Last week I was travelling on business for my company Microsoft. If I have not stated this before, my day job is a software engineer under test for Microsoft. I rarely get to travel for business as my position does not really demand it, but this time it was one of those rare opportunities to go deploy the product that I am working on in the field at a customer site for a pre-beta analysis. Anyhow, one of the perils of traveling across the pond is dealing with a jet-lag and a time difference of 8 hours. In my case, I was up at an early hour of the morning flipping TV channels when I landed on a BBC segment discussing Geoengineering. The guest was David Keith, and environmental scientist who has been long at work on climate change, its impacts, and how to combat it. David spent many years lobbying for carbon caps, and now heads a research company that is exploring the solutions presented by Geoengineering.
For those of you who are not familiar with the term, Geoengineering is also known as climate engineering. It refers to the engineering of the climate to counteract the effects of green house emissions and mitigate global warming. Geo-engineering involves many efforts. One of these is known as SRM, which stands for Solar Radiation Management. SRM involves spraying reflective particles in the atmosphere at high altitudes that allow more heat to escape the planet. SRM represents another illustration of bio-mimicry as it mimics the effects of volcanos on climate control.
This brings me to the question at had of whether Geoengineering is a hero or a villain at the end of the day. The argument for heroism is that it represents a technology that may save the day. SRM as well as carbon absorption technologies are the technological solution to global warming. They will be needed, even if it is short-term, to provide the necessary relief and counter act the effects of green house gas emissions. The argument for villainess is that it meddles with nature and provides an unnatural way to counteract a phenomenon. There is much debate on who controls the knob of temperatures. Different stakeholders may want different outcomes. There is also the much dreaded negative unintended consequences that may arise from using such a technology.
What do you think? Hero or villain? To geoengineer or not to geoengineer?