A group of scientists and policy specialists say it's time to bring geoengineering research into the limelight. A new report, published by the Washington-based Bipartisan Policy Center, argues that the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) should begin to coordinate "climate remediation" studies across a range of agencies.
"The government should start doing research," Jane Long, co-chair of the center's 18-member Task Force on Climate Remediation Research, said in a press conference today. "It's very critical that we not proceed in ignorance." The problem is that, on the federal level, "there's no research program at all in a coordinated way," panelist Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, told ScienceInsider.
This report isn't the first to call for further investigation into the potential of geoengineering strategies, which encompass techniques to cool the Earth or absorb existing greenhouse gases using technology or ecosystem-based methods. A 2009 report published by the U.K.'s Royal Society argued that such drastic efforts could become important short-term tools for reversing dangerous changes to the climate. But the report also highlighted how little is known about the impact of many proposals to tweak global temperatures. A 2010 climate report by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences came to similar conclusions.
Panelist David Keith, an energy and technology policy analyst at Harvard, says that cloud seeding or similar strategies are no substitute for cutting emissions but may prove to be the quickest way to deliver relief from climate change to the world's poorest people. Such extreme measures are also likely to be relatively inexpensive, making it easy for relatively small groups to toy with the world's climate. "If [the U.S.] does not create a real research program in the next couple of years, other things will fill that vacuum," says Keith.