Thursday, December 29, 2011
Monday, December 19, 2011
The second report, "Large-Scale Intentional Interventions Into the Climate System?," is more systematic, more agnostic, and more useful. Written for the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), it is a scoping study that seeks to map the scientific, economic, social, and political aspects of the emerging debate on climate engineering. One of the more interesting subjects it explores is how geoengineering is likely to be received by German political culture:
According to the experts consulted, the potential for social conflict in Germany is conditioned by a variety of factors. If Germany were to take part in a CE [climate engineering] initiative, either at an operative level or as a financial backer, this would raise the potential for conflict more appreciably than if Germany were merely a passive observer of such developments. Experts agree that the potential for conflict would increase with the implementation of CE measures in close proximity to Germany. At the other end of the scale, a German refusal to participate in an international initiative would lead to less intensive conflicts, as Germany is not one of the countries affected most strongly by climate change and the urgency of adaptation measures would not be perceived as a priority by most observers. Protests expressing solidarity with others could be expected, but not on any very large scale. If CE technologies were to be deployed against the will of the United Nations and many developing countries, the resulting potential for conflict would however be severe (Ch. 8, p. 15).
Unsurprisingly, these experts also feel that Germany would be more inclined to take part in geoengineering research than in deployment. The actual politics are no doubt more complicated than what is depicted in the BMBF study, yet this report does an excellent job of sketching out the details and complexities of these issues. Clearly there is more to geoengineering than either "effective climate protection or megalomania," despite what the Federal Environment Agency suggests.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Friday, December 9, 2011
Thursday, December 8, 2011
In practice, the project was poorly managed and marred by inadequate oversight, miscommunication, flawed trials, and unrealistic expectations. The trials were discontinued amid confusion, and the project fizzled out leaving participants in the dark--"Even farmers who had described participation in the trial as a positive experience at the time, were wondering what benefits - financial or otherwise, they had actually gained from the experience" (p. 19). The report contends that Biochar Fund leveraged the initial appearance of success in Cameroon to obtain funds from the Congo Basin Forest Fund (CBFF) for a second biochar project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Even proponents of biochar must admit that Biochar Fund comes off looking sloppy and unprofessional at best in the wake of this report. But it is important to emphasize that a mediocre project run by Biochar Fund is not equivalent to the failure of biochar as a climate remediation technology. The report itself notes that "Verification of the actual trial results would have been impossible at this stage and was therefore not an aim of this investigation" (p. 20). Indeed, "farmers told us that they had been impressed by the quality and quantity of the maize harvested" (p. 12). From a geoengineering perspective, the carbon sequestration impacts of biochar were never even examined. Biochar Fund deserves to be admonished, but "guilt by association" should not extend to biochar as a whole.
Monday, December 5, 2011
In Australia, the government announced AUD$2 million in biochar research grants as part of its Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) roll-out (see Australian Carbon Farming Passes, 8/22). Grants will be made under a new Biochar Capacity Building Program (BCBP), intended to spur agricultural investment in biochar and participation in the national carbon market set to launch next year.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
- 8% of respondents correctly defined "geoengineering."
- 45% of respondents correctly defined "climate engineering."
- 72% of respondents approved of SRM research.
These results shed some light on the familiar debate over using "geoengineering" versus "climate engineering" to describe large-scale climate interventions, by demonstrating that the latter term has more traction among the general public. However, the term "geoengineering" cannot simply be dismissed as a confusing, less appealing label, since it is now uniquitous in climate policy discussions. The debate will go on (and I will continue to use the terms interchangeably on this blog).
More significantly, responses indicate strong support for SRM research and development, while predictably less support for actual deployment. This is encouraging news, and flies in the face of claims of widespread public opposition made by ETC Group, EcoNexus, and others. Indeed, when such assertions are confronted with the sort of empirical evidence produced by this survey, opposition to SRM and climate engineering more broadly begins to look less like the voice of the people, and more like an atavistic, Luddite agenda pursued by a handful of media-savvy fringe groups.
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Saturday, October 8, 2011
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Friday, August 26, 2011
- Climate engineering is not currently an option for addressing climate change.
- Most climate experts support a major research effort.
- The public is open to climate engineering research, but with reservations.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
A key concern was that international governance and regulatory structures be under development now, and not only in the event of full scale deployment, to help govern and co-ordinate research such as the test-bed and SPICE. Whilst not dismissing the importance of developing technical knowledge and proving efficacy in relation to geoengineering methods and stratospheric aerosols in particular, it was clear that our participants felt that funding decisions for both the test-bed and research stemming from the test-bed should be based as much on issues of governance and ethics, as on the science, engineering and technical knowledge (p. 24).
Monday, August 22, 2011
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Saturday, July 9, 2011
Sunday, July 3, 2011
Monday, June 27, 2011
Friday, June 24, 2011
Second, in the US, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has signed off on the Barrasso bill, which would set up federal prizes to reward breakthroughs in DAC technology (see Additional Information on Barrasso Direct Air Capture Bill, 4/15). The CBO determined that, if enacted, the Barrasso bill would have no net budget impact. This is an important step as the bill moves forward through the Senate. To be sure, DAC faces serious obstacles in becoming an effective tool for achieving negative emissions, with high cost arguably its biggest hurdle. But support from governments and scientific establishments would help make the challenge a bit less daunting.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
The release of this report is timed to coincide with an UNCLOS meeting currently taking place in New York. It also happens to coincide with the IPCC geoengineering meeting now underway in Peru, as well as a CBD geoengineering meeting scheduled for next week in London. Hopefully these IPSO findings will influence deliberations at these gatherings by underscoring the urgent need for research on possible geoengineering strategies.
Monday, June 20, 2011
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Today, the paper published a scathing opinion piece authored by Pat Mooney, Executive Director of ETC Group. This op-ed concludes with remarkable self-righteousness: "The likelihood that geo-engineering could bring a safe, lasting, democratic and peaceful solution to the climate crisis is miniscule. The potential for unilateralism, private profiteering and disastrous, irreversible, unintended effects is great. Geo-engineering does not deserve serious consideration within climate policy circles. It should be banned." While the Guardian also published a note sympathetic to geoengineering earlier in the week, this took the form of a short letter that was subsequently attacked in the paper's IPCC article. If nothing else, this recent run gives readers an improved understanding of where the Guardian comes down on the issue of geoengineering.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
The IPCC aims to be “policy relevant” and “policy neutral,” and must take great care not to squander its credibility on geoengineering ... The IPCC’s announcement of the expert meeting already suggests that geoengineering has a place in the portfolio of legitimate responses to climate change (a highly contestable claim), and that the role of the IPCC is to define what that role is. Permit us to stress that this is not primarily a scientific question; it is a political one.
On this last point, the HOME campaign is indeed correct, but to suggest that ETC Group and its partner organizations represent the politics of social justice in this regard is arrogant and self-serving.
Interestingly, both Friends of the Earth (FOE) International and FOE US have signed this letter in support of the HOME position. This is curious, given that FOE (England, Wales & Northern Ireland) recently stated that geoengineering may be necessary to avert a climate catastrophe (see Friends of the Earth Steps Up, 12/18/10). This apparent disagreement may signal splintering within the FOE federation, and may presage additional fracturing within the global environmental community on the question of climate change and geoengineering.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Monday, June 6, 2011
For established frameworks, the Global CCS Institute has assembled a Carbon Capture and Storage Regulatory Test Toolkit, to assist government evaluations of CCS legal and regulatory structures. The toolkit lays out a test exercise procedure for assessing the adequacy and effectiveness of permit processes and other regulatory aspects of the entire CCS chain, from capture to decommissioning. This package also aids in the creation of policy instruments including stakeholder maps, regulatory tables, and sample applications.
These sorts of tools will be increasingly useful as jurisdictions around the world look to accelerate CCS pilots, demonstrations, and other activities, as exemplified by a new Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) regulatory initiative.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Thursday, May 12, 2011
There is, of course, ample evidence that nature is asking for help (see, for example, Alarming New Study from the Arctic Council, 5/5/11). There is also a strong case to be made that the precautionary principle requires geoengineering rather than precludes it. In any case, Bolivia has clearly established itself as a leading critic of geoengineering on the international scene. The geoengineering community is wise to follow its next steps closely.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
"It may be prudent to consider geo-engineering if irreversible and catastrophic climate impacts cannot be managed with mitigation and adaptation. A governance system for balancing the risks and benefits of geoengineering, and a transparent, broadly consultative consensus decision-making process to determine what risks are acceptable must be developed before any action can be taken" (p. 14).
This is based on an acceptance of climate science, acknowledgment of our Anthropocene epoch, an ethic of environmental stewardship, and concern for the poor who are most vulnerable to global warming. While this report does not represent the official policy of the Holy See, it was organized and produced under Vatican auspices, and its authors include some unexpected names (Rajendra Pachauri, Alan Robock). The report and its recommendations may have a small effect on geoengineering debates in predominantly Roman Catholic areas (parts of Europe, Latin America, the Philippines, etc.), and may also influence evolving views on climate intervention within other religious traditions and institutions.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
These changes are attributed unequivocally to climate change, and AMAP expects worse to come, for instance, "Average Arctic autumn-winter temperatures are projected to increase by between 3 and 6 degrees C by 2080, even using scenarios in which greenhouse gas emissions are projected to be lower than they have been for the past ten years" (p. v). Despite this outlook, the study's authors call for nothing more than mitigation and adaptation, evidently resigning themselves to the collapse of the Arctic cryosphere. The potential of geoengineering to halt this collapse is ignored, without explanation or even acknowledgement.
Over the years, many observers have pointed to the Arctic Council as an ideal forum for organizing and conducting geoengineering research, in particular SRM. The Arctic is already suffering disproportionately from climate change, and member states all experience the negative effects of global warming in similar ways. Arctic Council membership is restricted and small, which simplifies bargaining and negotiation among governments. All members are developed countries, which avoids the familiar specter of North-South climate conflict. And the Council incorporates indigenous peoples of the region as "Permanent Participants," representing the interests of those most vulnerable to Arctic decline. So far the Arctic Council has ignored repeated entreaties to consider the possible benefits of climate engineering. Perhaps the results of its own research will now spur the Council to alter its position.
Friday, April 29, 2011
"This analysis offers the following preliminary results for policymakers. If U.S. policymakers believe that some type of SRM technology is possible, they ought to prefer the Strong Norms policy [i.e., promote research]. ... If they believe that successful SRM technology is unlikely, U.S. policymakers might prefer the Ban [i.e., oppose research] or No Norms [i.e., laissez faire] option to Strong Norms" (pp. 39-40).
In other words, if geoengineering works, support geoengineering research, and if geoengineering fails, forget about it. These conclusions are unremarkable, but the study is significant in signalling continuing interest in geoengineering on the part of the US defense establishment. The effects of this interest are, of course, open to debate.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
So far, work on the Standard has focused on land use management. The first sector-specific protocol, Panda Standard Sectoral Specification for Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (PS-AFOLU), was released for public comment late last year (the comment period ended in January). This draft protocol explicitly recognizes both reforestation/afforestation ("Forestation and Vegetation Increase") and biochar ("Cropland Management") as eligible project types. Needless to say, the elaboration and adoption of PS-AFOLU and other protocols warrants close attention going forward.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Friday, April 15, 2011
Thursday, April 14, 2011
- McKinsey asserts proprietary rights over the curve, and does not disclose the assumptions, baselines, and calculations on which its model is built. As a result, it is not clear how McKinsey derives its calculations of forest carbon stocks, carbon flows, and abatement option potentials. This lack of transparency is particularly problematic in a field such as REDD where open measurement and verification is critical to maintaining the integrity of monitoring and payments mechanisms.
- In many cases, the data that populate the McKinsey model are inaccurate, speculative, or even nonexistent.
- Forest sector baseline scenarios (which help determine compensation for emissions reductions) tend to exaggerate the growth potential of extractive industries, leading to overcompensation for logging and agribusiness interests.
- The McKinsey curve contains systematic biases in favor of large-scale commercial operations at the expense of subsistence farming, for example, by failing to account for the considerable implementation costs associated with REDD projects that would target subsistence agriculture.
- The McKinsey model is built on several heroic assumptions regarding REDD state institutional capacity that overestimate the abatement potential of large, centralized forest emissions reduction projects.
The net result of these defects is, according to Greenpeace, "that when rainforest countries employ McKinsey to apply its methodologies to their REDD+ prospects, they are in danger of wasting money on advice that harms their own interests and threatens the biosphere. A failure to insist on adequate safeguards for biodiversity or the rights of forest-dwelling peoples, or indeed to provide a realistic assessment of the technical and economic feasibility of proposals, does not merely threaten harmful consequences for the client country, but actually jeopardises the whole future of the REDD+ concept" (p. 27).
It is hard not to sympathize with the central charge leveled by Greenpeace at McKinsey, that the confidential nature of the McKinsey MAC curve is deeply problematic when that curve becomes the basis of national forest policies (e.g., Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Guyana, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Indonesia) and, in effect, global REDD policy. Certainly McKinsey has rights to intellectual property, but this must be balanced against the political and practical requirements for transparency in the formulation of international forest and climate policy. Unfortunately, much of what follows in the Greenpeace argument is intended to discredit large-scale reforestation and afforestation projects as counter to the interests of developing countries, forest inhabitants, biodiversity, and the global climate system. From the perspective of geoengineering, centralized commercial and industrial reforestation/afforestation strategies are worthy of consideration as ways to enhance carbon sinks and reduce atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, and there is no a priori reason to regard this approach as inimical to social and ecological wellbeing. Surely it is possible to increase the transparency of the REDD policy process in a way that maintains openness to the potential of reforestation and afforestation to help combat the effects of climate change.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Thursday, April 7, 2011
- Most participants assumed that a coalition of advanced countries, led by the US and UK, would spearhead SRM research efforts. Membership may resemble the G20.
- An independent panel of experts would be assembled to evaluate and offer recommendations on specific research proposals.
Hopefully more information will be made available in the near future.
Monday, March 28, 2011
The ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan threatens not only the local population and environment, and perhaps places farther away, but also threatens conventional plans to mitigate carbon emissions in response to global warming. Despite safety and cost concerns, the emissions-free baseload electricity provided by nuclear power is an essential component of any credible plan to shift the world economy away from fossil fuels. In recent years there has been talk of a “nuclear renaissance” driven by improved reactor designs, generous loan guarantees, streamlined licensing and regulatory procedures, growing recognition of the climate benefits of nuclear energy, and the absence of serious nuclear incidents since Chernobyl in 1986. This renewed push for nuclear power may be stopped or even reversed by the damage and possible meltdown at Fukushima Dai-ichi.
In the US, safety concerns now dominate the nuclear debate, and many government and corporate leaders have begun to reconsider new and proposed investments in the nuclear industry. Chinese authorities have announced plans to review construction of 77 new nuclear reactors. Germany, the country perhaps least friendly toward nuclear power, is set to backtrack on a 2010 decision to extend the lives of seven aging reactors. France, which is among the strongest proponents of nuclear power, is unique in viewing the crisis in Japan as a potential commercial opportunity for its domestic nuclear firms.
Movement away from nuclear power cannot be offset by increases in other forms of zero-emissions generation—renewables such as wind and solar are characterized by technical and performance constraints, available hydropower resources are dwindling, and energy efficiency faces inherent limitations in its capacity to squeeze out additional savings. Greater reliance on natural gas is an improvement over coal, but still results in significant carbon emissions. The remaining strategy to fight climate change is geoengineering, making it the only tool available to take up the slack left by a fading nuclear industry in any concerted effort to stabilize the climate. Geoengineering, in particular CDR, is therefore likely to play an even larger role in future climate policy following the hydra-headed disaster in Japan.