International rules are necessary to prevent individual countries taking unilateral action to control the earth’s climate say MPs.
The report by the Science and Technology Committee said small-scale geoengineering testing was already underway and could be necessary if the ‘Plan A’ of emissions reduction fails.
‘Geoengineering could affect the entire planet and it would be foolish to ignore its potential to minimise or reverse human caused climate change,’ said Committee Chairman Phil Willis MP.
Don't act alone
However, the report recommended urgent international regulation to stop countries taking individual action to manipulate the earth’s climate.
The Committee expressed particular concern about Solar Radiation Management (SRM), which involves using mirrors and space-based shades to reflect the sun’s radiation. The report said such attempts ‘could substantially influence the climate within months’ but may generate ‘serious unintended consequences’.
‘SRM could produce droughts with severe implications for regional and global food production, and delay the recovery of the ozone layer by decades, while doing almost nothing to address ocean acidification,’ said the report, quoting Dr Jason Blackstock of the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Canada.
The Science and Technology Committee report coincides with the launch of another major geoengineering initiative.
The Royal Society today announced that it would review the governance of SRM and provide guidelines for research into technologies that reflect light and heat back into space.
‘The disappointing outcome of Copenhagen has shown that achieving global agreement to reduce emissions is not easy. Some countries or organisations may consider geoengineering methods by which they could deliberately alter our climate,’ said Professor John Shepherd, Chair of a recent report into geoengineering by the Royal Society.
Environmental campaigners said the increasing interest in geoengineering was the result of political failure.
‘Scientists are increasingly exasperated by the lack of action on climate change. They are looking more and more at whether geoengineering can supplement climate change mitigation,’ said Friends of the Earth campaigns director, Mike Childs.
He warned that geoengineering was both risky and expensive but that it could become a necessity.
‘Many of the options we have looked at have grave environmental implications. It’s not a territory many environmentalists want to go into but if governments don’t pull their finger out soon, geoengineering will need to considered,’ said Childs.
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