Bleaching clouds to reflect sunlight or using a chemical absorbent to trap carbon dioxide and then bury it in tanks underground. Those are some proposals of geoengineering that, in the battle against global warming, seek to use technologies to manipulate the climate. The use of these technologies could occur sooner than we imagine, its consequences as well.
The beginnings of geoengineering, as these techniques are called, are for military use. At one time it was thought of using the climate as a weapon and from there arose the Convention on Environmental Modification for the non-use of this type of techniques in war. But for several years, geoengineering has been taken up by universities like Harvard, oil companies like Exxon and foundations like that of the computer entrepreneur Bill Gates, the richest man on the planet.
The proposed techniques are many and varied. For example, ocean fertilization through the dumping of nutrients to grow phytoplankton that, in theory, will absorb carbon dioxide. Or the movement of bodies of water to obtain food for phytoplankton. Or the mechanical capture of gases. Or combine CO2 with calcifying minerals to obtain a product such as cement and use it in construction.
Another option is the management of solar radiation, which involves the stratospheric injection of aerosols, the whitening of marine clouds to reflect light, or the thinning of cirrus clouds so that heat can escape into space. Or planting genetically altered monocultures so that they bounce the sun's rays.
Another type of geoengineering is altering the weather by seeding clouds to change precipitation patterns.
Today, the use of any of these technologies is prevented by a moratorium. The 193 countries that are parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity reaffirmed last year the non-use of these methods to control the climate. But the arrival of Donald Trump to power could change things.
The promoters of geoengineering occupy strategic positions in the United States government. The secretary of state himself, Rex Tillerson, who is also the executive director of the oil company Exxon Mobile, is a declaredpro-geoengineering.
For many, the most serious thing is who will be the depository of the power to change the climate on a global scale. Raymound Pierrehumber, professor of physics at the University of Oxford wrote: “Bad enough is the fact that Trump has in his hands the launch codes of nuclear weapons. Do we really want to give someone like him the tools to change the world's climate? "
Companies, governments and organizations have attended the United Nations Conference of the Parties that seeks agreements between representatives of more than 200 countries to combat climate change (COP23), which has been held in this city since November 6. all.
In a stand, for example, are theBoy scouts. The youth long-sock movement might seem futile at an event like this, but it's not. In its ranks there are more than 40 million boys spread over 224 countries. The organization has more capacity to act in the fight against climate change than many nations.
In another of thestands is IETA, where "business priorities and solutions on climate change are discussed." IETA conglomerates oil companies such as Chevron, Shell, PetroChina, Total and Repsol, all of them largely responsible for the environmental crisis. But here they came to "propose", and in theirstandOrganic tea and talks on financing, investments, nuclear energy and geoengineering are offered.
The organization Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group), which has consultative recognition before the UN, accuses that this type of technology not only “does not pretend to influence the concentration of greenhouse gases, which is the physical cause of climate change ”, but may imply a greater risk, since the consequences of its implementation are not fully understood.
Why is there not a more extended debate on this topic in Latin America?
“Because these discussions are in the great Anglo-Saxon institutions, in enclaves of scientists. The inequity of the debate is also very serious. I think there is not enough awareness in Latin America about the danger of these technologies ”, says, in an interview with Footer, Simone Lovera, of the Global Forest Coalition organization.
“The accumulation of power of this type of technology is tremendous, if this technology ends up in the hands of the wrong people, they could use these technologies to cause big storms. As a weapon of war ”.
The activist insists that there are other, very basic solutions, such as using bicycles, reducing meat consumption or stopping deforestation. “You don't need such complicated technologies to solve climate change. It is false that we need a technology with so many risks and with so much silver investment ”.
Nele Marien, forest manager for the Friends of the Earth organization, is also committed to simpler and less risky solutions: “We need to stop all types of emissions that are not necessary for the basic well-being of the people. Industrial agriculture causes many emissions from the forms of production and the long distances that food travels. We need to move from a global food system to a local one. "
- Is it really possible to change that food system?
- People thought that slavery could not end because it was a system in which there was a lot of money and very large interests. And despite that, it's over.
It is possible, activists repeat here. But in the sphere of politics things seem to be moving the other way.
By Ignacio de Alba