by Derrick Broze
As the U.S. House of Representatives held its first hearing on
climate engineering it is becoming clear that the technology will
lead to international governance.
On Wednesday the U.S. House Subcommittee on Environment and
Subcommittee on Energy Hearing held the first House hearing on
the controversial subject of climate engineering or weather
The hearing, titled
Innovation, Research, and Technology," brought together members
of the House committees as well as representatives of think tanks,
scientists, and researchers in the field to discuss the future of
geoengineering research and whether the Trump administration
should allocate funding.
The push for
discussion of geoengineering from the Trump administration should
come as no surprise.
Back in January
we reported that,
Global Change Research Program (GCRP) quietly recommended new studies
looking into two specific areas of research involving geoengineering."
With the release of
their report, the GCRP became the first scientists in the federal
government to formally recommend studies involving geoengineering.
Wednesday's hearing include,
Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas)
Subcommittee Chairman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.)
Subcommittee Chairman Randy Weber (R-Texas)
Dr. Phil Rasch,
chief scientist for climate science, Laboratory Fellow,
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Dr. Joseph Majkut,
director of climate policy at the Niskanen Center
Dr. Douglas MacMartin,
senior research associate, Cornell University
Ms. Kelly Wanser,
principal director, Marine Cloud Brightening Project, Joint
Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean,
University of Washington
discussion began, the committee members established a working
definition of geoengineering.
According to a 2013
'geoengineering' describes this array of technologies that aim,
through large-scale and deliberate modifications of the Earth's
energy balance, to reduce temperatures and counteract
anthropogenic climate change.
Most of these
technologies are at the conceptual and research stages, and
their effectiveness at reducing global temperatures has yet to
few studies have been published that document the cost,
environmental effects, socio-political impacts, and legal
implications of geoengineering.
If geoengineering technologies
were to be deployed, they are expected to have the potential to
cause significant transboundary effects.
geoengineering technologies are categorized as either,
address the warming effects of greenhouse gases by removing
carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.
include ocean fertilization, and carbon capture and
address climate change by increasing the reflectivity of the
Earth's atmosphere or surface. Aerosol injection and space-based
reflectors are examples of SRM methods.
SRM methods do
not remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, but can be
deployed faster with relatively immediate global cooling results
compared to CDR methods
As the hearing
unfolded, Committee Chairman Lamar Smith acknowledged that geoengineering,
positive effects on the Earth's atmosphere," but cautioned "we
have a lot to learn."
illustrated his skepticism of
man-made climate change, stating,
"While we are
not sure this is plausible, some scientists believe it could
achieve substantial environmental benefits at a cheaper cost
acknowledge the "unintended consequences of geoengineering," drawing
attention to the fact that studies have shown altering the climate
in one part of the world could have disastrous effects elsewhere.
"One concern is
that brightening clouds could alter rain patterns, making it
rain more in some places or less in others," Smith stated.
"We still do
not know enough about this subject to thoroughly understand the
pros and cons of these types of technologies."
geoengineering currently find themselves with a lack of public
funding for these programs, as well as a skeptical public.
This hearing was
aimed at bringing the topic into the mainstream consciousness and
potentially garnering support for funding.
Chairman Andy Biggs
mentioned the need for further study, stating,
"if in the
future the government wants to actually apply the concepts and
findings of geoengineering research, we must fully examine both
the potential merits and potential pitfalls of this emergent
Kelly Wanser, principal
director of the Marine Cloud Brightening Project, also encouraged
"governance and regulatory efforts."
that oversight should be "rapidly established."
Director of Climate Policy at The Niskanen Center, mentioned
already given limited authority to regulate experiments intent
on altering the weather, including changing planetary albedo."
"at this point,
those regulations are limited to reporting requirements."
Majkut called for
Congress to implement "significant civil and administrative
penalties" and potentially criminal penalties for violating the
also consider whether to extend that criminal liability not only
to such experiments originating within or over the United
States, but also conducted outside of our borders that result in
an impact on the United States," Majkut stated.
considerations would need the input of the diplomatic and
is described as a libertarian think-tank aimed at influencing
"Washington insiders," as opposed to the public.
The Center takes on
issues like the environment and works to influence political
In a recent blog titled "Rightly
Governing Solar Geoengineering Research," Majkut and colleagues
wrote about need for,
"small-scale field tests" and "a domestic
regulatory governance structure for research."
Niskanen Center wrote that national governance structures might
"as a test-bed for governance ideas" which could "seed
discussions on international deployment" of geoengineering over the
coming two decades.
emphasis on the need for domestic and international governance
structures illustrates the uncertainty around how exactly geoengineering will affect neighboring nations and communities.
Climate Geoengineering Governance Initiative recently
released a statement in support of "well-governed research on
geoengineering" and urged governments and other institutions to
support the University of Calgary's recent publication of a Code
of Conduct for Responsible Geoengineering Research.
is a matter for all society, worldwide, as it affects us all,"
Carnegie wrote. "This means we need to hear many more voices
than currently being heard in the geoengineering debate."
While these debates
have mostly focused on the thoughts and opinions of government
leaders and political pundits, the majority of the world is being
left out of these discussions.
It is absolutely
vital for elected officials to discuss matters of such import, but
we cannot allow the politicians alone to dominate the conversation.
What of developing countries, indigenous communities, and local
populations? Their voices must
be heard in order to fully assess the risks of geoengineering.
Do the governments
of the world care about the will of the people, or will they push
forth with their agenda regardless of public opinion or concern?
These are important
questions which need to be considered among any debate on the
potential of engineering the climate of our planet.
One way or another,
our lives and future depend on the outcome of this scientific