GEOENGINEERING THE CLIMATE? What benefits? What impacts?
As climate change impacts become more apparent and global negotiations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are prolonged, have we adequately considered actions that complement carbon emission reductions, such as climate engineering or geoengineering? Geoengineering refers to deliberate large-scale interventions in the Earth’s climate system in order to moderate global warming. Do potential gains from using geoengineering to slow or contain climate change impacts outweigh possible negative impacts on people and biodiversity?
Indigenous peoples and local communities (ILCs) call for urgent action to stem the global climate change crisis, but they have also expressed concern about growing attention to ‘solutions’ such as geoengineering. The Anchorage Declaration, from the 2009 Indigenous Peoples Global Summit on Climate Change, states:
We challenge States to abandon false solutions to climate change that negatively impact Indigenous Peoples’ rights, lands, air, oceans, forests, territories and waters. These include nuclear energy, large-scale dams, geo-engineering techniques, “clean coal”, agro-fuels, plantations, and market based mechanisms such as carbon trading, the Clean Development Mechanism, and forest offsets.
On the other hand, at a 2010 UNESCO expert meeting on geoengineering, small island representatives like Liz Thompson, the former Minister of Energy & Environment of Barbados, engaged directly with the issue by asking whether we should be discussing mitigation vs geoengineering or rather mitigation plus geoengineering. Raising the issue of participation of Small Island Developing States in this debate, she also asked that more information on geoengineering be made available.
In a recent piece for the New York Times called “Geo-engineering can help save the planet”, ecologist Thomas Lovejoy says: “The power of ecosystem restoration to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide and avoid disruptive climate change is great but insufficient. We also need to use non-biological means to reduce atmospheric carbon…It is in our own self-interest to manage ourselves, the planet and its climate system in an integrated fashion. We can do so, and there are abundant economic possibilities in doing so, but the window of opportunity is closing rapidly.”
At the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), governments adopted a decision to
Compile and synthesize available scientific information, and views and experiences of indigenous and local communities and other stakeholders, on the possible impacts of geo engineering techniques on biodiversity and associated social, economic and cultural considerations, and options on definitions and understandings of climate-related geo-engineering relevant to the Convention on Biological Diversity. (COP 10, Decision X/33, Para 9(l))
In collaboration with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Climate Frontlines Forum is launching a discussion on geoengineering techniques and their potential impacts in order to understand the views and experiences of indigenous and local communities and other stakeholders. These discussions also provide an opportunity to consider additional issues, such as the governance of geoengineering research.
We propose a series of briefs on the following topics:
- Geoengineering in brief
- Solar geoengineering - some examples and impacts
- Carbon geoengineering - some examples and impacts
- Community participation and inclusion in impact assessments, and the potential role of the Akwe Kon Voluntary guidelines for the conduct of cultural, environmental and social impact assessments
Participants may also propose other issues to be considered in this discussion by writing to email@example.com.
Everyone is invited to participate in the discussions. If you are writing as a member of an indigenous or local community, let us know! Your input will be reflected in the CBD consultation process.
Your analyses and comments will be collated and a first summary of the discussions will be made available by 16 February 2012. A document of main messages that arise from these discussions will provide input to the 16th meeting of the Scientific Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA-16) under the agenda item on biodiversity and climate change.
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