Despite its potential to trigger conflict, geoengineering will likely be part of the global response to climate change. Be prepared.
The tumultuous outcome of the Copenhagen summit drives home two clear facts: The political struggles around how we respond to global climate disruption are enormously complex-and the resulting delays are bringing us dangerously close to disaster.
This disaster may not unfold in the way we expect. Accelerating changes to the global climate may render even the most aggressive carbon reductions insufficient. But there's a good chance that the action taken will be in the form of geoengineering, or the intentional modification of geophysical systems to reduce the impacts of climate change.
However, the clashes around geoengineering will make COP15 look amicable. Done carelessly,geoengineering could cause unintended environmental damage. It could also undermine the health and security of millions of people, and drive political wedges between powerful nations. Geoengineering could even push us to the brink of war.
While we know geoengineering would be enormously risky, we're likely to try it anyway. We can't eliminate the risks entirely, but if we act wisely, we can make the risks more manageable. Here, I lay out a few ideas for making sure that any geoengineering efforts are done in ways that reduce the risks of both environmental harm and political conflict. Read the rest of this article