“Planet-hacking” geoengineering experiments are about to “get a dangerous boost from Donald Trump”, The Guardian reports, with Harvard University engineers David Keith and Frank Keutsch planning a high-altitude release in 2018 to assess the costs and benefits of deploying sulphate particles to reflect the sun’s radiation back into space.
“Keith cancelled a similar planned experiment in New Mexico in 2012, but announced he was ready for field testing at a geoengineering forum in Washington on Friday,” the UK-based newspaper states. “While geoengineering received little favour under Obama, high-level officials within the Trump administration have been long-time advocates for planetary-scale manipulation of Earth systems.”
“The context for discussing solar geoengineering research has changed substantially since we planned and funded this forum nearly one year ago,” the briefing paper for the Harvard event stated.
“Clearly parts of the Trump administration are very willing to open the door to reckless schemes like David Keith’s, and may well have quietly given the nod to open-air experiments,” said Silvia Riberio, Latin American Director at the Ottawa-based ETC Group.
“Worryingly, geoengineering may emerge as this administration’s preferred approach to global warming. In their view, building a big, beautiful wall of sulphate in the sky could be a perfect excuse to allow uncontrolled fossil fuel extraction. We need to be focusing on radical emissions cuts, not dangerous and unjust technofixes.”
The Guardian identifies Trump advisor and former House speaker Newt Gingrich as an early proponent of geoengineering. “Geoengineering holds forth the promise of addressing global warming concerns for just a few billion dollars a year,” he said in 2008. “We would have an option to address global warming by rewarding scientific innovation. Bring on American ingenuity. Stop the green pig.”
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson may also be onboard, at least to the extent that he has described climate change as an “engineering problem”. At an ExxonMobil shareholders’ meeting in 2005, while he was the colossal fossil’s CEO, Tillerson said a “plan B has always been grounded in our beliefs around the continued evolution of technology and engineered solutions.”
Keith said Friday that he and his team are “not unalterably committed to doing the experiment” in 2018. But “our long-term goal is to build a sustainable effort in solar geoengineering research that allows us to say more about ways it might actually provide public benefit.”