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Geoengineering as a Human Right
Kris Notaro   Jul 10, 2014   Ethical Technology  

Geoengineering has come under attack recently by conspiracy theorists, scientists, to “greens.” There have been many kinds of proposals for geoengineering, and even a legal/illegal experiment pouring 200,000 pounds of iron sulfate into the North Pacific which was supposed to increase plankton that would absorb carbon dioxide. The experiment did not work and pissed off a lot of scientists. China also recently stopped their “flattening of mountains.” Therefore this article is not purely about techniques of combating global warming, but about the need for people to understand that geoengineering is a must, not only a must, but also a “human right.”

Some proposed methods of tackling climate change / global warming are:

  1. Fake Volcanoes

  2. Growing Algae "Everywhere"

  3. Rooftop Whitening

  4. Funnel salt water into the air

  5. Sun-Refracting Space Shields

  6. Artificial Mechanical Trees

  7. Atmospheric Sulfate Infusion

  8. Super Weeds

  9. Space Mirrors

  10. SPICE project

  11. Solar Towers

  12. Custom Biofuels

  13. Genetically Modified Supertrees

  14. Dust Storms to promote algae blooms

  15. Reflective Clouds

  16. Modular Nuclear Power

  17. Tidal Power Driven Turbines

  18. Enhanced weathering

  19. Rooftop Wind Power

  20. Artificial Photosynthesis

While my favorites are genetically modified supertrees, artificial mechanical trees that take CO2 out of the air, and perhaps space mirrors, I would like to argue that we must try all and every kind of geoengineering, but with policy and foresight if we can.

As Keith Kloor of Discover Magazine writes:

Today, the world can’t agree on how to curb carbon emissions. So imagine the not-too-distant future, when climate change has unmistakably arrived but countries can’t settle on which technological fixes should be employed.

So the International Institute for Strategic Studies wonders,

what’s to stop a country facing monsoon after monsoon from unilaterally trying to cool the Earth?

Such “rogue geo-engineering” could easily worsen matters for everyone. That prospect would then force countries to treat climate change as a serious geopolitical issue.

Better late than never, I suppose.”

And again, Nature Journal Editorial writes:

Geoengineers should keep trying. They should come together and draft detailed, practical actions that need to be taken to advance governance in the field. Regulation in these cutting-edge and controversial areas needs to be working before the experiments begin, rather than racing to catch up.”

We have a problem though, the UN can't make up it's mind as science progresses towards possible fixes to save our current living system. As Russian scientists put pressure on the UN, as of now the UN reports that:

Six nations submit requests to support new UN Climate Technology Centre” which inludes, “The requests for support relate to a broad range of climate action, from renewable energy policies to public transportation, and from biodiversity monitoring to saving mangrove forests for coastal protection.”

That is simply not enough, shows us that our current level is 401.30ppm, that is over 50ppm from the 350 we all heard so much about from Bill Mckibben. The levels continue to rise, and everything Al Gore anticipated in his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” may be reality very soon.

There are scientific committees working on reducing global warming and CO2 levels, but none of them have influenced the UN to take on geoengineering as a human right.

Why not?

Despite many American and some foreign multinational corporations funding anti-global warming propaganda, the U.S. government on the other hand should treat climate change as a national security emergency. They are not. Instead, what they are troubled about is “anti government” protesters concerned about climate change.

You may ask, is the Pentagon, or the House going to do anything in relation to positive geoengineering? Nope, not so much. They have funded scientific research into climate change, that is true, but with our DOD more concerned about climate change influencing “anti-government” protests, how can the US, besides academia and the private sector influence the UN and world to take geoengineering seriously? How can we come up with a framework for cooperation, and fast?

The UN is also very cautious, and one cannot blame them – the genetically modified supertrees I mentioned before, well they might actually cross pollinate with not only other trees, but have a reverse affect on the environment. I doubt it very much, (with enriched soil and non-pollinating trees, we can control them) and concerns like these is what is keeping the world from reducing CO2 levels to the point that cities will be under water, and people around the equator will die if nothing is done.

The UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in Article 3 states that “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” and in Article 25 “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

What a mess.

Geoengineering is in our control if we do it right. We can push governments to declare that it is a right, for everything in Article 3 and 25 would become obsolete if the world goes into total chaos and millions, (if not billions) die from global warming. The DOD must stop treating environmentalists like criminals, even if there is protest.

The UN has to listen to the scientific community ASAP. People need to understand there is no negotiation with the sun, or the past destruction of the earth's ecosystem. We must cooperate on this matter and make it very political, as political as the right to "liberty and security."

The second installment of this article will look at the need for us to realize that the “ecosystem” is not an innate part of the earth, but instead an emergent complex system.




Kris Notaro
Kris Notaro served as Managing Director of the IEET from 2012 to 2015. He is currently an IEET Rights of the Person Program Director. He earned his BS in Philosophy from Charter Oak State College in Connecticut. He is currently the Bertrand Russell Society’s Vice-President for Website Technology. He has worked with the Bertrand Russell A/V Project at Central Connecticut State University, producing multimedia materials related to philosophy and ethics for classroom use. His major passions are in the technological advances in the areas of neuroscience, consciousness, brain, and mind.


Kris states:  “While my favorites are genetically modified supertrees, artificial mechanical trees that take CO2 out of the air, and perhaps space mirrors, I would like to argue that we must try all and every kind of geoengineering, but with policy and foresight if we can.”

Why not just reforest with clones of natural “Champion Trees” - the largest trees of their species?

The Man Who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, Champion Trees, and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet -

World’s First Planting of a Champion Redwood & Sequoia Forest -

More narrowly, one of the prime threats facing us is that greenhouse gases that we spew into the air will cause us to change our climate, from the hospitable Holocene, which for the past 13,000 odd years has enabled us to grow crops in particularly favorable climate, to the “Anthropocene,” a climate hot state that is unfavorable to the growing of crops outside without irrigation.

While eventually humans will probably cut their emissions gradually, due to policy choices and new technology that makes clean energy cheaper, we will be living with the effects of our previous carbon discharges for a while.

But, little known, there is a simple and very cheap way to immediately cool down the Earth: just add a little (more) sun dimming pollution to the air.  Heck, we already cool ourselves down inadvertently about 1C due to our short-lived sun dimming pollution.  If we don’t like the effect of our geoengineering we can just stop, and it will wash out of the air in a little while.

Ominously, when a complex system (like our climate) undergoes stress (like by our GHG emissions, and consequential global warming), it resists changing, but then abruptly changes to a new, more stable state.  We are looking at the abrupt change from the Holocene (which ushered in human civilization, with the favorable conditions for growing crops), to the Anthropocene, a man made climate hot state (that will severely challenge human civilization, with the unfavorable conditions for growing crops).

In the case of abrupt climate change, geoengineering would not only be a human right, but a human necessity.

I think it would be helpful to distinguish between carbon dioxide removal (CDR) and solar radiation management (SRM) techniques. CDR approaches involve enhancing and accelerating natural carbon sinks, whereas SRM approaches target reducing solar radiation hitting the planet. Only CDR actually deals with the root cause of climate change (too much CO2 in the atmosphere), and CDR techniques (such as afforestation biomass energy + CCS, and soil carbon sequestration are much less risky and better understood than SRM counterparts.

Focusing on developing CDR today is much less controversial than SRM, and highlighting this distinction I think could be very helpful for the outcomes you seek.

For more information on this topic, my blog ( is dedicated to following developments in CDR. And:

From the UN:
Future Earth to get globally distributed secretariat

Future Earth, a new international programme for global sustainability which brings together thousands of the world’s leading researchers on global environmental change, will have a new secretariat with a unique and innovative structure that spans three continents.

The announcement came today from the International Council for Science, on behalf of the members of the Science and Technology Alliance for Global Sustainability (the Alliance).

The preferred bidder comprises five global hubs which will function as a single entity, and are located in Canada (Montreal), France (Paris), Japan (Tokyo), Sweden (Stockholm) and the United States (Colorado).

Yuan-Tseh Lee, President of the International Council for Science (ICSU) said: “Solutions to the major sustainability challenges facing humanity require integrated science and a closer relationship with policy makers and stakeholders than we have seen to date.  Future Earth has been designed to respond to these urgent needs, and I am impressed by the innovative consortium that has come together to drive the programme forward. The consortium will work with tens of thousands of scientists already engaged in excellent global environmental change research, attract new communities, and build new partnerships to achieve the goals of global sustainability”

Over 20 expressions of interest were received for the Future Earth secretariat. Following a two-day bidder’s conference hosted in Paris, consolidated final bids were reviewed on the basis of their vision, capability, organisational model and management plan and funding.

Irina Bokova, Director-General, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said: “I am delighted that we are now in a position to establish a permanent secretariat for Future Earth, which will facilitate its full implementation. I am particularly satisfied with its excellent geographic representation, which is underpinned by a truly decentralized secretariat. UNESCO looks forward to continuing to support Future Earth and to working with its permanent secretariat, including by helping to connect its various hubs and nodes with UNESCO’s specialized networks and centres throughout the world”.

Achim Steiner, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP said: “I welcome the establishment of a globally distributed permanent secretariat for the Future Earth research initiative. UNEP and its regional offices are looking forward to continued collaboration with the secretariat and its regional centres across the science policy agenda.  Future Earth constitutes a strong asset to the world community of science as well as to support UNEP’s mandate to bring the latest findings from science into the policy agenda in order to keep the global environment under review. Global and regional assessments and engaging with communities of practice are central to building the new process for our Global Environmental outlook, GEO, developing IPBES, contributing to the IPCC and the work of the Global Environment Facility, GEF.”

World Meteorological Organization Secretary General, Michel Jarraud, welcomed the decision to establish the globally distributed permanent secretariat for the Future Earth programme. “Distributing the Secretariat among different regions will strengthen the ability of Future Earth to build bridges between communities of researchers and stakeholders worldwide.  WMO looks forward to continued strong engagement with the World Climate Research Programme, the WMO-led Global Framework for Climate Services and other strategic partnerships, so that Future Earth can gain access to some of the best available research for addressing the most pressing needs of society.”

The preferred bid includes a series of regional hubs, from which it is expected new regional networks will develop. These cover Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, Europe and Asia. Discussions to develop an African hub are underway, with plans in other regions also under consideration.  To assist researchers internationally, the Secretariat will support five core functions: coordination, communication and outreach, research enabling, capacity building, synthesis and foresight.

“This is an innovative model for traditional academic approaches to research and engagement, but one increasingly adopted throughout the private sector, because a globalized world demands innovative and collaborative approaches. We believe a globally distributed leadership model will serve the international community best in advancing new knowledge and novel approaches to solve humanity’s most pressing global sustainability challenges” said the international consortium, in a joint statement.

The preferred bidder consortium is currently working with the Alliance to refine details of their proposal ahead of agreeing a Memorandum of Understanding.  Members of the consortium are also in discussion with the Future Earth Interim Secretariat and the Science and Engagement Committees in order to plan a smooth transition with a view to becoming operational by the end of 2014.


Denise Young, International Council for Science (ICSU), T: +33 1 45 25 57 77, M: +33 6 5115 1952, denise.young(at)

Lucie Robidoux, Co-ordinator, Consortium for the Future Earth Secretariat, T: +1 514-571-6403, lucie.robidoux(at)


Future Earth is a new 10-year global research platform providing the knowledge and support to accelerate our transformations to a sustainable world. It will bring together three global environmental change programmes: the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), the International Human Dimensions Programme (IHDP) and Diversitas, engage closely with the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) and attract new research and stakeholder communities. Future Earth seeks to pioneer new approaches to international research bringing together many disciplines around a common research agenda. It will also provide an international platform for engagement to ensure that knowledge is generated in partnership with society and users of science.


The preferred bidder is the winning consortium from a competitive process to select a secretariat for Future Earth.  The consortium is currently working with members of the Alliance to refine aspects of their proposal and this work is expected to be completed by September 2014.

The preferred bidder is an international consortium of several lead organisations:  Montreal International (Montreal, Canada), the Ministry of Higher Education and Research (Paris, France), the Science Council of Japan (Tokyo, Japan), Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (Stockholm Sweden), and in Colorado, USA, the University of Colorado (Boulder) and Colorado State University (Fort Collins).

These organisations are complemented by regional hubs co-ordinated by: the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (for Latin America), the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (for Asia), the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research (for Europe) and The Cyprus Institute (for the Middle East and North Africa).  Discussions to develop an African hub are underway, with plans in other regions also under consideration.


The Science and Technology Alliance for Global Sustainability is an informal international partnership which brings together members from research, funding and the international sectors that sponsor Future Earth.

The core membership of the Alliance includes the International Council for Science (ICSU), the International Social Science Council (ISSC), the IGFA/Belmont Forum, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the United Nations University (UNU) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).


The International Council for Science (ICSU) is a non-governmental organisation with a global membership of national scientific bodies (121 Members, representing 141 countries) and International Scientific Unions (31 Members). The ICSU mission is to strengthen international science for the benefit of society.


Since its creation in 1945, UNESCO has pursued its mission of promoting science at the service of sustainable development and peace. It focuses on policy development and building capacities in science, technology and innovation and promoting and strengthening science education and engineering. UNESCO fosters the sustainable management of freshwater, oceans and terrestrial resources, the protection of biodiversity, and using the power of science to cope with climate change and natural hazards. The Organization also works to eliminate all forms of discrimination and to promote equality between men and women, especially in scientific research.


The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UNEP’s participation in the Alliance allows it to promote and implement environmental stewardship initiatives.


The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations. It is the UN system’s authoritative voice on the state and behaviour of the Earth’s atmosphere, its interaction with the oceans, the climate it produces and the resulting distribution of water resources.

Also from the UN…

Scientists urge more frequent updates of 30-year climate

baselines to keep pace with rapid climate change

Heidelberg, Germany, 9 July 2014 – The WMO Commission for Climatology has recommended that governments adopt a two-tier approach to updating the 30-year baselines that scientists and meteorological services use to monitor the weather and climate and make comparisons to past conditions.

Because the climate varies naturally from year to year, climatologists use standard 30-year averages of temperatures, precipitation and other variables to put, for example, the magnitude of a current heatwave or rainstorm into historical context. These 30-year historical periods are called “climate normals” and can be calculated at the local, national or global levels.

Climate normals are presently updated once every 30 years, so that the current official climate normal period is still 1961-1990. However, rising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are changing the Earth’s climate much faster than before. As a result, decision-makers in climate-sensitive industries may be basing important decisions on information that may be out of date.

In response, many national weather services have started to use the more recent 30-year period of 1981-2010 to give people a more recent context for understanding weather and climate extremes and forecasts. These weather services also view the 1981-2010 baseline as more useful for other operational services, such as forecasts of peak energy load and recommendations on crop selection and planting times. One consequence of this is that different researchers and weather services are using different baselines, which results in inconsistent comparisons.

Together with an array of other decisions and recommendations on climate data, monitoring and science, the WMO Commission for Climatology is therefore recommending that WMO adopt a new global standard of making decadal updates of climate normals for most purposes, while at the same time maintaining the 1961-1990 period as a stable reference for monitoring long-term climate variability and change.

Under this proposal, all countries would start using the period 1981-2010. This period would be updated every 10 years, so that the 30-year climate normal to be used in the 2020s would be 1991-2020. This approach would satisfy modern needs for current information and standardize weather and climate information and forecasts around the world.

Maintaining 1961-1990 as the base period for monitoring and assessing long-term climate variability and change would promote a better understanding of changes over the course of this century and beyond. The 1961-1990 reference period would be retained for climate change purposes until there is a compelling scientific case for changing it.

The proposed new technical regulation on “Calculating Climatological Standard Normals Every 10 Years” will be forwarded for consideration and adoption by the World Meteorological Congress. The Congress, which is the governing body of the World Meteorological Organization, will meet in Geneva from 25 May to 12 June 2015.

Today’s increasingly powerful computers and climate data management systems now make it much easier to conduct more frequent updates, which involve analyzing massive amounts of climate data. Another advantage of decadal updates is that they will make it possible to incorporate data from newly established weather stations into the normals more rapidly.

The WMO Commission for Climatology promotes international cooperation in climatology and the use of climate information and knowledge for supporting sustainable development, environmental protection and operational climate services. It also advises and guides the activities of the World Climate Programme, through the World Climate Applications and Services Programme, and the World Climate Data and Monitoring Programme.

Other issues discussed at the 3-8 July Heidelberg meeting of the Commission included future priorities and progress on key initiatives. For example, the initiative on centennial observing stations promotes efforts to build a sustained and long-term record of climate observations. Another initiative is facilitating the real-time international exchange of multi-annual to decadal climate predictions.

Weather, Climate and Water

For more information:
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