Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bill Clinton Champions White Roofs

Former President Bill Clinton has declared white roofs "the single best idea to jumpstart job creation." Interestingly, he frames the issue solely in terms of job creation and energy savings, with no mention (or awareness?) of its potential for albedo modification. This is smart politics, since appealing to economic self-interest in a time of sclerotic growth is a much surer way to garner support for white roofs than trumpeting their global climate benefits. Recall that Energy Secretary Steven Chu tried this latter tack in 2009, and was rewarded with ridicule for his efforts.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Climate Change, Security, and Small Island States

On July 20, the UN Security Council held an open debate on the subject of climate change and risks to international security. The topic was introduced by Germany, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council. Following on from earlier efforts to raise the issue of climate security within the Council, Germany sought to begin an ongoing dialogue on the security risks posed by climate change, in particular the threat of sea-level rise and dangers to food supplies. Discussion also focused on the possible future need for UN "green helmets" for deployment to violent conflicts around the world caused or exacerbated ("threat-multiplied") by climate change.

Germany was strongly supported by the Pacific Small Island Developing States grouping. The chairman of this organization, President Marcus Stephen of Nauru, urged in a July 18 op-ed in the New York Times that "the Security Council should join the General Assembly in recognizing climate change as a threat to international peace and security. It is a threat as great as nuclear proliferation or global terrorism." Yet he went on to write that "Negotiations to reduce emissions should remain the primary forum for reaching an international agreement." Climate engineering was not mentioned as a potential strategy.

The existential threat faced by small island states as a result of global warming and rising seas is more than sufficient reason to explore geoengineering as an additional climate policy option. Emissions mitigation, even if deep cuts were somehow achieved over the next decades, will not be enough to prevent the demise of low-lying island states such as Nauru, the Marshall Islands, and the Maldives. In the absence of climate intervention, such countries will cease to exist in any meaningful sense. When rising sea levels are treated as a matter of war and peace before the UN Security Council, national leaders compare their climate predicaments to nuclear proliferation and terrorism, and the future existence of entire nation-states is in doubt, surely it is appropriate to consider all possible solutions. Small island developing states, and representative organizations such as the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), ought to be at the forefront of diplomatic efforts to jump-start research into geoengineering.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Russian Government Sponsoring Scientific Conference on Geoengineering

This year's Problems of Adaptation to Climate Change (PACC-2011) conference, scheduled for November in Moscow, will focus heavily on geoengineering as a response to the climate crisis. One of its main sections is titled "Research of Opportunities for Climate Stabilization Using New Technologies," and is co-chaired by Yuri Izrael (SRM researcher and associate of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin). PACC-2011 is being organized by the Russian government through its Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring. Official support for this scientific conference runs counter to recent economic (see BP Expands in Russian Arctic, 1/16) and military moves to exploit the warming Russian Arctic, and thus represents a continuation of Russia's de facto policy of ambivalence toward geoengineering (see Where Do the Major Powers Stand?, 12/5/10).

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Research Moving Ahead in the UK

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), a British government funding agency, has released initial funding for two geoengineering research projects. The first is a stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI) project known as SPICE, or Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering. EPSRC has provided £1.6m to support particle research, construction of a 1 km pipe-balloon testbed delivery system, climate intervention computer modeling, and design of a deployable 20-25 km pipe-balloon system. SPICE is managed jointly by scientists at Bristol, Cambridge, and Reading Universities. The second project is the Integrated Assessment of Geoengineering Proposals (IAGP), a public education and outreach effort overseen by researchers from Leeds University. EPSRC has provided £1.7m to the IAGP project, results of which will inform the testbed component of SPICE. Once again, the British government is leading the way in public funding of geoengineering research.