What if an engineering solution involves manipulating the entire planet? There are certainly some design and deployment challenges there, yet there are engineers who are thinking globally. Geoengineering involves deliberately manipulating the Earth's environment through the addition or subtraction of structures or substances. Besides carbon sequestration, other strategies suggested to counteract the effect of greenhouse gases include the installation of space mirrors, adding aerosols to the atmosphere, cloud seeding, and enriching the oceans with iron. All geoengineering solutions need to consider unexpected side effects impacting other parts of the Earth system. For this reason, planetary-scale geoengineering is still controversial. NASA scientist Claire Parkinson (2010) notes:
Earth's system is really complicated, and scientists have not yet gotten a full handle on it, even though we've made wonderful progress in the last few decades, with all sorts of new tools, like satellite technology, ice core drilling, deep sea core drilling, and computer models that are allowing us to do wonderful things in terms of modeling aspects of the climate system. None of these tools is perfected to the point where we really can be sure about what's going to happen in the future. We just don't know enough yet. As time goes on, I could certainly see that more geoengineering schemes could come into play that would be logical to do. But in general, I would say we have to be really, really careful, in terms of thinking through the possible consequences of these schemes.
Learn more about geoengineering by reading "Geoengineering - Why or Why Not?". As you read, consider why Alan Robock's lecture was said to “speak to both science and politics, with a bit of history added in.”
Next read about Claire Parkinson and her views on the pros and cons of geoengineering to combat climate change. You can also listen to the podcast associated with this article.
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