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Pitch

Creating a research framework that would place clear definitions and guidelines in the field of geoengineering.


Description

Summary

The first thing to ask ourselves when dealing with the topic of geoengineering is 'what is the final goal?'.

Only after the goal is clearly defined can we start dealing with the question 'do it's benefits out way its' potential dangers?'.

Here are examples of two potential goals:

  1. Sustaining the current environment as we know it.
  2. Creating a new environment that is more suitable for the future.

 

The underlying motivation of the first goal is fear that any change in the current environment will have catastrophic consequences and there is a need in keeping it as it is. To adapt to a new ecosystem that could be a result of climate change is not an option.  The second goal, is more adventurous. It claims that because of the current trend in climate change man should engineer a solution that suits him better than the current one.  

Let us now move on to the dangers of geoengineering.

There are many fears. if we could answer some of those fears then the deliberation would become easier. We must identify which fears are solvable. For example:

  1.  The environment is a massive complex system and currently the simulation of the complete system is not possible – how could we dare take a chance of disturbing the equilibrium.
  2.  It isn’t reversible!
  3.  It locks us into a constant need to control the environment –  there isn't enough stability in the world to ensure we'd be able to keep it up. 

In short,  we are in a unique position where we have begun to deliberate modifying the entire world - intentionally. The only way to do this is responsibly.  Before any action can be taken the utmost must be done to minimize the potential dangers involved.

The proposal here is to build a leveled framework were initially research would be dedicated to the development of methods to evaluate geo-engineering solutions. After this, regulation and rules regarding geo-engineering can be formulated. Different solutions should be sorted and finally, if they are ever needed, a responsible decision will be possible.

 


Category of the action

Geoengineering


What actions do you propose?

Before actual steps are taken in research and implementation of geo-engineering solutions Goals must be clear and dangers must be minimized. To this effect, categorization of geo-engineering solutions and their respective dangers is vital. Proper screening processes for different solutions should be set as standards for possible project funding.It follows that initial funding should go to a concerted effort towards the development of these screening mechanisms.The first mechanism should be simulations; Proper computer modeling of not only climate but entire ecosystems should be developed, this is a first step towards responsible geo-engineering. The second screening mechanism would be experimental; Innovative ways should be researched and developed to simulate entire ecosystems (off planet perhaps?) with the ability to implement geo-engineering solutions in them.  Until a valid way to evaluate geo-engineering is developed people will be quite right in their fears. 

After dealing with methods to be used to evaluate different solutions the next step is to categorize them.  Assuming that the dangers of a technique have been identified, there is the question of reversibility. If a technique is determined to be reversible then it should get priority over none reversible methods. By reversibility it is meant that no geo-engineering solution is needed to return to sqaure one. For instance, it may be determined that placing massive mirrors in space is reversible. By simply removing the mirrors the Earth would return to its' previous equilibrium. However, introduction of carbon consuming algae into the sea may be deemed nonreversible without the introduction of some other intervention to destroy the algae.

If a technique is reversible it would be more desirable than one with no return.

Next there is the question of sustainability. Since geoengineering is by its' very nature long term, any solution would have effects on generations to come. Since there is no guarantee that there will be stability in the future, any solution that is self-sustaining is preferable to those that need maintenance.     

Finally, There are probably many other things that have not been mentioned, however,  In order to reach a state of responsible geo-engineering and not a 'mad scientist' state of affairs proper definitions and criteria must be developed and agreed upon. 


Who will take these actions?

Major research institutions should put an emphasis on funding to projects that develop simulation and experimental options for entire ecosystems. 

After that is developed general guidelines based on these methods can be developed by international institutions and research funds. 

Irresponsible geo-engineering should be criminalized. 


Where will these actions be taken?

All over the world.


What are other key benefits?

The development of advanced simulation and experimental techniques are applicable to many different fields of science. 


What are the proposal’s costs?


Time line

The initial step could be implemented immediately. The subsequent steps would follow the success of the first.


Related proposals


References

This is in my opinion a common sense proposal. However the references given with this contest give a good background.