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Why Should We Explore Geoengineering?

Geoengineering is an important backup plan that warrants our attention.
© Adam Smith Centre

Why Should We Consider Geoengineering?

Human intervention and manipulation of the climate system have long been viewed as an ill-advised remedy for climate change. However, with political gridlock and our inability to accelerate collective climate action, we need a backup plan.

We should consider harnessing geoengineering technologies to better manage the consequences of climate change. Our inability to ensure collective climate action further emphasizes this need.

One notable proponent of geoengineering is Bill Gates. Gates has invested in a Harvard University experiment to explore the cooling effect of spraying aerosols in the atmosphere. This experiment is inspired by the 1991 volcanic eruption of Mount Pinatubo which cooled the Earth’s temperature in its wake.

Geoengineering should be considered because implementation comes at a low cost and requires a relatively short period of time.

Low Cost

One reason to explore geoengineering is that it is the only known approach that allows us to make dramatic cuts in global temperature at low cost. Research from Copenhagen Consensus shows that just $9 billion spent building 1,900 seawater-spraying boats could prevent all of the temperature increase projected in this century. This is a tantalizing possibility when we consider the $60 trillion in damages in the twenty-first century that would come from unmitigated global warming.

Quick Implementation

Another reason is that this approach allows us to change the global average temperature very quickly. Any standard fossil-fuel-cutting policy will take decades to implement and half a century to have any noticeable climate impact. Instead, just like Mount Pinatubo, geoengineering can reduce temperatures in a matter of weeks.

© Adam Smith Centre
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Climate Change and Public Policy

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