2B edited/reworked


FYI: Geo-engineering climate change : environmental necessity or Pandora’s box? / edited by Brian Launder, Michael Thompson.
New York : Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Engineering & Computer Science|Stacks|1 copy|TD885.5 .C3 G46 2010

I initially came across the “albedo geoengineering” concept in connection with purposeful, anthropogenic aerosol/dust forcings with the aim of bringing down atmospheric temperatures in Stephen Schneider (Science as a Contact Sport, 2009). He is not happy about it, because of the difficult-to-gauge consequences; as a matter of principle, it is a bad idea to compensate for one pollution factor by amplifying/creating another. For similar reasons, Raymond Pierrehumbert opposed albedo engineering in his last but one Noble Lecture Series, University of Toronto, April 2010. (see post)

Oliver Morton’s blog post from January 15, 2009, Leaf Albedo Engineering, sums up the risks pretty well:
“…Every geoengineering scheme has strange knock-ons and side effects around the edges, and it seems reasonable to suspect that the more such schemes you have, the more chance there is for one of the side effects to be unexpectedly serious — or for two of them to interact with each other catastrophically…”

His blog addresses a further accomplishment, “bio-geoengineering”. Plants are genetically modified (by increasing the glossiness of the leaves) to influence atmospheric temperature feedbacks. The blog post does not in principle dispute science’s (self-assigned) entitlement to re-engineer nature. However, reading between the lines, one can detect a putative cautioning against pushing the forces of nature too far, and be content with optimally balanced moderation:
“…the fact that it is probably a lot easier to find little forcings than big ones suggests that the portfolio approach may be in the ascendant for a while.”

Here is Morton’s official response to Ridgwell et al. (2009):
“Crops That Cool”
15 January 2009 | Nature | doi:10.1038/news.2009.33

The original article:
Tackling Regional Climate Change by Leaf Albedo Bio-geoengineering
Andy Ridgwell, Joy S. Singarayer, Alistair M. Hetherington and Paul J. Valdes
Current Biology, Volume 19, Issue 2, 146-150, 15 January 2009.
Elsevier Ltd. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2008.12.025

“The likelihood that continuing greenhouse-gas emissions will lead to an unmanageable degree of climate change has stimulated the search for planetary-scale technological solutions for reducing global warming… Specifically, we propose a bio-geoengineering approach to mitigate surface warming, in which crop varieties having specific leaf glossiness and/or canopy morphological traits are specifically chosen to maximize solar reflectivity…”

Wisely offering to GM only plants that are not food crops does not cut it – for me. Coethe’s Faustus at least knew he was trading his soul for power, immortality, romance. Science, cheered on by what philosopher Lorraine Code (2009) aptly terms “social-epistemic imaginary of mastery” (building on Cornelius Castoriadis’s concept “(social) imaginary”), has been and in more than enough cases at present still enjoys a reprieval from what should be an obligatory part of requirements nature-engineering. Namely, social-epistemic responsibility and accountability. Provided that a nature engineering project can make it through – to start with – that is.

The obvious pending question (unfortunately failure-prone), which is as much epistemological-scientific as it is moral-ethical, would be “When can one be sure that it is safe to transit from the experimental to the implementation stage?” There are all too many (for comfort) recorded cases of pesticides, medical treatments, cosmetic procedures, food processing technologies – “scientifically tested”, offered by “leaders in the industry” – that have gone wrong. Sometimes not even “in the long run”, but prior to the projected commercial release date.

Away from climate change-related nature engineering, but still heavily ecosonically charged, pharma-anthropo-engineering: Anthropo-Engineering – Ecological Consonances and Dissonances.