Saturday, March 17, 2007

Geo-Engineering Gaining Traction as an Option

Clean, green, renewable energy powering an overall eco-friendly existence for the human race is generally the over-riding message of sustainability. However, even if we stop burning carbon and cutting the forests at this exact minute, we still have the accumulated effects of centuries of the industrial revolution. Sustainable practices at best prescribe preventing further destruction of the natural balance, and they at best achieve only a slowing down of the rate at which we destroy it. So while we look at decelerating the earth's loss of health, weFrom will have to at some time start looking at restoring the health too.

The biggest aspect of the earth's health affecting us today is Global Warming - the earth is getting hotter. Geo-engineering looks at ways to alter the earth's atmosphere to fight the green-house effect, either by reducing the gases causing the greenhouse effect, or creating an environment that reflects more and more sunlight back off the earth - either off the surface of the earth, or even before it reaches the surface.

In many ways we have been practicing geo-engineering for a long time - and not just by contributing to the greenhouse effect. One theory even says that 40,000 dams along certain mid-latitudes has increased the earth's spin. But whatever we have done so far has largely been inadvertent side effects of some other action. We did not deliberately engineer global warming. So does that justify geo-engineering counter-actions?

Just as we did not intend or even accurately foresee that the industrial revolution would bring macro-climate change (though there were scientists' warnings even then), there is little assurance that deliberate efforts will not have unintended and unfortunate side effects, in addition to the anticipated ones.

And yet we could reach a stage where the climate change has reached such drastic limits that we may not have any option but to take drastic measures. In that context it is important to research geo-engineering technologies. A fair amount of research is being done in this field and it seems to be the preferred plan of action for a Bush administration that pulled out of the Kyoto treaty. Keep watching this space - there is definitely going to be more action in this arena.