With serious talk about geoengineering options now on a serious roll (“Not so sotto voce any more” is how RealClimate put it back in August) 80 climate researchers have been polled by the Independent about whether we should prepare techno-fixes such as ocean fertilization or aerosol clouds as an emergency lever on the Earth system.
The paper reports today that 54% – i.e. 43 of them – think we should draw up such plans. Here’s the actual poll question – not reprinted by the Independent, but reproduced by a recipient (via the geoengineering Google Group):
Do you agree that we now need a “Plan B” whereby a geoengineering strategy – research, development and possible implementation – is drawn up in parallel to a treaty to reduce carbon emissions (subject to international agreements and a scientific assessment of risk)?
35% disagreed and 11% were undecided.
This survey of scientists is hardly a scientific survey, as climatologist Myles Allen of Oxford points out in a Tyndall Centre newslist post. But it does give some kind of temperature reading – especially in the scientists’ direct comments, which the Independent has published for about half the respondents (listed roughly in order of famousness).
There’s a lot more nuance in those comments than ‘Plan B or not plan B?’ But the overall temperature? Lukewarm.
No suprise here. Let me count the ways we keep hearing this: the Royal Society is reviewing schemes, the UK government has heard testimony, conference statements have been made and commentaries published. At a recent Royal Society meeting on low-carbon energy, in response to audience questions, Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre Manchester argued that only schemes that pull gases out of the atmosphere directly and have minimal ecological impacts, such as rock weathering, are safe enough to consider. At a climate science briefing for artists and writers organized at the Wellcome Centre in London by the Tipping Points group last month, the University of East Anglia’s Tim Lenton mused that the mistaken notion that there is but one climate tipping point, beyond which lies ‘runaway’ climate change, could lead to panicky support for geoengineering.