Geoengineering: Get developing countries on board

When deliberately tinkering with the Earth’s climate system to moderate global warming it would be polite to consult with developing countries, say experts here at COP-15.

Jason Blackstock, research fellow at the Canada-based Centre for International Governance Innovation pointed out that developing countries rarely included in technology deployment and must be brought into discussions.

“The discussion has not percolated down to developing countries and there is no engagement with the public,” he said.

And there are other issues. John Shepherd, professor of earth systems science at UK-based Southampton University and chair of the Royal Society’s geoengineering report published September 2009 (see Climate technofixes scrutinised), told a symposium yesterday (10 December) that broader international awareness and engagement is needed to evaluate the climatic, political and social implications of the techniques.

“Geoengineering methods are not the magic bullet to solve climate change,” he said.

There is widespread concern about the environmental effects of the technologies, said Blackstock. For example, he asked, will pumping iron into oceans impact fisheries and worsen food security in coastal communities? And will pumping aerosols into the atmosphere to induce cooling affect crop growth?

Blackstock also pointed out the unaddressed issues of technology access, control and regulation.

Still, despite all the reservations, countries seem eager to engage with geoengineering and developing countries such as India have started experimenting on a small scale.

Shepherd and Blackstock recommend that international agencies such as the UN Commission on Sustainable Development should examine the key issues in detail and establish policy mechanisms to resolve potential pitfalls.

T V Padma, South Asia regional coordinator, SciDev.Net

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