Friday, September 14, 2012

WWF Supports Geoengineering Research

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), arguably the world's most influential environmental group, now cautiously supports research into geoengineering strategies to cope with global climate change.  Earlier this week on the Huffington Post, Jon Taylor, Climate Change Program Manager at WWF-UK, framed the dilemma geoengineering presents for organizations like WWF in the following terms: "Clearly in a perfect world we wouldn't support the idea of deliberately tampering with the Earth's atmosphere.  But to paraphrase the old joke, if you were to ask us how to get to a sustainable future, we wouldn't start from here."  In light of current atmospheric carbon concentrations and likely future trajectories, Taylor continues, "alongside our main efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through smarter use of sustainable energy and through reducing and reversing deforestation, WWF is cautiously supporting research into geo-engineering approaches in order to find out what is possible."

This is a significant development.  WWF is a major player in global environmental politics, helps set the pace for many other environmental and conservation NGOs, and serves as a critical point of reference for concerned citizens across the globe.  It is clear from the post that WWF is not enthusiastic about climate engineering, and that it is much less comfortable with SRM compared to CDR techniques (indeed, WWF has expressed support for some carbon removal methods on previous occasions).  It also remains to be seen how such a position articulated by WWF-UK will be received by other members of the international WWF network.  But as an organizational statement of principled support for research into geoengineering, both CDR and SRM, this marks an important step forward in the global discussion on the urgency of responsible research and testing.

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