In a spot aired this afternoon called “Geoengineers: Who will rule the climate?” the world’s third largest radio station, Voice of Russia, seems to be wobbling on whether or not wholesale scientific experimentation could alter the destructive path of anthropomorphic climate change.
VOR, reportedly the first radio station to broadcast internationally, serves about 109 million listeners of 160 countries in 38 languages. The radio report comes after Al Gore’s emphatic negatives to the press last week on geoengineering, which have been misrepresented by nonscientist critics as the former vice-president saying we can afford to wait to contain climate change.
VOR presents the arguments on geoengineering in a manner that resembles the dominant global perspective: “The recent scientific trend of geoengineering means radical human interference with nature.” Geoengineering supporters suggest that we mimic large-scale, climate-altering natural events (like volcanoes) by implementing massive human-engineered projects like placing mirrors in orbit, smothering carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, and planting eucalyptus in the Sahara. While both advocates and protesters of the discipline generally accept this broad definition of geoengineering objectives, their interpretations of “radical” often differ.
VOR points out that geoengineering appeals to the greater public because it presents apparently simple solutions to complex climate change. Author Svetlana Kalmykova dismantles the “apparently simple” argument by quoting WWF Russia’s Alexey Kokorin, who has said that gigantic attempts like a sulfur screen or giant reflective system could redistribute solar radiation between the poles, change the location of the equator, and trigger a new ice age.
Kalmykova also points out that geoengineering deeply tempts economists as well. They forecast quick, effective results from radical measures–which they as nonscientists may not fully understand. Also, she points out that the lack of international treaties (as exemplified in the achingly slow forward inching of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) might seriously impair efforts to achieve consensus and oversee such enormous projects in a timely fashion.
A middle ground may lie in “a more harmless interference,” such as reforestation, which is a scientifically proven method of positively altering the balance of atmospheric gases, Kalmykova says. St. Petersburg State Polytech professor Sergey Avakyan believes that “we need more trees to accumulate carbon dioxide…. So instead of cutting trees down, we should be planting them.”
The broadcast report seems equivocal and comprehensive until this point. However, it ends by apparently advocating the implementation of sweeping geoengineering attempts to control climate change:
“Meanwhile, scientifically speaking, geoengineering is a great research discipline and it should be given every opportunity for continued research.”
Or does this statement imply that geoengineering should be confined to the realm of research and not actually put into practice until it has been proven effective? That’s a process Gore says may involve many years, if not decades, of unacceptable delay.