Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The New Term for "Geoengineering"

"Climate Intervention."

At least, that's the term being used now by the National Research Council, as Marcia McNutt and Ken Caldiera talked about on a teleconference today regarding two recent NRC reports on the subject.

Why the change? Two reasons:

1) "geo" implies, they said, a focus on the Earth as a body, which is not where climate changes takes place.....

And more importantly....

2) "engineering" implies a project or process under precise control, with a definite outcome with little uncertainty, while "climate intervention" does not.

Intervention is more like a surgeon operating on you for cancer -- s/he and you would like the result to be something specific, something tailored, something definite -- but you both know, and so does everyone else, that it may not be. There is uncertainty.

It will be interesting to see if this nomenclature takes hold. It probably should. It would introduce a sense of uncertainty that the idea needs to convey, because it does carry a lot of uncertainties, especially for albedo modification ("solar radiation management"), which Ray Pierrehumert calls "batshit insane" "barking mad."

And yet I expect that in 20-30 years, the world -- or at least its major powers -- or at least one of them -- will be doing something like spraying aerosols into the stratosphere to reflect sunlight. Floridians are going to demand it, as climate change suddenly thumps them right in the forehead and their state begins to go underwater. It will become a presidential campaign issue. Scientists will point to their reports and warn of the dangers and uncertainties, and politicians will do it anyway. And most of the country, still as addicted to fossil fuels as ever, with Big Oil and Big Gas still buying politicians, thinking no deeper than did Freakonomics on the issue, will support it. Because it's easy.

That's what I expect.

By the way, Ray Pierrehumbert, of this "barking mad" article in Slate, was a co-author on these NRC reports.

1 comment:

William Connolley said...

FWIW, wiki already had a redirect from "climate engineering" to "climate engineering", but I added a bit of text to that: