Jamieson, Can Space Reflectors Save Us? Why We Shouldn’t Buy Into Geoengineering Fantasies


1.      We find Promethean solutions almost irresistibly attractive

         a.      Prometheus: A character from Greek mythology, who was punished by the gods for stealing fire from the heavens to give to humans

2.      GE/Colt 45 analogy

         a.      A backstop prevent CC from overwhelming us if fail to stabilize GHG

         b.      Like Colt 45 peacemaker of old West, it’s a tech of last resort

                   i.       Stays in holster until and unless its needed

                   ii.      But needs to be in the holster

3.      GE not a solution

         a.      Only solve some problems while neglecting and exacerbating others

         b.      SRM reduce mean surface temps, but not know effects on regional weather

         c.      SRM does nothing for ocean acidification

         d.      CDR has unpredictable climate effects and disastrous consequences for local ecosystems


4.      Worries about GE research

         a.      Keith worries GE research distract us from challenge of reducing carbon emissions (mitigation)

         b.      Jamieson worries it will drive out funding for adaptation

                   i.       Especially for poor

                   ii.      Poor done least to cause CC

                   iii.     Poor most in danger from CC


5.      Basic structure of climate change problem

         a.      Lifestyle of global middle glass is committing people for next 1000 years to a chaotic world very different from one in which most human cultures developed and flourished

         b.      Even if stopped emissions overnight, excess carbon remain in atmosphere for centuries

         c.      Those who can afford dikes, health care, food and possible migration, CC merely raise price of a good life (if they are lucky)

         d.      If can’t afford these goods, consequences will be devastating

6.      GE boosters marketing it as a tech benefit the poor who will suffer most from CC

         a.      Rather than spend trillions to curb emissions, adapt, or compensate victims

                   i.       Note 3 responses to CC, mitigation (curb emissions) (mitigation), adaptation (sea walls), or compensation of victims

         b.      We give our own scientists billions to prevent the bad consequences from ever occurring

         c.      “Hey developing world, people who brought you CC are here to save you from it”


7.      Problem: No one has either moral or legal authority to do GE (pull the trigger)

         a.      Not U.S. Gove, Scientific or Philanthropic elite

         b.      Intentionally changing climate exerts power at a global scale

         c.      Global governance barely exists, is ineffectual, and controversial


8.      Jamieson’s slippery slope argument from research to deployment of GE

         a.      Many scientists advocate serious research into GE and if needed it could be scaled up like Manhattan Project

         b.      Assume bright line between research and deployment

         c.      Too often dedicated research turns into deployment

         d.      Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (protect from nuclear attack by shooting down incoming missiles)–lots of opposition and costs, survived for 25 years, focusing on dif tech and shifting purposes; led us to withdraw from Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, increase international tensions, siphoned $ from valuable uses to tech fantasies    

         e.      “Large research initiatives can be tougher to kill than vampires: They feed fortunes, careers, and reputations.

         f.       Research will lead to deployment: “A dedicated geoengineering research program risks creating a self-amplifying cycle of interest groups and lobbies, building momentum toward eventual deployment as a way of justifying the research.”


9.      Jamieson not totally negative on GE?

10.    Geoengineering is risky, but some related techs may have a place in our portfolio of responses

         a.      Have to compete against renewable energy projects, conservation, adaptation programs

         b.      On grounds of cost, feasability and moral/political acceptability

         c.      Abandon the Promethean dream and enter messy world of climate politics

         d.      GE is not the John Wayne/Colt 45 solution to CC

Questions on Jamieson, Can Space Reflectors Save Us? Why We Shouldn’t Buy Into Geoengineering Fantasies

1.      Jameison has two distinct worries about GE research. Describe what they are? (Hint: One has to do with funding for adaptation, the other with a slippery slope argument.)

2.      Describe Jamieson’s characterization of the “basic structure of the climate change problem.” Who caused it? Who is likely to suffer most? Is mitigation (cutting greenhouse gas emissions) by itself a solution?

3.      Explain the 3 different possible ways to address climate change: Mitigation, adaptation, compensation.

4.      Why is climate change particularly unfair to poor people?

5.      Who gets the $ to address climate change if we pursue mitigation, adaptation and compensation? Who gets it if we pursue GE?

6.      Discuss the problem of who might have the moral or legal authorty to “pull the trigger” on GE?

7.      Describe in detail Jamieson’s reasons for thinking resarch into GE will lead to deployment of GE.

8.      In what way is Jamieson not totally against GE? What role does he see GE playing?