Geoengineering -- Our Responsibility to the World: State of Green Business Forum 2010

Humans have been altering the planet for more than hundreds of years, so it's only our responsibility to actively use geoengineering to avoid catastrophe, said Jamais Cascio in his State of Green Business Forum presentation, “Hacking the Earth (Without Voiding the Warranty).”
Cascio is a senior fellow at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies and a research affiliate at the Institute for the Future, and recently released a book that collects his essays on geoengineering.

We know what we need to do to bring emissions down and avoid extreme climate change, he said, and we have most of the tools, but we might not have the time.

Geoengineering - concepts like ocean fertilization to trigger algae blooms, genetically modified trees, cloud brightening with seawater, carbon capture and burial, and injecting sulfate in to the stratosphere - would give us that time.

“We have been making changes for hundreds, thousands of years, and it's time to recognize it's our responsibility to keep this planet going,” Cascio said. “It is simply a way to keep us alive while we deal with carbon.”

Of course there are concerns. Geoengineering could cause, or be blamed for, other weather and climate changes. There could be conflicts over who has control and makes decisions about what kind of and how much geoengineering to do. And there are some in the world that might find a way to use geoengineering to strategically alter the weather of other countries or regions.

But balance that with the expected consequences of climate change, like the estimated 50 million climate refugees that will be around within a decade, or the estimated 30 million people who will die in central Africa due to conflicts triggers by climate issues.

In undertaking geoengineering, the world needs to follow five guidelines that Cascio laid out:

  1. It should be transparent, not done in secret and encourage open debate
  2. Set up an ongoing international advisory group
  3. Establish an EcoScientists Without Borders group to counter the bureaucracy of the group above
  4. Develop mechanisms for resolving disputes
  5. Create a ban on non-state projects because, as Cascio noted, there are people in the world with enough money to fund projects on their own, without the assistance of states