new name doesn’t make it any less controversial — and in fact the new term is more controversial because it smacks of greenwashing.

In any case, I can’t believe the panel members are thrilled with Sarewitz for this embarrassing revelation of their dysfunctional process.  But now that he has done it, I do think the members ought to fess up as to whom it was a “do or die issue” to replace the relatively neutral and widely used term “geoengineering” with the inaccurate euphemism, “climate remediation.”

That’s particularly true because this is a lop-sided panel.  It struck me when I looked at the members that it was very thin on the well-known critics of geoengineering.   I first asked Prof. Martin Bunzl, who is Director of the Rutgers Initiative on Climate and Social Policy, for his comment on the panel membership.  Bunzl gave a presentation at the February 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, on what he calls “the definitive killer objection to geoengineering as even a temporary fix,” which I reposted here.

He coauthored a major analysis in Science by leading experts on volcanoes and/or climate — along with Alan Robock, Ben Kravitz, and Georgiy L. Stenchikov — “A Test for Geoengineering?” (online here), which concluded:

Stratospheric geoengineering cannot be tested in the atmosphere without full-scale implementation.

Indeed, they found “weather and climate variability preclude observation of the climate response without a large, decade-long forcing. Such full-scale implementation could disrupt food production on a large scale” — for two billion people!

Bunzl wrote me:

I noted the makeup of the panel with disappointment when it was announced.

He then noted that he thought Gardiner dropped off.  I asked Gardiner what he thought of the panel makeup.  He wrote me:

I was concerned about the diversity of the panel (and said so).  Primarily, I think that it is an issue that there has been a spate of reports over the past few years where the participants have been either strongly overlapping or drawn from a very small group, especially on the science side.  This creates an appearance of national and international consensus on these issues that may only be skin deep.  (And I was surprised that people like Alan Robock were not on the panel.)

I have emailed Robock to see if he was asked.   Of course there are many reasons why people say no to panels.  Still, this is a very controversial, emerging issue, and the Bipartisan Policy Center should have tried much harder for more balance.  And it should have used a process  that wouldn’t lead someone like Gardiner to withdraw (and someone like Sarewitz to tell tales out of school).

Goodell isn’t as worried about the panel makeup.  He notes that the recommendations are relatively tame.  He notes that David Keith and Ken Caldeira “are anything but wide-eyed geoengineering advocates.”  I agree on that point — see, for instance, Caldeira tells Yale e360: Thinking of geoengineering as a substitute for emissions reduction is analogous to saying, “Now that Ive got the seatbelts on, I can just take my hands off the wheel and turn around and talk to people in the back seat. Its crazy…. If I had to wager, I would wager that we would never deploy any geoengineering system.”

Goodell then writes:

That said, as geoengineering moves into the mainstream, it’s more and more important to broaden the conversation, if for no other reason than if geoengineering is seen as some quick fix being pushed ahead by a clubby group of scientists and policy wonks, well, then it will (rightly) be seen as some taboo Frankenscience.  And that will not be a good thing for anyone.

And he agrees the panel should have tried for more transparency.  I asked, “Do you think the report should identify those members who have a financial interest in geoengineering research?”  He replied:

Yes.  Transparency and disclosure are vital, especially with an issue as dangerous, politically destabilizing, and ethically-fraught as geoengineering.

Finally, here is Gardiner’s overall assessment:

In general,  though I’m pleased that the BPC report follows the Royal Society in recognizing that the ethical issues are important, I’m disappointed by the lack of explicit treatment of ethics, by the neglect of the point that geoengineering only gets on the table amid a context of wider moral failure, and in particular by the endorsement of a very limited “coalition of the willing” approach to international cooperation.  The latter is especially problematic when a necessary condition for membership of the “willing” seems to be being well-resourced (scientifically and otherwise),  and when geoengineering is a genuinely global and intergenerational issue that potentially affects the lives of billions of people, many of them poor and/or residing in poor countries.

The bottom line is that this report lost much if not most of its credibility with its process, with its lopsided nature and lack of transparency, and with its inexplicably inane decision to embrace the greenwashing term, “climate remediation.”

Geoengineering is not a remedy.  No one should try to leave the public with any such impression.

In the end, I agree with Caldeira that I don’t think SRM geoengineering is going to be deployed on a large scale.  More on that this weekend.

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41 Responses to Exclusive: Dysfunctional, Lop-Sided Geoengineering Panel Tries to Launch Greenwashing Euphemism, “Climate Remediation”

  1. prokaryotes says:

    Planetary engineering projects to cool the planet could backfire quite spectacularly: a new model shows that a “sulphate sunshade” would punch huge holes through the ozone layer above the Arctic.

    To make matters worse, it would also delay the full recovery of the Antarctic ozone hole by up to 70 years.

    Pumping tiny sulphate particles into the atmosphere to create a sunshield that would keep the planet cool was first suggested as a solution to global warming by Edward Teller, a physicist was best known for his involvement in the development of the hydrogen bomb.

    BPC Task Force on Climate Remediation Research – Webcast (Talks about recent CP articles)


  2. prokaryotes says:

    Ok the panel videos are covering other topics, lol.

  3. It is not merely a clever argument to say that we are already doing geoengineering.

    We are just doing it in the wrong direction.

    For over a century we have been pumping greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere — but only recently have we discovered it to be a giant experiment – and we have proven that geoengineering works.

    Now the best way to move in the other direction is to stop and reverse our actions. Halt all carbon combustion and restore natural carbon sinks.

    We know it works. This is a no-brainer.

  4. Lou Grinzo says:

    “Climate Remediation” is practically 1984-esque.

    I predict it will be used, perhaps sparingly at first, but it will take root, thanks largely to the media. “Geoengineering” is too chrome-plated, and “climate remediation” sounds more administrative or even medical.

    I also predict that we will resort to geohacking (my favorite term for it). Humanity will dither and let the climate situation get vastly worse than it is before doing more than nibble around the edges. When we finally get the kind of political majority needed to take serious action, it will be so late that we’ll have to resort to a Hail Mary pass. Plus, if most of the world decides it’s a very bad idea, and China or India or the US decide to wing it and geohack on their own, who’s going to stop them/us?

    The political balance mentioned by Sarewitz doesn’t surprise me in the least. I’ve been part of numerous efforts to write standards and long, complex design documents in the computer field, and there is always that kind of horse trading. Without it, you’d never get anywhere; people have to give in on some things to prevent gridlock, and they then use their agreement as leverage to get the things they most value.

  5. Joe Romm says:

    I don’t see how it can take root given how transparently inane it is. Had they gone for something bland, they might have had a shot. But this looks too much like greenwashing.

    Political consensus often has horse trading. Scientific papers, not so much. The more genuine science, the less there can be horsetrading. Of course, I have never liked the phrase “ scientific consensus,” since for the general public consensus means consensus of opinion. I have always preferred the phrase “scientific understanding.”

  6. catman306 says:

    Speaking of no-brainers, why don’t we just search for the dimmer control for the Sun and turn it down a notch? Are you listening, Rush?

    Geo-engineering only sounds good to people used to one and two dimensional thinking. Climate repair is a far bigger problem than they can ever imagine.

  7. We need to fix something that isn’t broken?

  8. David B. Benson says:

    I like the idea of planting lotsa trees.

  9. Joan Savage says:

    Furthermore, in environmental law the term “remediation” has a specific procedural context, such as in CERCLA [Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation Liability Act of 1980 (amended in 1984 and later)] which requires a Remedial Investigation/ Feasibility Study.

    Quite frankly, the horse-hockey SRM that has been proposed as “climate remediation” wouldn’t stand up to the scrutiny of a decent RI/FS that requires evaluation of the gamut of proven remediation methods, not speculative ventures.

  10. Paul Revere says:

    This may have been a dysfunctional conference, but spending all of the time describing the dysfunction this one geoengineering conference smells a bit like an ad hominem attack on the idea of geoengineering.
    At least geoengineering research which is tried and failed could build support for lowering carbon emissions. The most rational response of a global warming denier now is “Well, if global warming is going to be such a catastrophe then why don’t the global warming believers even want to consider doing some research into geoengineering?”

  11. Joe Romm says:

    That won’t work. I’m working on a post explaining why.

  12. Lou Grinzo says:

    “Climate remediation” is no worse than “clean coal”, and look how widely that’s used in the media and by politicians. I doubt enough people will have the same reaction to CM that we do on this site to stop it.

    I sincerely hope I’m wrong.

  13. David B. Benson says:

    Interesting. I hope you directly address Len Ornsein et al.: “Irrigated afforestation of the Sahara and Australian Outback to end global warming”

  14. prokaryotes says:

    Big names behind US push for geoengineering
    A coalition representing the most powerful academic, military, scientific and corporate interests has set its sights on vast potential profits

  15. prokaryotes says:

    Push for ‘Great Green Wall of Africa’ to halt Sahara

    Drought-resistant trees would be needed to survive in some parts
    African leaders are meeting in Chad to push the idea of planting a tree belt across Africa from Senegal in the west to Djibouti in the east.

  16. prokaryotes says:

    One part of the puzzle is BIOCHAR. Let’s start here!

  17. David Stern says:

    Solar radiation management needs to be separated from carbon sequestration. Carbon sequestration could be a remedy. Solar radiation management is not a remedy and can only be a possible stop gap measure with unknown side-effects. Most scenarios that stay within the 2C limit involve negative emissions in the 2nd half of the 21st century. This includes the scenario in the new RCP that was prepared for the AR5.

  18. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Lets just wait until it is all completely out of hand and then panic. While panicking we can completely ignore the problems geoengineering will cause and pick the nastiest option available.

    Bio char, tree planting and white roofs may all be bit players. But the sum might be better than destroying the ozone layer. Or, if we all understand that geo engineering will have nasty consequences, mitigation may not look so bad.

    I am all for learning what we can of what the consequences will be and hopefully avoid the worst. Even then we will be surprised, as unguessed unknowns bite us.

  19. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    David – Solar radiation management is a bit of a misnomer – affecting solar output is not under discussion; it is managing planetary albedo that is under discussion: specifically, temorarily restoring albedo to a level that will halt the rise in planetary temperature. Hence the accurate and readily comprehensible term is Albedo Restoration.

    Trying to separate the option of carbon recovery from that of albedo restoration on grounds that one is safe and necessary and the other is unsafe and unecessary holds no water. Both are demonstrably essential to resolving our predicament, and either could be done really badly.

    For instance:
    – consider the energy and mining capital inputs and operating inputs that might be thrown at capturing, collecting, transporting and disposing of 2,100 million tonnes of carbon, plus a proportionate tonnage of a reactive mineral, for each 1.0 ppmv of CO2 that we recover – Given that we’ve yet to peak our GHG outputs and that the interactive feedbacks are already accelerating, we’ll probably need to go after well over 200 ppmv in the next few decades . . . .

    Similarly, either option could be done abusively, that is, for utterly wrong and corrupt reasons, such as ‘excusing’ continued fossil fuel dependence and maintaining its diversely malign global dominance. –

    Equally, both options could, potentially, be done well and done for honest and responsible purposes, as the necessary and sufficient complementary actions to ending our GHG outputs ASAP and, in combination, thereby resolving global warming. But of course that will require substantial research of the objectives and technologies under stringent UN-mandated scientific supervision – which is the pre-requisite for the serious advance of these indispensable options.



  20. BBHY says:

    Maybe first we should try cutting out CO2 emissions.

    I mean, if your house is on fire, you could go searching for the best stuff to put out the fire but before that it would be a good idea to stop pouring more gasoline on it.

  21. Raul M. says:

    Certainly it’s nice to go to a beautiful and functional conference building, but to try to make the worlds atmosphere controlled to the social standard seems to be the biggest task.
    And in going to the conference center isn’t it rude to say they should have had different criteria in mind?
    And how rude do people need to be?
    Such is the delima?

  22. Florifulgurator says:

    Waiting for that, too. Combine the Ornstein et al. proposal with biochar…

  23. Chad says:

    The two geoengineering options that I find most promising are ocean fertilization and cloud enhancement.

    Ocean fertilization has four solid attributes, assuming it works and we have a lot more knowledge than we currently have

    1: It actually SOLVES the problem, rather than masks it.
    2: It solves ocean acidification as well as warming
    3: It can be turned off quickly
    4: It wouldn’t cost much
    5: At least in principle, could have positive side effects, particularly the increase in ocean biomass.

    Among the options that mask warming, I like the idea of cloud enhancement, again because it could be relatively cheap and could be turned off at will, but also because again, if done with far more knowledge than we have now, could have a possible side effect of positively manipulating rainfall patterns.

    However, both of these are inferior to actually AVOIDING the problem in the first place.

  24. John McCormick says:

    Huge profits! Now, we’re getting into the serious side of geo-engineering.

  25. Raul M. says:

    I guess it would be dumb of me to suggest that people as well as critters could all wear sunglasses and then we would all be ok with mirrored clouds

  26. John McCormick says:

    Chad, how about some perspective here on ocean fertilization?

    Total surface area of earth:

    510,072,000 sq km;

    Total water surface area: 70.8%

    361,132,000 sq km

    Does that make any difference to you?

  27. John McCormick says:

    Let’s see if I have this correct, Dr. Gardiner resigned from the Bipartisan Panel for sound reasons.

    The following big green reps chose to hang in there and have their names and affiliations (using our contributions and dues) attached to the report:

    Joe Chaisson
    Research and Technical Director, Clean Air Task Force

    David Goldston
    Director of Government Affairs, Natural Resources Defense Council

    Steven Hamburg
    Chief Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund

    We send our climate hawks into the great debate on geo-engineering so that we have someone saying “gotta have mitigation”.

    Geo-engineering is dead from here on out. Long live Climate Remediation.

    Just wait and see how long it will be before climate remediation is the operative phrase. Got to hand it to the money crowd. They do have a way with words.

    We pay those green reps their salaries. What do we get….capitulation. How about they give us a plan, some direction, even encouragement that they are thinking of a Plan B. Hope the luncheon was worth the effort to get us on the road to Climate Remediation.

    Thanks Dr. Gardner for having the good sense to not play a part in the new profit-making solution to our demise.

  28. Mike Roddy says:

    Yep. It’s a Rube Goldberg contraption that serves no function other than throwing the public off the scent.

  29. Mike Roddy says:

    I look forward to that post. There are big opportunities in afforestation, but that should be the proper word- “tree planting” tends to refer to monoculture species in arid environments, supported by irrigation and/or chemicals.

    Restoration of appropriate forest ecosystems by limiting intrusions and allowing natural biological recovery is the best play. This can occur on every continent, since degraded former forest land can be found everywhere. The best opportunities are in North America, actually. It’s a slow process that won’t produce quick results, but is the long term and locally viable option.

  30. Raul M. says:

    Don’t know if it would be good to use irrigation from a river that flows through farm land to fertilize a farm. The time lag might be just right for accelerated weather change. Bug and weed control might be built right in. Would it still count as organic though.

  31. Joan Savage says:

    I can’t over-emphasize that we need to challenge the term “climate remediation,” when it is applied in any way inconsistent with environmental law. A remediation plan is not enacted until after the damaging activity of human beings, like polluting the atmosphere, has been brought to a HALT.

    A remediation measure is assessed by its proven effectiveness, feasibility, and its adequacy for the magnitude of the damage.

    With ongoing damage to the atmosphere, it is premature (even presumptuous) to pick remediation measures while damage is ongoing.

    None of the measures mentioned, carbon sequestration, cloud seeding, sulfur shading, ocean fertilization, are proven measures, and implicit in that unproven status, none of them can be relied upon to address the magnitude of an ongoing damage.

    Joe Romm has the magnitudes and all that in his head or computer much better than I, so I’m going to “pound the pulpit” about the abuse of the term “remediation.”

    Offering such ‘remediation’ at this point is like giving a glass of water to someone being slowly tortured to death.

  32. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    John – it’s entirely predictable that the US political establishment would have a high-powered development group like BPC for advancing least-cost geoengineering – the policy of an open-ended standoff with China demands it as backstop. Seeing China’s bid for global dominance deflected by climatic destabilization would be of no value to the US without a means to then switch off the warming. This policy has Edward Teller written all over it.

    It is equally predictable that the enviro-NGOs with the best suits would place very senior people into that group – as you note, those members are ‘Research and technical director’, ‘Director of government affairs’, ‘Chief scientist’. Their ranks indicate the high priority their organizations give to the need for competence in technology and objectives’ selection. Not being privy to their actual inputs to the group, I’d be slow to criticize their conduct in participating.

    The group’s inherent incompetence lies in its founding assumptions of a US-led commercially-oriented initiative being remotely applicable to the essentially global problem: of the next 50 yrs of intensifying pipeline warming and the interactive feedbacks’ response, under rising anthro-GHG levels. If your mindset only contains a hammer, how many problems look like a nail ?

    Given Holdren’s qualified critique of technology options considered to date, and now Gardiner’s cutting statement, it’a hardly surprising that the group’s report is essentially incoherent and thus focussed on a greenwash rebranding of the product.



  33. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    BBHY –
    if you could show how we can stop pouring out the gasoline – aka anthro-GHG outputs – in say the next few weeks, months or even a couple of years, I’d be right with you in saying that the need of atmospheric cleansing and the carbon banks’ damage control are secondary issues.

    But Joe’s recipe of wedges puts 2050 as the date for stopping most of, but not all, the anthro-GHG outputs, and even that is considered problematically fast by the likes of Socolow.

    Those issues are not secondary; in fact their resolution is complementary to ending anthro-GHG outputs. They have their own critical schedules for which we’re already running late, such as the goals of peaking and reversing ocean acidification just as soon as humanly possible, and of offsetting the pipeline warming and thereby halting and decelerating the interactive feedbacks while they are still on a scale where this may be possible.

    If we’d wanted to avoid this imperative need of a triple mitigation strategy, we should have changed course rapidly 50 years ago, when the US presidents were first told formally of the problem of global warming, and CO2 was at around 320ppmv.

    An aspect of the sequence of actions on which we may agree is that avoiding abusive geo-engineering demands that the UN moratorium on deployment and large-scale testing be maintained until there is an equitable and efficient binding global climate treaty – that has been signed, ratified and put into operation. The priority of negotiating that treaty re-orientating global industrial development is certainly paramount.



  34. John McCormick says:

    Lewis, I am entirely in agreement with Joan Savage’s comment. She appears to have had much experience in the matter of environmental cleanup including evaluation of super fund site cleanup.

    As she rightly points out:

    “A remediation measure is assessed by its proven effectiveness, feasibility, and its adequacy for the magnitude of the damage.”

    One would have hoped Joan was appointed to the study group.

    The Report states in End Note #1 the following:

    “we have come to the conclusion that “climate remediation” is a much more useful
    term for describing the activities and issues under consideration,”

    Useful for whom? I believe it is easier to sell geo-engineering if one uses the more friendly and positive term “remediation”.

    Joan knows remediation begins with assessing the nature and extent of the damage and that the source of the damage has been abated.

    How could the three NGO senior suits miss such an obvious disconnect between use of the phrase “climate remediation” and the continuation of climate destruction to degrees we are struggling to comprehend.

    Did the NGO suits stay in the study group because they were justifying their standing to repudiate the use of the “useful term” climate remediation.

    This thread has room for

    Joe Chaisson
    Research and Technical Director, Clean Air Task Force

    David Goldston
    Director of Government Affairs, Natural Resources Defense Council

    Steven Hamburg
    Chief Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund

    to comment and defend their attaching their affiliations to this report.

    We will lose the essence of this very serious discussion of geo-engineering and all of its failings because the money crowd will sell it as essential remediation….no, a better phrase, how about a “climate makeover”. We all feel comfortable with makeovers.

  35. Chris Winter says:

    “Come, come it nay not be. I wonder much,
    Being men of such great leading as you are,
    That you foresee not what impediments
    Drag back our expedition…”

    – Henry IV, Part 1 [IV,3,2473]

  36. Merrelyn Emery says:

    My Dad grew huge vegetables in the sand hills outside Menindee with nothing more than human waste and the human energy required to pull minimum amounts of water from the underground well.

    You only have to see the periodic ‘miracle’ of the flowering of life in Lake Eyre to grasp the potential. And while there would undeniably be systemic effects, they would be nothing compared to those potentially flowing from blundering around in the atmosphere with sulphates, iodides etc, ME

  37. EDpeak says:

    “…if and China or India or the US decide to wing it and geohack on their own, who’s going to stop them/us?”

    While it gives me no pleasure to say it, I think the ugly answer is one that most people know right beneath the surface of their consciousness, if they don’t know it consciously.

    “Eco terrorist” is a terribly hypocritical term MISused against peaceful activism.

    But it’s easy to predict (as we did last decade) what will happen if people die in the developing world by the millions each year. They will do anything to stop the machines pumping out GHGs.

    Similarly, if we threaten to risk making things even WORSE on the planet, by “geo-engineering” as if WE OWN the planet (we = US and yes maybe china and a few others) the response will be the same.

    Then the corporate media will bemoand “what is the matter with these third world crazies? they attack us when climate chaos happens, and they attack us when we try to geo-engin– I mean, when we try to Mitigate!”

    I am personally against such violence but it is as predicable as things get in human affairs (which is far from perfect predictability, but fairly certain). If we act like we OWN the planet and risk making things WORSE by _unilaterally_ geo-engineering, or if we do nothing and let climate chaos get worse and worse and kill millions – the response will shock people.

    Thing of what a bit over a dozen zealot murderous suicidal Saudis did in 2001 in response to far, far, far less: US occupations, US support for Arab despots, and US support for oppression of Palestinians. Those are not small things, but they are far, far, far less than the potential damage from either “business as usual” or geo-engineering.

    In 2002 a blindfolded journalist was taken to interview 9/11 masterminds Mohammed and Binalshibh (see “Al-Qaeda ‘plotted nuclear attacks'” on

    Al-Qaeda initially planned to fly hijacked jets into nuclear installations..ultimately deciding to shelve such plans because they could”get out of control” (they also revealed the 4th plane was headed not for the White House but for Congress)

    Even murderous suicidal zealots use some sense of proportionality, or rather, sometimes they do.

    If the stakes are 100 or more times higher in terms of the carnage or potential carnage from either geo-engineering or BAU, then before too many decades pass (maybe after most of us are gone but still this century) a response from the weak is entirely predictable (they say war is the terrorism of the powerful and terrorism is the war of the weaker countries) ALL repeat ALL bets are off.

    I am not, repeat, not one of those who in the back of his mind is happy at all about such predictions. It is our highest moral duty to both try to stop all the individual terrorists like that (impossible, there are millions of such potential actors) and equally or more so our highest moral duty to Stop the Machine in the words of movement (a cousin, of sorts, of Occupy Wall Street) and force the corporate-military-industrial-complex to change its ways – sharply, rapidly, while there is still time.

  38. John McCormick says:

    No. The green suits will not comment on this thread. They are not of us as much as they are of their reputations, stature and station.

  39. Mike Specian says:

    Geoengineering may very well “not be a remedy” as Joe puts it. However, I fail to see why this is a compelling argument against studying it further.

    At present, precious little research has been done on the effects of geoengineering. This is a mistake. Most current options are not well enough understood despite their potentially catastrophic, unpredictable, and non-linear side effects. These dangers must be revealed before abstract discussions on geoengineering may transition into true risk assessments. Geoengineering may yet prove an unacceptably dangerously option, but we ought to base this conclusion on as much science as possible.

    What if other nations that stand to lose the most from climate change choose to unilaterally pursue seeding the atmosphere with stratospheric sulfates, for example? It is entirely unclear what recourse, if any, the international community has to stop them. How can we be prepared for the impact of actions like these if we don’t even have accurate models of what those impacts might be?

    And as horrible as it is to consider, what if earth was to pass a tipping point where geoengineering became our best option in the face of catastrophic alternatives? It’s like the astronaut’s cyanide pill – you never, ever want to use it, but in a worst case scenario, you’re glad it’s there.

  40. Mike#22 says:

    “other nations” or, say, Texas trying to get some rain.

    I tend to think that geohacking is already inevitable, but no one wants to admit it.

    We are overtaken by events.

  41. Joe Bftsplk says:

    The problem I have with “geohacking”, or as Kintisch used it in his book, i.e. “planet hacking” is that the connotation of “hacking” has often included the idea of innocent fun. Take a look at “The Hacker’s Dictionary” to see what I mean. A great “hack” might make a machine perform flawlessly in new ways also.

    These radiation management “geoengineering” schemes, added on top of the massive anthropogenic aerosol releases and accumulating GHG, etc., don’t sound like they have any possibility of being successful “hacks”.

    Paul Crutzen’s original essay that signaled to most that it was time for geoengineering discussion to come out of the shadows hasn’t got a shred of “fun” in it. See:

    Its more likely that contemplation of the use of such schemes is yet another marker on the road to the ruin of civilization and of this planet. Actually deploying one implies a consensus that we are “in extremis”, with the end not far off.