Geoengineering: Can Technology Save Us?

In the realm of climate science, there are two approaches to dealing with climate change- adaptation or mitigation. Adaptation argues that humans will have to adapt to the new warmer, more extreme climate in order to survive.

Mitigation is the most common, and it “refers to efforts to reduce or prevent emission of greenhouse gases. Mitigation can mean using new technologies and renewable energies, making older equipment more energy efficient, or changing management practices or consumer behavior. It can be as complex as a plan for a new city, or as a simple as improvements to a cook stove design. Efforts underway around the world range from high-tech subway systems to bicycling paths and walkways”.

A new field of study that has been gaining momentum is geoengineering. Geoengineering is “the deliberate large-scale intervention in the Earth’s natural systems to counteract climate change”. Essentially, it is the idea that we can develop a technological solution to climate change that does not involve a change to human behavior. Admittedly, that is one the largest obstacles to taking meaningful action on climate change. It is very difficult to change human behavior on an individual level, much less on a global scale. Proponents of geoengineering suggest that while reduction of greenhouse gases is necessary, it will not be sufficient to prevent the dire effects of climate change. Therefore, they propose additional measures in terms of direct intervention to be coupled with more traditional mitigation tactics. Below is an image of some of the proposed geoengineering solutions.

Some proposed geoengineered solutions to climate change

Geoengineered solutions to climate change

However, there are understandable concerns when it comes to geoengineering, particularly in the area of unintended consequences. Is it really wise to deliberately alter the environment in some way? The ecosystem is such a complex, interdependent system, and altering one aspect may send the whole system into chaos. The argument could also be made that we are already indirectly undertaking geoengineering by contributing to climate change in the first place.

What do you think? Do you think that geoengineering is the solution that we have been waiting for, or do you think that it is too risky? Leave a comment below!

For more information on mitigation:

For more information on geoengineering:

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2 Responses to Geoengineering: Can Technology Save Us?

  1. Can technology save us? It all depends on what is meant by the word “save.” If by “save” it is meant that technology can temporarily allow for the current 7 billion people plus additional billions more to exist on this planet, the answer is yes. But if “save” means creating a sustainable solution that resolves our current state of overpopulation while preserving biodiversity, then the answer is no. There are no meaningful, long-term technological solutions to overpopulation.

  2. seleonard310 says:

    I completely agree. Without initiating long-term plans to reduce overpopulation and consumption, there is really nothing that technology can do. If anything, it can only buy us a little more time while we (hopefully) figure out how to live in a sustainable way. You raise a good point with overpopulation, as it is ultimately the underlying cause for the climate change that we are experiencing now. We simply have too many people consuming too much of the Earth’s resources. If there were only, say, 2 billion people on the planet, it wouldn’t matter nearly as much if we still used coal as a primary fuel source (though it still wouldn’t be great).

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