Geo-Engineering has been a fringe science since the Sixties (when it first became popular to believe that Technology could fix anything), and it seems to be finally coming into vogue after being brought to back to public attention by mainstream Media sources such as the New York Times .
Before drilling down too deep though, let’s start by sharpening some of our bits of terminology first.
Unlike BIO-Engineering, which seeks to apply pure Science via Technological processes to produce engineered results in Biological fields (from GM’d corn, to the materials of Orthpaedic hip-joint replacement hardware), GEO-Engineering seeks to take the same approach to the entire Earth in order to effect positive changes to our environment. Regrettably, the term Geo-Engineering seems to have been misappropriated and popularized as a description of Ecological or Environmental engineering applications on a global scale, even though the terms Enviro, Global, or ECO-Engineering would likely have been a more appropriate descriptors. Unfortunately for the real Geo-Engineers out there (who’ve been working long and hard on true Geological Engineering), the term GEO has already been co-opted by Environmentalists, adopted by the Media, and is now popularized to represent a much more narrow scope of applied technological solutions to our most pressing issues around Climate Change. So Geo-Engineering has effectively come to mean something else entirely to all of us (relatively ignorant) non-engineers.
So….Geo-Engineering (as we currently accept the poorly defined definition) is a notably complex endeavor that requires the collection, collation and application of knowledge from three VERY large areas of study:
* Scientific disciplines including Climatology, Biochemistry, Ecology, Meteorology and several subsets of Biology and Physics
* Engineering disciplines including aeronautical, naval, architectural, ballistics, propulsion, and materials Engineering.
* Regulatory/Management and other control disciplines such as business process and risk management, and realtime operational research…and of course an insanely complex and interdependent maze of International Politics, Regulations, Diplomacy, and Trade.
Before delving into these ridiculously broad categories of study, first, let’s just put away any indignant or ignorant self-righteousness about “playing God” with the environment. Insteaed, let’s simply admit that we’ve already been toying with our Ecology, and changing the Earths environment in countless ways for a long time now already.
Whether it’s by altering watersheds and aquifers, re-engineering entire drainage systems for irrigation or hydro power, or by clearcutting the heat and CO2 consuming capacity of entire forests, and let’s not forget the ongoing and always contentious issues behind enormous volumes of CO2 (and other more potent greenhouse gases) escaping into the atmosphere, as Humans we are already very deeply ensnared in the tricky game of Geo-Engineering. Thus the dire scenarios described as AGW, or “Anthropogenic” (man-made) Global Warming are directly attributed to Human activities, which nobody questions as being capable of changing an entire planet.
So since we’ve already been behaving like foolish Gods (or rather like some lesser being that has self-provisioned itself with Godlike dominion over nature according to some self-distorting Judeao-Christian fallacy) let’s then look at the risks of Geo-Engineering more realistically.