It's not just that we are facing "something new", we are facing "something else". The speed, breadth and depth of technological change is out-pacing and out-scoping policymakers. Since 1992, the convergence of technologies (living and inert) at the atomic - or nano - scale is adding new dimensions to the nature of technological transformation. Governments need global tools to respond to "something else". Find in this briefing ten technology leaps making the case for prioritizing Technology Assessment at the UN.
ETC Group publishes a world map of geoengineering -- the large-scale manipulation of earth or climate systems. While there is no complete record of the scores of weather and climate control projects in dozens of countries, this map is the first attempt to document the expanding scope of research and experimentation. Almost 300 geoengineering projects/experiments are represented on the map belonging to 10 different types of climate-altering technologies.
Corporations investing in Synthetic Biology include 6 of the top 10 Chemical Companies, 6 of the top 10 Energy companies, 6 of the top 10 grain traders and the top 7 pharma companies.
Although Rio+20 negotiators are discussing marine applications of geoengineering (so-called “ocean fertilization”) in the context of climate change and technological “quick fixes,” the wider issues of geoengineering, including so-called solar radiation management, are not being discussed. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity established a de facto moratorium on all forms of geoengineering in 2010. Nevertheless, some governments are continuing to look toward technological methods of blocking or reflecting sunlight and other planetary system adjustments. Rio+20 should make a firm statement banning geoengineering to prevent a handful of countries -- a new “coalition of the willing” from taking the Earth’s thermostat into their own hands.
International efforts to address the food, energy and climate crises give technology a central role to play. While some technologies may offer potential solutions to specific problems, decades of accelerating technological development and deployment have done little to mitigate climate change, and, in many cases, have made problems worse.
Now, new high-risk technologies, ranging from the very small (synthetic biology, genomics, nanotechnology) to the very large (geoengineering), are rapidly developing. Their promoters promise that these technologies are key to solving climate change,
world hunger, energy shortages and biodiversity loss. The precautionary principle and social and economic impacts are often ignored in the rush to deploy the latest technofix, marketed as socially useful and cutting edge, such as “climate-smart agriculture” or “next-generation biofuels.” Without the strict application of the precautionary principle, and a transparent and participatory form of technology assessment, new technologies could wreak even more havoc on a fragile planet that is already under immense strain due to reckless and unsustainable forms of production that serve the few at the expense of the many.
Earth Grab - Geopiracy, the New Biomassters and Capturing Climate Genes' - essential, cutting-edge climate science in everyday language - published this week (27 October 2011). The authors reveal information that the large corporations who profit from climate change do not want the public to know.
'Earth Grab' analyses how Northern governments and corporations are cynically using concerns about the ecological and climate crisis to propose geoengineering 'quick fixes'. These threaten to wreak havoc on ecosystems, with disastrous impacts on the people of the global South. As calls for a 'greener' economy mount and oil prices escalate, corporations are seeking to switch from oil-based to plant-based energy.
minent environmentalist Vandana Shiva, founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, writes in her foreword that this research 'pulls back the curtain on disturbing technological and corporate trends that are already reshaping our world and that will become crucial battlegrounds for civil society in the years ahead'.
The book has already captured the attention of writer Naomi Klein, who writes that this 'crucial book reveals ... Indispensable research for those with their eyes wide open'. Campaigner George Monbiot adds that its exploration of 'three crucial issues which will come to dominate environmental and human rights debates in the coming years make it an essential resource for anyone trying to keep up with the times'.
Opponents of proposals to “geoengineer” the planet have two reasons to celebrate this week.
Firstly, ETC Group has learned that UK scientists, in the midst of controversy, are on the cusp of postponing an imminent test of an experimental hose (dubbed the “Trojan Hose” by opponents) designed to deliver sulphur dioxide to the stratosphere as a way to engineer a cooler planet. The test had been scheduled for October; on Monday, 60 groups from around the globe sent an open letter to the UK government and the research councils involved expressing their opposition to the experiment. No public announcement of the decision has been made and details must be clarified, but an undeniable lack of prior stakeholder engagement is the likely reason for the delay.
Over 50 concerned groups from around the world are calling on people to sign an open letter (here) asking the UK Government and Research Councils to scrap the controversial SPICE experiment designed to test hardware for deployment of stratospheric aerosol injections as a way to artificially cool the planet.
We are writing to express our concern about the SPICE research project, which is managed by the University of Bristol in collaboration with the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh, as well as military contractor Marshall Aerospace. The £1.6 million project has been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), supported by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). We are calling upon the UK government and the Research Councils involved to suspend the project. In particular, we believe the experiment planned to test equipment for injecting particles into the stratosphere with the aim of counteracting global warming through solar radiation management (SRM) should be cancelled.
In response to reports that British scientists are about to test the hardware needed to put sulphur particles in the stratosphere as a climate technofix, international technology watchdog ETC Group is calling on the UK government to halt the controversial test and respect UN processes underway to discuss these issues.
As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) wound up its expert meeting on geoengineering in Lima, Peru, which included all three IPCC Working Groups, it committed to remain “policy relevant but not policy prescriptive.” Despite getting off on the wrong foot (no transparency), with some of the wrong experts (scientists with financial interests), on some of the wrong topics (governance), the IPCC has now confirmed that it will not make recommendations to governments regarding research funding for the controversial technologies, governance models or the legality of experimentation.
At a press briefing following the close of the expert meeting, the IPCC stated that its focus will be “establishing the scientific foundations for an assessment of geoengineering.” This assessment would include risks, costs, benefits and social and economic impacts, intended and unintended consequences as well as uncertainties and gaps in knowledge and will be based solely on peer-reviewed literature. “Of course, a real assessment of geoengineering will need to be much broader than a scientific peer-review process,” said Silvia Ribeiro of ETC Group from Lima, though outside the meeting. “Civil society organizations have been clear that we do not want these dangerous technologies developed; they are a new threat from the very same countries that are responsible for the climate crisis in the first place!”
125 international and national organizations, representing at least 40 countries from all continents, sent an open letter to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), demanding a clear statement of its commitment to precaution and to the existing international moratorium on geoengineering. The IPCC will hold an expert meeting on geoengineering 20-22 June in Lima, Peru.
The undersigned organizations would like to express our concerns about the upcoming IPCC joint working group expert meeting on geoengineering to be held in Lima, Peru, June 20-22, 2011.
In a landmark consensus decision, the 193-member UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) closed its tenth biennial meeting with a de facto moratorium on geoengineering projects and experiments. “Any private or public experimentation or adventurism intended to manipulate the planetary thermostat will be in violation of this carefully crafted UN consensus,” stated Silvia Ribeiro, Latin American Director of ETC Group.
One of the hottest issues before the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan is a set of crucial decisions that could bring about a moratorium on proposed experiments in geoengineering, a set of high-risk climate technofixes. At the opening plenary of the conference, the CBD Alliance on behalf of civil society organizations called for a moratorium on geoengineering experiments.
This report exposes the new climate 'Plan B' for what it is: a political strategy aimed at letting industrialized countries off the hook for their climate debt. From adjusting the global thermostat to changing the chemistry of our oceans, these technofixes are a threat to people and the planet. The report contains an overview of the history, the science, the interests behind their rapid development and the international governance issues at stake.
Realpolitik, we are advised, recognizes that the multilateral system can’t produce an equitable or effective agreement that will mitigate climate chaos: Recognizing this, concerned governments and scientists have no reasonable choice but to investigate technological strategies that could reduce or delay climate change, at least until social forces make a practical agreement possible. Also according to Realpolitik, there is no more hope of achieving a multilateral consensus on re-jigging the thermostat than there is of adopting effective targets for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Therefore, the issue is to create a narrative and construct a governance model that will allow a courageous, far-sighted, science- based “coalition of the willing” to justify their unilateral manipulation of the Earth’s systems. They call it geoengineering – we call it geopiracy.
Press Release by African Biodiversity Network, Amigransa Venezuela, Biofuelwatch, CESTA (Friends of the Earth El Salvador), COECOCEIBA Costa Rica, Econexus, ETC Group, FASE Brasil, Gaia Foundation, Global Forest Coalition, Global Justice Ecology Project, Latin American Network against Monoculture Tree Plantations (RECOMA), NOAH Food and Agriculture (FoE Denmark), Observatorio de Conflictos Ambientales (OLCA) Chile, Otros Mundos Mexico, Rettet den Regenwald, Salva la Selva, Save America's Forests, Sobrevivencia (Friends of the Earth Paraguay) Timberwatch Coalition and World Rainforest Movement
Twenty one groups today expressed their dismay at an article by leading biochar advocates, published by the science magazine Nature, which proposes that an area larger than the land mass of India could be turned into charcoal plantations in the name of climate change mitigation. The paper’s own figures contradict the authors’ claims that biochar will not lead to large-scale land grabbing in the global South.
BARCELONA – The international civil society network Climate Justice Now! deplores the downplaying of expectations for the Copenhagen Climate Summit in Barcelona by industrialized countries, UNFCCC officials and the host of the Copenhagen Summit. On the eve of Copenhagen, there is still no real progress on targets, a naïve and dangerous reliance on market mechanisms, no commitment to human rights, and a frightening context in which some countries are beginning to talk seriously about dangerous climate techno-fixes.