Skip to Content

International Geoengineering Agreement Needed

Some scientists think we may need to cool down the earth, but don’t want to cause an international incident while testing the idea.
January 29, 2010

The prospect of geoengineering, the intentional large-scale manipulation of the climate to offset the effects of global warming, continues to draw the attention of top scientists and policymakers. The prestigious journal Science is publishing two papers on the subject in its next issue, and next week the Science Committee of the House of Representatives will hold its second hearing on the subject.

According to some climate models, climates could change very quickly as greenhouse gas emissions rise, such as when thawing permafrost releases methane (a powerful heat-trapping gas), or loss of ice causes the earth to absorb more heat. Such outcomes might not be very likely, but even the chance that they could happen has scientists worried, as they could lead to widespread severe drought and famine and rapid sea level rise, among other things. Even the most ambitious efforts to curb greenhouse emissions might not be enough to prevent disastrous climate change, some say. And ambitious efforts to cut emissions seem ever more unlikely, after the limited success of the recent summit in Copenhagen, and opposition to a climate change bill in the Senate.

In one of the Science articles, researchers say testing of geoengineering strategies may prove necessary, but before testing can occur, they say an international agreement should be reached. Such testing could cause changes in weather patterns that could hurt some countries, for example, and an agreement needs to be in place to establish standard testing procedures and methods for dealing with international disputes arising from such testing.

Such an agreement might be even more important if the argument of another Science paper proves to be correct. In that paper the researchers argue that the only way to effectively test geoengineering is through full scale implementation of a particular geoengineering scheme–and such a large deployment could have big, unforeseen consequences.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

computation concept
computation concept

How AI is reinventing what computers are

Three key ways artificial intelligence is changing what it means to compute.

still from Embodied Intelligence video
still from Embodied Intelligence video

These weird virtual creatures evolve their bodies to solve problems

They show how intelligence and body plans are closely linked—and could unlock AI for robots.

We reviewed three at-home covid tests. The results were mixed.

Over-the-counter coronavirus tests are finally available in the US. Some are more accurate and easier to use than others.

conceptual illustration showing various women's faces being scanned
conceptual illustration showing various women's faces being scanned

A horrifying new AI app swaps women into porn videos with a click

Deepfake researchers have long feared the day this would arrive.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.