I hope the Obama administration and Congress give serious consideration to the clean-energy source already operational with buildable capacity to meet the needs of the electric automobiles they are encouraging. Let’s revoke Carter’s ban on recycling nuclear fuel and build a breeder reactor so we can be at least as far up on the energy curve as the French.
In his fascinating but unnerving article on geo-engineering (“Moving Heaven and Earth,” July/August Atlantic), Graeme Wood draws attention to the potential dangers should nations or even wealthy individuals decide to mitigate the forthcoming climate crisis by using some form of dramatic geo-engineering. Although this is unlikely because most countries would hesitate to violate international law, extreme circumstances could provoke a maverick reaction, Wood says. He calls for more research into possible legal responses to geo-engineering.
One important response would be to create a judicial framework for international environmental treaties, which could set standards for national, corporate, and individual activities causing environmental damage or creating hazards and could, when necessary, impose sanctions. Call it an International Court for the Environment. Research into the potential structure and functions of such a court has already begun, and a steering committee ready to launch a worldwide campaign for its adoption has been created; it’s called, appropriately enough, the ICE Coalition.
In anticipation of, or in response to, a potential “Greenfinger” acting unilaterally, such a court could help to establish the ground rules in this area and coordinate a global approach and, perhaps, avoid the Blade Runner scenario that Wood so scarily conjures up.
Stephen Hockman, QC, Peter Luff, and Philip Riches
Graeme Wood’s article has performed a valuable service by drawing attention to the possibility of geo-engineering as a means of manipulating the Earth’s climate, particularly to reverse global warming, should that be desirable. Unfortunately, despite much speculative talk, amazingly little serious technical study has been devoted to the details of geo-engineering, and this article reflects that.
A recent Novim Group study found that the use of tubes and balloons to loft sulfur into the stratosphere, as featured in the article, would be difficult and would require the development of new technology. Big guns and airplanes, often suggested, probably wouldn’t work either, but simple rockets would be a cheap, low-tech solution, lofting sulfur in any desired quantity to any desired altitude.
Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is not feasible, because of the enormous quantity of air that must pass through the extraction process. All proposals, including David Keith’s towers, would fail by enormous factors.