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Sunday
Mar182012

Two proposals from scientists on how to save the world: which is more realistic?

I don't want to say a lot about these -- just enough to stimulate reflection about the significance, the meanings of proposals so different.  Thus:

1. Which one of these proposals is more likely to "work"?

2. Which one is more "realistic"?

3. Who is likely to answer "proposal 1," who "proposal 2," to above questions -- & why?

4. If proposals like these are made a conspicuous part of public discussion, what effect is each likely to have on public perceptions of the risk of climate change and the importance of taking steps to address the risks that it poses?

Proposal 1: World Government

from Biermann, F., et al. Navigating the Anthropocene: Improving Earth System Governance. Science 335, 1306-1307 (2012):

Human societies must now change course and steer away from critical tipping points in the Earth system that might lead to rapid and irreversible change (3). This requires fundamental reorientation and restructuring of national and international institutions toward more effective Earth system governance and planetary stewardship.

... As a general conclusion, our work indicated that incremental change (6)—the main approach since the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment—is no longer sufficient to bring about societal change at the level and with the speed needed to mitigate and adapt to Earth system transformation. Structural change in global governance is needed, both inside and outside the UN system and involving both public and private actors.

... Such a reform of the intergovernmental system—which is at the center of the 2012 Rio Conference—will not be the only level of societal change nor the only type of action that is needed toward sustainability. Changes in the behavior of citizens, new engagement of civil society organizations, and reorientation of the private sector toward a green economy, are all crucial to achieve progress. Yet, in order for local and national action to be effective, the global institutional framework must be supportive and well designed. We propose a first set of much-needed reforms for effective Earth system governance and planetary stewardship. The 2012 Rio Conference offers an opportunity and a crucial test of whether political will exists to bring about these urgently needed changes.

 

Proposal 2: Techno-fix 

from Richard Black, "Climate 'tech fixes urged for Arctic methane," BBC News Science & Environment, March 17, 2012:

An eminent UK engineer is suggesting building cloud-whitening towers in the Faroe Islands as a "technical fix" for warming across the Arctic.

Scientists told UK MPs this week that the possibility of a major methane release triggered by melting Arctic ice constitutes a "planetary emergency".

The Arctic could be sea-ice free each September within a few years.

Wave energy pioneer Stephen Salter has shown that pumping seawater sprays into the atmosphere could cool the planet.

The Edinburgh University academic has previously suggested whitening clouds using specially-built ships....

For each of the last four years, the September minimum has seen about two-thirds of the average cover for the years 1979-2000, which is used a baseline. The extent covered at other times of the year has also been shrinking.

What more concerns some scientists is the falling volume of ice.

Peter Wadhams, professor of ocean physics at Cambridge University, presented an analysis drawing on data and modelling from the PIOMAS ice volume project at the University of Washington in Seattle.

It suggests, he said, that Septembers could be ice-free within just a few years....

The field of implementing technical climate fixes, or geo-engineering, is full of controversy, and even those involved in researching the issue see it as a last-ditch option, a lot less desirable than constraining greenhouse gas emissions.

"Everybody working in geo-engineering hopes it won't be needed - but we fear it will be," said Prof Salter.

Depending on the size and location, Prof Salter said that in the order of 100 towers would be needed to counteract Arctic warming.

However, no funding is currently on the table for cloud-whitening. A proposal to build a prototype ship for about £20m found no takers, and currently development work is limited to the lab.

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Reader Comments (1)

I think the second proposal is more realistic because a world government is too complicated, you can watch the tv news at any time and you get conflicts and more conflicts.

April 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRyan Gana DiNero

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