Wednesday, August 14, 2013

To the detriment of geoengineering studies: Apocalypticism vs. palliative-ism

By Oscar A. Escobar

 Is that all there is left?

 In other words: geoengineering or geoengineering?

"The alternative (to geoengineering) is the acceptance of a massive natural cull of humanity and a return to an Earth that freely regulates itself but in the hot state.”—Dr James Lovelock, August 2008

I have seen this quote in some responses to geoengineering  articles, [1][2] but I don’t know if it was actually said by him.

The thought is nevertheless terrifying, reason why apocalyptic rhetoric is used to argue for an immediate implementation of geoengineering technologies. [3]

The truth is, this could also be possible as a consequence of some of the more extreme geoengineering technologies, be it by catastrophic technological failure [4], shoddy or incompetent practices [5] and last but not least… purposely… i.e. sabotage, eco-terrorism or other bad intentions. [6]

The idea of geoengineering as “palliative” [7] is another form of rhetorical argument for geoengineering.

Here the palliative is chosen INSTEAD of the actual cure or meaningful action.

Palliative-ism is belied by the continued subsidies to our “global fossil fuel addiction” [8][9][9a*] over, let say, (at least) an equal level of commitment to the development of alternative and renewable  sources of energy [10] and  climate change mitigation strategies. [11]  

Moreover, the continuous efforts put forth by the fossil fuel industry and political allies to deny the effects of fossil fuel emissions [12] and their readiness to jump into the geonegineering bandwagon [13] are also indications that these technologies are not really seen as short term and temporary.

But no, that is not all that it's left, there are other options!

There are many climate change mitigation strategies which if infused with the necessary support for their development, diffusion and implementation would take us away from that most feared apocalypticism vs. palliative-ism duality.

Think of:

Efficiency in food production and distribution. (We currently waste about ½ of all the food produced in the US [14] and Globally. [15]) 

Wouldn't be more logical, safer and productive to invest some of the $1.9 trillion currently subsidizing fossil fuels [16] on tackling this problem instead?

What about putting some of that $1.9 trillion into alternative and renewable energy sources like wind, solar, geothermal, ocean thermal and tidal energy instead of making it difficult? [17] [18]

Yes, there are alternatives to geonengineering. 

But if there is a role to be played by geoengineering, I think that in general, the credibility of important geoengineering studies suffer by the 'emergency framing' and the assertion that GE by SRM would be a transitory and temporary process, while subsidies remain in place for the industry who, trough its emissions and actions, is one of the principal causes of anthropogenic climate change; an industry that in its totality is basking in record profits. [19][20]

Last Update:

 August 29, 2014
Un-burnable oil: An examination of oil resource utilisation in a decarbonised energy system

January 23, 2014


The James Lovelock BashersBy Keith Kloor | April 25, 2012 - Discover Magazine

James Lovelock Finally Walks Back His Absurd Doomism, But He Still Doesn’t Follow Climate Science
BY JOE ROMM  ON APRIL 23, 2012 - ClimateProgress

‘In case of emergency press here’: framing geoengineering as a response to dangerous climate change
Nils Markusson  et al – DOI: 10.1002/wcc.263 - Published online Dec. 02, 2013

November 19, 2013

Apocalypse Nicked!
Clare Heyward and Steve Rayner - 04 July 2013

Other readings:

Fact or Fiction?: We Can Push the Planet into a Runaway Greenhouse Apocalypse
A new study suggests human activity could, in theory, bring about the end of most life on Earth


[1] Comment by Brad Arnold (Mpls/MN/55416) on September 14th, 2012 to:
Geoengineering Faces Dilemma: Experiment or Not?
By Michael D. Lemonick

[2] Comment by dobermanmacleod 05:06 AM 9/2/09 to:
Is geoengineering humanity's last hope to avoid catastrophic global warming?
By David Biello

[3] Why Is Arctic Methane An Emergency?

[4] Double catastrophe: Intermittent stratospheric geoengineering induced by societal collapse
Seth D. Baum et al. 2013

[5] Rogue geoengineering scam artist dupes Haida, pollutes ocean, embarrasses Canada
Peter Sale’s blog October 18, 2012

[6] The violent side of environmentalism
Jan McGirk 28.06.2013

[7] Palliative
(of a treatment or medicine) relieving pain or alleviating a problem without dealing with the underlying cause:
short-term, palliative measures had been taken

International Monetary Fund January 28, 2013
Energy subsidies have wide-ranging economic consequences. While aimed at
protecting consumers, subsidies aggravate fiscal imbalances, crowd-out priority public
spending, and depress private investment, including in the energy sector. Subsidies also
distort resource allocation by encouraging excessive energy consumption, artificially
promoting capital-intensive industries, reducing incentives for investment in renewable
energy, and accelerating the depletion of natural resources. Most subsidy benefits are
captured by higher-income households, reinforcing inequality. Even future generations
are affected through the damaging effects of increased energy consumption on global
warming. This paper provides: (i) the most comprehensive estimates of energy subsidies
currently available for 176 countries; and (ii) an analysis of ―how to do‖ energy subsidy
reform, drawing on insights from 22 country case studies undertaken by IMF staff and
analyses carried out by other institutions.
Full article:

 [9] Trillions of Dollars are Pumped into our Fossil Fuel Addiction Every Year
 Skeptical science 2 April 2013

[9a] *(Added Jan, 10, 204) -Encyclopedia of Global Change: Environmental Change and Human Society, Volume 1
December 2001 ISBN-13: 978-0195108255


“These geo-engineering schemes seek to mitigate the effect of fossil fuel combustion on the climate without abating fossil fuel use” 

[10] Alternative & Renewable Energy

[11] MIT Climate CoLab

[12]Republican Climate Denial Is No Political Problem — For Now
The Atlantic wire

[13] Exxon-Mobil's "Geo-Engineering" Discourse Is Just More Futurological Greenwashing
The Futurist
Dale Carrico's blog Posted on July 23, 2012

[14] Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40
Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill
 Dana Gunders,  AUGUST 2012

Feeding the 9 Billion: The tragedy of waste
Institution of Mechanical engineers, 2013

[16] “On a ―post-tax‖ basis—which also factors in the negative externalities from energy consumption—subsidies are much higher at $1.9 trillion (2½ percent of global GDP or 8 percent of total government revenues).”

[17] Green Energy Advocates Criticize Lack of State Incentives
by Lauren Sausser , May 22, 2012

[18] Uncertainty Over Tax Credit Hurting Wind Industry
by Mijin Cha on August 24, 2012

[19] Big Oil Rakes in Huge Profits, Again
Center for American Progress
By Daniel J. Weiss and Jackie Weidman | August 2, 2013

[20]Big Oil’s Banner Year: Higher Prices, Record Profits, Less Oil
Climate Progress, FEBRUARY 8, 2012
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