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“The substantive negotiations are going much slower than the urgency that marks the climate chaos and the impacts that we are already suffering. This opens the way for highly risky propositions like geoengineering to gain ground. "
Another round of international negotiations on climate change has just concluded, with the 23rd United Nations Global Conference on Climate Change in Bonn, Germany (COP 23, UNFCCC, 6-17 November). Although this conference made progress on some issues, such as the adoption of an indigenous platform and a gender action plan, the substantive negotiations are much slower than the urgency that marks the climate chaos and the impacts that we are already suffering. . This opens the way for highly risky propositions like geoengineering to gain ground.
In 2015, the Paris Agreement on climate change agreed to limit the rise in temperature to well below 2 ° C, but did not set the obligation to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, a crucial measure because these are the that cause climate change. Therefore, the countries mainly responsible for GHG emissions still do not consider real measures that attack the causes and allow a long-term solution. Instead they push false solutions, such as carbon markets and technological measures like geoengineering - the large-scale and technological manipulation of climate to manage the symptoms of climate change.
Climate manipulation has a military origin, but it is also a profitable business for oil, agribusiness and other of the most powerful companies on the planet: it means that they can continue to warm the planet with pollution from fossil fuels, agro-industrial food system and uncontrolled urbanization and at the same time make new profits from the sale of technology to cool it or to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
There are about twenty proposals to manipulate the climate at a global level, some are to block or reflect the rays of sunlight, for example by installing a large artificial volcanic cloud over the Arctic, injecting sulfates into the stratosphere or bleaching clouds with thousands of non-ships manned. Others are to remove gases from the atmosphere, pouring millions of tons of minerals and chemicals into the seas, or absorbing carbon by mechanical and chemical means and then burying it in geological bottoms; others seek to alter the weather locally, such as cloud seeding and hurricane management. All the proposals carry serious environmental, social and geopolitical impacts. For example, blocking some of the sunlight over the Arctic would have devastating impacts on other regions, causing droughts or floods in Africa, Asia and Latin America, putting the water and food sources of millions of people (here) at risk.
Although it is not on the official agenda, at COP 23 the most promoted geoengineering proposal was BECCS: bioenergy with carbon capture and storage. These are mega-plantations (trees and crops), to burn for bioenergy and capture carbon dioxide from this and other activities to store it in geological depths, such as used oil wells. This last technique comes from the oil industry (Enhanced Oil Recovery), was designed to recover deep reserves, but they do not use it because it is not economically viable. Renamed as a technique for climate change, they could get subsidies and carbon credits, achieving additional profits by extracting more oil and also being paid to combat the climate change that those same companies caused.
On the other hand, for BECCS to have any effect in keeping the temperature rise below 2 ° C or up to 1.5 ° C, 500 million to 6 billion hectares of monocultures would have to be planted, which is absurd. All the land currently cultivated is 1.5 billion hectares. That does not prevent those mega-plantations from being promoted, which although they do not serve for climate change, will be the business of whoever installs them, competing with the production of food and threatening the territory of peasants and indigenous people, now in the name of fighting change. climate.
At the same time as COP 23, a special hearing on geoengineering was held in the United States Congress, which shows that there is no contradiction between denying climate change and promoting geoengineering. (here)
To paraphrase an Exxon executive, the formula is we [the United States, the oil industry] do not cause climate change, but if it exists, we have the technological solution
As everyone knows that BECCS will not work to curb climate change (although what is done with BECCS will have very negative social and environmental impacts) other geoengineering proposals to block sunlight or remove carbon are presented as the true solution. Despite the fact that due to its high risks and potential impacts, the development of geoengineering is under a moratorium in the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Solar Geoengineering Program of Harvard University, is already planning to carry out an open field experiment (SCoPEx), in indigenous areas of Arizona, near the border with Mexico. (here)
There are many real, socially just and ecologically healthy ways to face climate change, such as peasant agroecology, restoration of ecosystems from communities, redesign of public transport, renewable energy and fair localities, among many others. Geoengineering must be prohibited: it is a gamble of unacceptable risks, to maintain the privileges of those who caused climate change and increase their profits.
BySilvia Ribeiro - ETC Group Researcher