As the U.S. House of Representatives held its first hearing on climate engineering it is becoming clear that the technology will lead to international governance.
On Wednesday the U.S. House Subcommittee on Environment and Subcommittee on Energy Hearing held the first House hearing on the controversial subject of climate engineering or weather modification. The hearing, titled “Geoengineering: Innovation, Research, and Technology,”brought together members of the House committees as well as representatives of think tanks, scientists, and researchers in the field to discuss the future of geoengineering research and whether the Trump administration should allocate funding.
The push for discussion of geoengineering from the Trump administration should come as no surprise. Back in January 2017, Activist Post reported that “the U.S. Global Change Research Program quietly recommended new studies looking into two specific areas of research involving geoengineering.” With the release of their report, the GCRP became the first scientists in the federal government to formally recommend studies involving geoengineering.
Participants in Wednesday’s hearing include Full Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Environment Subcommittee Chairman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), and Energy Subcommittee Chairman Randy Weber (R-Texas). Witness testimony came from Dr. Phil Rasch, chief scientist for climate science, Laboratory Fellow, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; Dr. Joseph Majkut, director of climate policy at the Niskanen Center; Dr. Douglas MacMartin, senior research associate, Cornell University; and Ms. Kelly Wanser, principal director, Marine Cloud Brightening Project, Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, University of Washington.
Before the discussion began, the committee members established a working definition of geoengineering. According to a 2013 congressional report:
The term ‘geoengineering’ describes this array of technologies that aim, through large-scale and deliberate modifications of the Earth’s energy balance, to reduce temperatures and counteract anthropogenic climate change. Most of these technologies are at the conceptual and research stages, and their effectiveness at reducing global temperatures has yet to be proven. Moreover, very few studies have been published that document the cost, environmental effects, socio-political impacts, and legal implications of geoengineering. If geoengineering technologies were to be deployed, they are expected to have the potential to cause significant transboundary effects.
In general, geoengineering technologies are categorized as either a carbon dioxide removal (CDR) method or a solar radiation management (SRM) (or albedo-modification) method. CDR methods address the warming effects of greenhouse gases by removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. CDR methods include ocean fertilization, and carbon capture and sequestration. SRM methods address climate change by increasing the reflectivity of the Earth’s atmosphere or surface. Aerosol injection and space-based reflectors are examples of SRM methods. SRM methods do not remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, but can be deployed faster with relatively immediate global cooling results compared to CDR methods.
As the hearing unfolded, Committee Chairman Smith acknowledged that geoengineering “could have positive effects on the Earth’s atmosphere,” but cautioned “we have a lot to learn.” Smith’s outlook illustrated his skepticism of man-made climate change, stating, “While we are not sure this is plausible, some scientists believe it could achieve substantial environmental benefits at a cheaper cost than regulations.”