Geoengineering is the intentional, large-scale intervention in the Earth’s oceans, soils and/or atmosphere, most often discussed in the context of combating climate change. Geoengineering can refer to a wide range of schemes, including: blasting sulphate particles into the stratosphere to reflect the sun’s rays; dumping iron particles in the oceans to nurture CO2 -absorbing plankton; firing silver iodide into clouds to produce rain; genetically engineering crops so their foliage can better reflect sunlight.
Techniques that alter the composition of the stratosphere or the chemistry of the oceans are likely to have unintended consequences as well as unequal impacts around the world (sometimes referred to euphemestically as “spatial heterogeneity”). As much as the Industrial Revolution’s unintended “geoengineering” experiment has disproportionately harmed people living in tropical and subtropical areas of the world, purposeful geoengineering experiments are liable to do the same.
The governments that are quietly contemplating funding geoengineering experimentation are the ones that have failed to pony up even minimal funds for mitigation or adaptation action on climate change. Indeed in some quarters the MAG approach (Mitigation, Adaptation and Geoengineering) is already being proposed for discussions on climate change.