The Need for Climate Engineering Research
Ken Caldeira and David W. Keith
The stakes are simply too high for us to think that ignorance is a good policy.
Like it or not, a climate emergency is a possibility, and geoengineering could be the only affordable and fast-acting option to avoid a global catastrophe. Climate change triggered by the accumulation of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere has the potential of causing serious and lasting damage to human and natural systems. At today’s atmospheric concentrations, the risk of catastrophic damage is slight—though not zero. The risk will probably rise in coming years if atmospheric concentrations continue to increase. Although not everyone agrees with this assessment, it is supported by the bulk of the scientific evidence. For the moment, the United States and other nations are trying to address this risk by controlling emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, with mixed success at best. The time may well come, however, when nations judge the risk of climate change to be sufficiently large and immediate that they must “do something” to prevent further warming. But since “doing something” will probably involve intervening in Earth’s climate system on a grand scale, the potential for doing harm is great.