A National Academy of Sciences panel said that, with proper governance and other safeguards, we should commence more research on geoengineering — technologies that might let humanity deliberately intervene in nature to counter climate change. With the planet facing potentially severe impacts from global warming in coming decades, drastically reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases was by far the best way to mitigate the effects of a warming planet. But society would be foolish not to at least carefully commence small scale experiments looking into other means of reducing the net harm.
Geoengineering options generally fall into two categories: capturing and storing some of the carbon dioxide that has already been emitted, so that the atmosphere traps less heat, or reflecting more sunlight away from the earth so there is less heat to start with.
Opponents of geoengineering have long argued that even conducting research on the subject presents a moral hazard that could distract society from the necessary task of reducing the emissions that are causing warming in the first place.
I have long held that this reflex reveals a monomaniacal insanity, almost 1% as bad as the insanity of the climate denialist cult.
(Yes, that insane.)
Such zero-sum, "don't-negotiate" thinking will doom us all, whether it comes (mostly) from the right or else (in this case) from the left. We need to remember that a war has many fronts. This one -- against wastrel stupidity and short-sightedness -- has many fronts.
(PS... the one geoengineering method with the best promise of simply emulating what nature does, herself, to remove CO2 in all-natural ways, is ocean fertilization. Preliminary results have been all-good and with zero substantial ore verifiably measurable bad outcomes. It is inherently stoppable -- unlike some of the scary proposals to inject aerosols into the upper atmosphere. Moreover, ocean fertilization offers a possible side benefit of richer fisheries. Experiments in this method are self-limiting and hence should continue, or be encouraged -- under very close supervision.)
== Burden of Proof ==
American scientists and general public have widely differing views about certain scientific issues, as per a recent survey. Climate change and genetically altered food are the two subjects in which prominent differences can be observed.
Cause and effect tend to be murky in elastic, multivariable and non-linear systems. The Denialist Cult uses this relentlessly to show that the observed correlations between theory and observation are still rough and hence "there's doubt"... leading thereupon to the howler... that we should do nothing till the correlations become perfect.
I have learned not to go sumo with them over correlations graphs. It is far more effective to show that they are being profoundly and stunningly illogical, demanding "more research" while their side has sabotaged climate investigators at every turn, canceling satellites, slashing atmospherics budgets and ordering NASA and NOAA not to look Earthward.
At intervals, the Bush Administration, various GOP-controlled Congressional committees, and most recently the State of Florida have banned discussion of these topics and even forbidden mention of "climate" or "rising seas"... a special irony in Florida, which is already suffering from rising seas.
Those actions -- and countless more -- show they want the obscurity and doubt. It is not a flaw, but a feature. Hence the War on Science.
But here is where you can and must corner them.It is in the matter of Burden of Proof that you'll find the weak point in the incantations that they rely on, concocted at Heritage and AEI and Fox, at the behest of coal barons and petro-sheiks. Dig this well, and learn how to hammer it home:
When a scientific field has competitively settled on a Standard Model, that SM is not always right! But it is usually right -- to the limits of last year's instrumentation.
While the Standard Model in any field normally improves incrementally, under relentless competitive pressure by young upstart scientists, outsiders are free to try to topple the whole SM... but those outsiders and upstarts bear the burden of proof. The professionals are obliged to take note of such proof... but they are not obliged to prove the SM over and over and over again to politically propelled critics. They get plenty of challenges already, from their own grad students.
Yes, some of you will twist what I just said into sounding like elitism and appealing to authority. Bull. If that is your reflex then you simply do not understand what I just said.
You do not understand science -- the most vibrantly competitive and productive and honest field of endeavor our species ever invented. Ingrates shrug off all the ways they have benefited from these traits of science, and that's fine. It's a free country and -- unlike all the priesthoods of the past -- scientists don't demand worship. But if you cannot grasp your burden of proof, when decrying some field's Standard Model -- well-tested and credited by women and men who are verifiably vastly smarter than you are, then all you are being is a yammer-puss.
Put it in stark terms. A society that ignores a major scientific model, backed by 97% of the smart men and women who turned the old, joke of a 4 hour weather forecast into a 10 DAY miracle is clearly a very stupid society.
Follow up in the news: As illustrated by the recent Ebola outbreak, global air travel has made it far easier for disease to spread. But climate change, which is shuffling habitable zones for pathogen-carrying animals, is poised to make future outbreaks of infectious diseases such as Ebola, H1N1 and TB worse, and more frequent.
Featured image credit: Penn State University