To­ward a more re­flec­tive planet

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

ar­gue that we should aban­don re­search on can­cer drug be­cause it is un­proven.

The US Na­tional Acad­emy of Sciences first called at­ten­tion to what it then de­scribed as “cli­mate mod­i­fi­ca­tion” in a 1983 re­port. It rec­om­mended care­ful re­search in 1992 and again in 2015. Ma­jor en­vi­ron­men­tal groups such as the En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fense Fund and the Nat­u­ral Re­sources De­fense Coun­cil sup­port care­ful, small-scale re­search. Yet no such pro­gramme ex­ists.

One rea­son for this is con­cern about the di­ver­sion of re­sources from other ap­proaches. And, of course, there are trade­offs. But the US, for ex­am­ple, has an an­nual cli­mate science bud­get of around $3 bil­lion. An ex­ploratory so­lar geo­engi­neer­ing pro­gramme, cost­ing only a few tens of mil­lions of dol­lars per year, is en­tirely fea­si­ble.

A larger ob­sta­cle to progress is fear that more at­ten­tion to geo­engi­neer­ing so­lu­tions would sap mo­ti­va­tion to cut emis­sions. Maybe so, but it would be bark­ing mad to take up smok­ing sim­ply be­cause an ex­per­i­men­tal can­cer treat­ment showed some prom­ise on a lab rat. And, in fact, it is con­ceiv­able that a con­certed ef­fort to ad­vance re­search on albedo mod­i­fi­ca­tion could spur ac­tion to cut emis­sions, much like a graphic look at the side ef­fects of chemo­ther­apy prompts some to stop smok­ing.

Which­ever re­ac­tion pre­vails, the moral im­per­a­tive to ex­plore a tech­nol­ogy that can pro­tect the poor­est and most vul­ner­a­ble this cen­tury would seem to trump amor­phous con­cerns that do­ing so could weaken the in­cen­tive to pur­sue so­lu­tions that would largely ben­e­fit fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

China has ini­ti­ated a lim­ited re­search pro­gramme on albedo mod­i­fi­ca­tion. The US has not. Given that albedo mod­i­fi­ca­tion is the kind of tech­nol­ogy that ne­ces­si­tates an open, trans­par­ent, and in­ter­na­tional re­search ef­fort – pre­cisely the kind of ef­fort in which the US ex­cels – this is a se­ri­ous fail­ing.

The US govern­ment should take the lead now in re­search­ing albedo mod­i­fi­ca­tion. Even if the re­sult was that albedo mod­i­fi­ca­tion does not work, the div­i­dends of such re­search would be enor­mous, ow­ing to the added pres­sure to cut emis­sions. And if it turned out to be suc­cess­ful, the so­cial, en­vi­ron­men­tal, and eco­nomic re­turns would be tremen­dous.

a promising

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