Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Geo-engineering is worse than we thought. Not only would geo-engineering depress crop yields by starving plants of sunlight, it now looks likely any serious attempt to geo-engineer the climate might exacerbate the spread of Malaria.
Now is the time to answer questions about climate engineering disease impacts
Date: September 28, 2018
Source: University of Maryland
Radical solutions to climate change might save lives, but a new commentary calls for caution because geoengineering still lacks a ‘clean bill of health.’
Even if some combination of these worked, scientists warn that the climate wouldn’t be the same as it was before climate change. And those differences might make a big difference for global health, ecologists Colin Carlson and Christopher Trisos argue in the Nature Climate Change article. The article was written while both were postdoctoral fellows at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), a unique University of Maryland center funded by the National Science Foundation that brings together science of the natural world with science of human behavior and decision-making.
So far, Carlson and Trisos say, almost nothing is known about the potential health consequences of such geoengineered “solutions.”
“We’re a step before saying these technologies will probably save lives or saying they’re too dangerous to use,” says Carlson. “Right now, what we know is climate and disease are already closely linked, and that raises basic questions about climate engineering. Now, we need answers.”
Carlson gives the example of malaria, a disease mostly confined to the tropics today, but was once widespread in Europe and North America. Recently, scientists found that malaria transmits best at cooler temperatures. In some projections, SRM would disproportionately cool off the tropics — and that might make malaria worse.
“But it’s all guesswork — we can qualitatively talk through possible risks, and that’s what we do here. But we can’t make any judgements without solid, quantitative evidence. And no one’s run those models yet. There’s no data to go off.”
I’m personally concerned about efforts to promote geo-engineering solutions to the imaginary climate problem.
Bad climate ideas sometimes take on a life of their own, when big government and lots of money gets involved. Biofuels were originally promoted by greens as the clean, renewable alternative to fossil fuels. But most greens have long since realised biofuels are an awful idea. Yet biofuels carry on regardless – well funded biofuel lobby groups have outgrown the need for support from actual greens.
What if the same thing happens to geo-engineering? Think of all the factory jobs a major geo-engineering project would create. It seems unlikely any geo-engineering project will ever receive enough funding to cause significant damage – but why take the risk? Pointless high risk projects should be killed off during the planning stage.