S. J. Hassol and J. Katzenberger Elements of Change 1998, Aspen Colorado: Aspen Global Change Institute · 1998

Geoengineering Climate

Geoengineering is the intentional large-scale manipulation of the global environment. The term has usually been applied to proposals to manipulate the climate with the primary intention of reducing undesired climatic change caused by human influences. These geoengineering schemes seek to mitigate the effect of fossil-fuel combustion on the climate without abating fossil fuel use; for example, by placing shields in space to reduce the sunlight incident on the Earth. Possible responses to the problem of anthropogenic climate change fall into three broad categories: abatement of human impacts by reducing the climate forcings, adaptation to reduce the impact of altered climate on human systems, and deliberate intervention in the climate system to counter the human impact on climate — geoengineering. It is central to the common meaning of geoengineering that the environmental manipulation be deliberate, and be a primary goal rather than a side-effect. This distinction is at the heart of the substantial moral and legal concerns about geoengineering. For example, while it may be argued that modern agriculture constitutes geoengineering, the global-scale transformations of the nitrogen cycle it causes is a side-effect of food production, and is usually viewed differently from the deliberate modification of the global environment.

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