Monday, December 19, 2011

Two New German Government Reports

The German government has released two new reports on geoengineering in recent months. The first, released by the Federal Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt), is titled "Geoengineering: Effective Climate Protection or Megalomania?" As its name implies, this report is generally hostile toward climate engineering, recommending "that greater restraint be exercised and a moratorium imposed on the employment of such measures until there is a substantial improvement in knowledge of the interdependencies of geo-processes" (p. 4). The entire study, however, is plainly premised on the false choice between mitigation/adaptation on the one hand, and geoengineering on the other ("Geoengineering measures are for the foreseeable future no alternative to emission reduction and adaptation to climate change," p. 42), and as such, its conclusions are neither sound nor convincing.

The second report, "Large-Scale Intentional Interventions Into the Climate System?," is more systematic, more agnostic, and more useful. Written for the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), it is a scoping study that seeks to map the scientific, economic, social, and political aspects of the emerging debate on climate engineering. One of the more interesting subjects it explores is how geoengineering is likely to be received by German political culture:

According to the experts consulted, the potential for social conflict in Germany is conditioned by a variety of factors. If Germany were to take part in a CE [climate engineering] initiative, either at an operative level or as a financial backer, this would raise the potential for conflict more appreciably than if Germany were merely a passive observer of such developments. Experts agree that the potential for conflict would increase with the implementation of CE measures in close proximity to Germany. At the other end of the scale, a German refusal to participate in an international initiative would lead to less intensive conflicts, as Germany is not one of the countries affected most strongly by climate change and the urgency of adaptation measures would not be perceived as a priority by most observers. Protests expressing solidarity with others could be expected, but not on any very large scale. If CE technologies were to be deployed against the will of the United Nations and many developing countries, the resulting potential for conflict would however be severe (Ch. 8, p. 15).

Unsurprisingly, these experts also feel that Germany would be more inclined to take part in geoengineering research than in deployment. The actual politics are no doubt more complicated than what is depicted in the BMBF study, yet this report does an excellent job of sketching out the details and complexities of these issues. Clearly there is more to geoengineering than either "effective climate protection or megalomania," despite what the Federal Environment Agency suggests.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Josh,

    I have been following your blog for a while. There is one thing that occurs to me that seems to be missed by both reluctant advocates and decriers of climate/geo-engineering.

    Once we realize that our actions, as a species, change the climate, everything we do in response to that knowledge is an act of geoengineering. Especially nothing.

    The rest is, as the title of your blog puts it, politics.