U.S. Military Explores Geoengineering

| 3/19/2009 11:43:52 AM

Tags: Environment, geoengineering, global warming, climate change, ScienceInsider, Science Progress, Wilson Quarterly,

Geoengineering to combat Global WarmingThe U.S. military has joined the growing ranks of Nobel laureates and climate experts who are exploring the idea of geoengineering to combat global warming, according to ScienceInsider. Geoengineering advocates want to change the earth’s climate using ideas that range from simple—painting the tops of buildings white to deflect sunlight back into the atmosphere—to complex—launching tiny mirrors into Earth’s orbit to deflect sunlight from space.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is the agency spearheading the U.S. military’s exploration with a meeting to discuss geoengineering ideas. One of the meeting’s participants, geochemist Ken Caldeira, explicitly opposes any DARPA effort at changing the environment saying, “Geoengineering is already so fraught with social, geopolitical, economic, and ethical issues; why would we want to add military dimensions?”

Science writer Chris Mooney, on the other hand, expressed a tempered optimism on the website Science Progress. Mooney stresses that geoengineering may “prove practically irresistible to politicians and governments,” and therefore it’s a good idea to have reasoned debate about it now. Acknowledging the danger in viewing geoengineering as a panacea for climate change, Mooney suggests that in the current environment, “having a backup plan does make a lot of sense.”

The problem is that the history of geoengineering is inextricably linked with the military dimensions that Caldeira fears. One idea that Mooney advocates exploring is the “Infusion of the stratosphere with sulfate aerosol particles, which will reflect sunlight and cause global cooling.” This would mean “basically declaring war on the strato­sphere,” James R. Flemming wrote for the Wilson Quarterly. Should DARPA chose to go ahead with any such plans, it would be the latest in a long history of ill-fated attempts by militaristic forces to control the environment.

SourcesScienceInsiderScience ProgressWilson Quarterly