A Mostly Self Balancing System
While I don’t feel like seeking and citing evidence which suggests that the Earth’s climate has the capability to correct itself after experiencing disruptive inputs, I’m inclined to believe so. In other words, I believe that if humanity were to stop doing things like burning fossil fuels and clearing forests the consequences of having done so for the last hundred and fifty years would eventually diminish and go away without any help.
That’s why the events described in this article trouble me. Apparently some folks are so adamant that humanity can engineer climate change away that they’ll go ahead and experiment with dumping iron filings into the ocean to increase plankton growth in spite of a UN moratorium on doing so. I doubt that anything interesting will happen, but I’m sure the parties involved will claim promising results in order to gain investors and collect more grant money, money that’s better spent on research into and proven methods of reducing pollution. Also, when people proselytize geo-engineering in Popular Science or on shows like Project Earth, they promote an unhealthy notion that we’ve got a Plan B for the planet or that we can renovate the Earth to accommodate our behavior. What hubris! With the same notion, one can justify urban sprawl. Rather, we should modify our behavior to accommodate the Earth, and by extension, accommodate each other.
I can’t shake the feeling that these geo-engineers—I hate the term but it already has a Wikipedia entry—just want to profit on the hype (cough, Y2K) or are just crazy. Even if we have pushed the climate past its tipping point, and assuming that climate change can be intentionally reversed, only a cooperative, concerted effort from every country could overcome the climate’s inertia. I doubt that even an alien invasion could spur such an effort. Nevermind that reversing climate change sounds too much like un-baking a cake.
Insulating polar ice with blankets, spraying sea water into the air to make clouds, manipulating plants and creatures to gobble carbon dioxide, and other schemes either signal traps for venture capitalists or good faith yet futile attempts to avoid various nightmare scenarios. Our best bet is to eliminate pollution, rehabilitate forests and other ecologies, adapt the best we can to whatever happens next, and hopefully learn a lesson.