Geoengineering

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March 10, 2020
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March 10, 2020

Geoengineering

To counteract extreme weather and climate change, researchers are looking to geoengineering—large-scale technological and scientific interventions to counteract the damage we’ve caused to the planet.

Key Insight 

To counteract extreme weather and climate change, researchers are looking to geoengineering—large-scale technological and scientific interventions to counteract the damage we’ve caused to the planet.

What You Need To Know

Mirrors in space, capturing carbon dioxide, seeding clouds with particles, and injecting gasses into the atmosphere are all examples of geoengineering. We’re at the earliest stages of research and exploration, but it’s a controversial solution to our climate change problem. When Congress approved the $1.4 trillion spending package in December 2019, it included a small amount of money to further this research: $4 million in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration budget and $15 million in the Department of Energy coffers.

Why It Matters

Scientists can run simulations using available data, but it’s impossible to predict the second- and third-order implications of geoengineering in advance. Even so, the fate of the whole planet is at stake. The scientific community is divided on geoengineering because some of the proposed techniques could potentially adversely affect natural weather patterns. No one country can—or should—take a unilateral lead on geoengineering. The National Academy of Sciences is studying whether solar geoengineering research should be pursued, and if so, under what parameters.

The Impact

Proposals for geoengineering projects are starting to gain wider public acceptance, which could influence regulators to allow experimentation in the years to come.

Watchlist

5 Gyres Institute, Arizona State University, Blue Planet, Carbon Engineering, Carbon180, Chemical Sciences Division of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory, Chevron, ClimeWorks, Cloud Brightening Project, CO2 Solution, Columbia University, ExxonMobil, George Washington University, Global Thermostat, Hellisheidi, Incite.org, Keutsch Research Group at Harvard University, National Energy Technology Laboratory, Occidental Petroleum, Ocean Cleanup, Princeton University scientist Michael Wolovick, Silicon Kingdom Holdings, Silverlinings, European Union, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Seabin Project, Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment group, Swiss government, U.S. Department of Energy, the United Nations, University of Washington, YCombinator.

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