Retooling the Planet: New ETC Group Report on Geoengineering

Climate Chaos in a Geoengineering Age, a Report Commissioned and Published by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation.

The "proof of principle" that cumulative, local interventions in ecosystems can bring about planetary-level effects is beyond dispute. That’s why we have human-induced climate change. However, another notion is quickly gaining ground: that we can use geoengineering to purposefully intervene to correct the unintentional harm we’ve done to our climate.

Geoengineering is the intentional, large-scale intervention in the Earth’s oceans, soils and/or atmosphere, especially with the aim of combatting climate change. Geoengineering can refer to a wide range of schemes, including: blasting sulfate particles into the stratosphere to reflect the sun’s rays; dumping iron particles in the oceans to nurture CO2-absorbing plankton; firing silver iodide into clouds to produce rain; genetically-engineering crops so their foliage can better reflect sunlight.

University of Calgary physicist and geoengineering advocate, David Keith, describes geoengineering as "an expedient solution that uses additional technology to counteract unwanted effects without eliminating their root cause.1 In other words, geoengineering uses new technologies to try to rectify the problems created by the use of old technologies, a classic techno-fix.

Amidst growing public unease and increasing concetrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries are feeling the pressure to “bite the bullet”. They either adopt socially-resposible policies to dramatically cut fossil fuel use and consumption, or, they can hope for an alternative - a "silver bullet" in the form of an array of techno-that will allow them to maintain the status quo and dodge the consequences. No surprise, the silver bullet option - most clearly embodied in the form of geoengineering – is gaining momentum. Also not surprising: the states in the global North, which are responsible for almost all historic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and have either denied climate change or prevaricated for decades, are the onces warming most quickly to the geoengineering option. And they will have de facto control over its deployment. Only the world's richest countries can really muster the hardware and software necessary to attempt rearranging the climate and resetting the thermostat. Equally unsurprising is that once the smog, clears the major private sector players in geoengineering will likely be the same energy, chemical, forestry and agribusiness companies that bear a large responsibility for creating our current climate predicament - in effect, the same folks who geoengineered us into this mess in the first place.

To view the webcast of ETC Group's press conference in Copenhagen announcing the release of this paper, go to:

PDF icon Retooling the Planet 1.2.pdf411.15 KB

Please consider supporting ETC's unique research and advocacy with a tax-deductible donation. Donate here