The following was blogged live from our Fall Conference on September 18, 2012 – Cooling on Climate Change: Designing the Message.
Does geo-engineering have a role to play in climate mitigation? Should we be researching seeding the atmosphere with soot to try to lower global temperatures, for example?
Renowned expert James Hansen, speaking today at Urban Green’s fall conference says it might. “Unfortunately, we are going to pass a dangerous point,” and so it may become necessary.
On the other hand, he points out that “geo-engineering is not a long term solution.” Often, it focuses on limiting solar energy input in order to cool temperatures, but this does not affect other issues already in progress as a result of increased carbon levels, such as ocean acidification and melting ice caps.
Hansen was drily realistic about the chances of geo-engineering success; as he put it, “Covering up one pollutant with another may have issues.” Luckily, he was not without proposals. In his conception, “the real solution has to be to get some of the CO2 out of the atmosphere.” This may include pricing carbon in some way, perhaps by a fee and dividend scheme (assuming it can be sold on the national political level).
Green buildings are at the forefront of Hansen’s conceptual solution, since they consume 40% of US energy, and much progress has been made (especially in New York!). He thinks codes are necessary “but what will really make a difference is when carbon has a price.” Hansen pointed out how much can still be gained in the building area, as well. It was a welcome spot of good news amongst the depressing news that we have already passed the point of avoiding the effects of climate change altogether.