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This is in reference to the International Solar Geoengineering Non-Use Agreement proposed by a group of more than 60 senior scholars last week. They argue that technology cannot be properly managed and that it is an “unacceptable risk.”
The non-use agreement on solar geoengineering looks great at first glance. Indeed, we should ban the use of solar geoengineering, as the concept is very immature and theoretical; Science is not about understanding what the reflection of sunlight will do for the ecosystem, climate or human systems. That’s not a new idea: leading researchers proposed such a moratorium in science about 10 years ago. We should also ban patenting technologies, as indicated in this non-use agreement.
The difficulty with last week’s proposal is that it fails to adequately separate research from development or deployment. It’s a thin veil (or maybe not a veil) attempt to suppress research on the subject. Last year, the authors wrote a letter to Nature objecting to an editorial entitled “Give research a chance at solar geoengineering”. His call: “We call on our governments and funding agencies to stop the generalization of research into planetary solar-geoengineering technologies.”
The non-use agreement does not strictly prohibit “legitimate climate research”. Instead, it calls for a commitment to ban external experiments and for national funding agencies to be banned from “supporting” the development of solar geoengineering technology by local and international organizations. The non-use proposal further states that countries should “raise objections to the future institutionalization of planetary solar geoengineering as a policy option in relevant international bodies, including an assessment by an intergovernmental panel on climate change.” So we do not know how the leading institute of international scientists evaluates science.
What is the real goal here? It is not to create knowledge or to encourage deliberation, but to make research unpleasant. Extensive Argument The authors issued a vision in which they express their support for the non-use of philanthropic foundations and publicly declare non-funding for the development of solar geoengineering technology. Universities, science organizations, civil society organizations, parliaments and more will publicly support international non-use agreements. The result? “All of these technologies will make it increasingly unattractive for any serious research group to invest, including in countries that do not immediately sign international non-use agreements.”
In other words, the idea is to create such intense social pressure that no serious research group would want to spend time on solar geoengineering for fear of criticism. Philanthropists and government agencies will be reluctant to fund such research for the same reason.
That would be a problem, as solar geoengineering can have really significant benefits. Solar geoengineering can significantly increase global temperatures and potentially offset serious side effects, such as a decrease in crop yields and an increase in the frequency and intensity of hurricanes and hurricanes. We don’t know everything about what he will do. But there is a strong humanitarian case for learning more, even if learning more reveals that the downsides outweigh the benefits.