The Planet Hacking Rules

by Dish Staff

All this week Brian Merchant has been reporting from Berlin’s Climate Engineering Conference. On Monday, he brought word that “Professor Steve Rayner, the co-director of the Oxford Geoengineering Programme, has unveiled a proposal to create the first serious framework for future geoengineering experiments”:

It’s a sign that what are still considered drastic and risky measures to combat climate change, like artificially injecting tiny particles into the Earth’s atmosphere to reflect sunlight back into space, are drifting further into the purview of mainstream science. The august scientific body has issued a call to create “an open and transparent review process that ensures such experiments have the necessary social license to operate.”

In a second post he discusses how, in “the international and academic communities, geoengineering is still something of a scientific non grata” because, for many, “even by floating the idea that climate change can be solved with a techno-fix, it’s presenting humanity with a get-out-of-jail-free card that could erode the impetus for tougher action”:

For better or for worse, we’re talking about hacking the planet.

Let’s be clear: This is fairly terrifying stuff, from every angle. Nearly all of those involved admit that should geonengineering ever be attempted, there will be unintended consequences. Weather patterns could shift, temps might grow too cold; there could be drought. Meanwhile, the fact that humanity has backed itself so far into a carbonic corner as to need to consider these drastic options at all is hellish enough.

In a newer dispatch, Merchant considers the likelihood of geoengineering:

Whether they want it to happen or not, many scientists I interviewed considered geoengineering inevitable, given mankind’s unwillingness to address climate change otherwise. The climate and policy analyst Penehuro Lefale and hydrologist Masahiko Haraguchi each predicted climate engineering was all but guaranteed. Caldeira told me he gave it a 10-30 percent chance of happening. Rayner told me that part of the reason he drafted the Declaration is that some scientist, somewhere, was going to take a stab at geoengineering, with or without a framework.

The consensus seemed to be that climate engineering experiments were on the horizon. So are we going hack the planet?

“I’m pretty sure we will,” Lefale said. “It’s only a matter of time.”