Final Policy Memo: Against Climate Engineering to Counter Act Global Warming
University of Colorado Boulder
To: The US Dept of Commerce
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
From: Alexander Wosilus
Date: 10 December 2017
Subject: Climate Engineering
Final Policy Memo: Against Climate Engineering to Counter Act Global Warming
Per request, I have investigated the issues surrounding climate change and have looked
into many possible solutions. I have focused my research on what was frequently brought up at
last month’s conference: climate engineering. Based on the risks of environmental deterioration,
international conflict, and cost, it is determined that climate engineering is not the best solution
for fighting global warming. Instead, implementing smaller tactics such as limiting carbon
emissions, investing in green energy, and eliminating fossil fuels will bring us closer to defeating
climate change. Climate engineering threatens the sustainability of the United States- something
that is crucial to ensure a bright future for generations to come. Being sustainable requires using
resources wisely in the present so they can be used in the future. Not only does climate
engineering endanger our sustainability, but possess a threat to anything living on this planet.
Using climate engineering to counter act global warming will only hurt the planet more than it
may help it, while it is safer to rely on smaller, more efferent means of fighting climate change.
Forged in the 1960’s, climate engineering, also known as geoengineering, is the idea of
deliberately altering the climate of Earth to meet the needs of humans. In today’s perspective,
climate engineering is “artificially altering climate and global weather patterns to reverse of
mask the effects of global warming” (Robock, 2008). Climate engineering aims to fix global
warming using two different techniques: solar radiation management (SRM) and carbon dioxide
removal (CDR). Solar radiation management is the process of increasing sunlight back to space
while limiting it from reaching the surface (Gordon, 2017). Carbon dioxide removal is just what
it sounds like and is the process of removing carbon from the atmosphere. Techniques used can
consist of direct air capture or carbon sequestration. Most climate change today is
anthropogenic, or caused by humans. Since the industrialization and rapid advancement of
technology, humans have been unleashing the byproducts of their inventions into the
atmosphere. Some examples of these are carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), and
nitrogen dioxide. These are also known as greenhouse gasses (GHG) and stay within the
atmosphere, trapping other gasses and heat so they cannot escape. Climate engineering hopes to
reverse the effects and fix the damages that humans have caused to the environment but there is
more than speculation that it will induce worse consequences to our planet.
In a perfect world (or science fiction novel), climate engineering would straight up fix the
climate and wipe away all the fear about global warming and no one would ever have to worry
about anything ever again. Simple. But in reality, the aspects of climate engineering are much
different. The biggest problem with climate engineering that makes it unrealistic is the cost. For
example, a SRM technique of installing a giant space sunshade would cost around $5 trillion+.
CDR isn’t much cheaper, it would cost $1.6 trillion to set up a fleet of carbon scrubbers to take
in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (Editor, 2008). Other geoengineering schemes are
estimated to amount to $10s to $100s billion to happen. With a government that is already
struggling financially, finding the money to budget into climate engineering is virtually
impossible. Climate engineering is not in the best interest of the United States because it is also
shown to hurt the environment. When the climate is changed, the ecosystems experience change
as well. Solar radiation techniques such as stratospheric aerosol injection come with side effects
known to impact hydrological cycles. Like those of a volcanic eruption, the side effects can
consist of reduced precipitation, soil moisture, and water flow. They are also known to decrease
the ozone, the layer in the atmosphere that blocks harmful UV rays from the sun which can lead
to a higher risk of skin cancer and eye damage in humans (Burrows, 2016). Lastly,
experimenting with geoengineering techniques can provoke conflict between other nations.
Once we are able to control “the thermostat” of our planet, countries may feud over who has the
right to do this. If Russia likes things a little bit colder but Brazil wants it a few degrees higher,
we may find ourselves in the midst a climate control fueled WWIII. Although it looks like a
good idea on paper, climate engineering is an unrealistic way to fix global warming that has a
good chance of providing more problems than solving them.
Climate engineering is a large-scale method of looking at possible solutions for
combating climate change. I believe the real solution lies within smaller techniques that will
gradually fix the climate over time. One method of this is to set a federal limit when it comes to
carbon emissions. One way this can be done is to start carbon pricing- putting a monetary value
on carbon emissions so “that the costs of climate impacts and the opportunities for low-carbon
energy options are better reflected in our production and consumption choices” (Union of
Concerned Scientists, 2017). Carbon pricing will force fossil fuel oriented businesses to pay for
the damage caused to the environment and encourage such companies to emit less. The next step
is to gradually transition all of our fossil fuel use into green energy. Sources such as solar, wind,
geothermal and hydroelectricity are becoming more efficient and convenient with time.
Combining these methods holds for a greater amount of energy that fossil fuels can ever give us
but without the side effects. Fixing the Earth’s climate is no easy task, but with advancing
technology and larger efforts to be green, climate change may soon be a thing of the past.
Some can only hope, yet the evidence indicates that climate engineering will only
jeopardize the nature of our environment while costing the government billions of dollars. Worst
case scenario, there could be a global climate warfare and risk the lives of millions. Based upon
that I have three final policy recommendations to make:
1. That the U.S. National Government abstain from giving money to and/or
participating in any state or federal geoengineering schemes.
2. That the U.S. National Government set a carbon-pricing market to encourage
lower federal carbon dioxide emissions in the United States.
3. That the U.S. National Government invest more its budget into green
renewable energy sources to invest in a sustainable quality of life for all.
The future of the planet that we live on is at risk. Investing in a sustainable future
requires action, but must be done if we want to continue living on Earth. Climate engineering is
only a theory based scheme to take on climate change and will certainly backfire on what we are
trying to save: our future. I will be glad to discuss this on next Tuesdays conference.
Burrows, L. (2016, December 12). Mitigating the Risk of Geoengineering. Retrieved
November 19, 2017, from https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2016/12/mitigating-the-risk-of-
Editors, T. (2008, November 01). The Hidden Dangers of Geoengineering. Retrieved
November 19, 2017, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-hidden-dangers-of-
Gordon, D. (2017, December 08). Understanding Climate Engineering. Retrieved
December 11, 2017, from http://carnegieendowment.org/2017/08/21/understanding-climate-
Robock, A. (2008, April). 20 Reasons Why Geoengineering May be a Bad Idea.
Retrieved November, 2017, from http://climate.envsci.rutgers.edu/pdf/20Reasons.pdf
Carbon Pricing 101. (2017). Union of Concerned Scientists . Retrieved December 08,
2017, from http://www.ucsusa.org/global-warming/reduce-emissions/cap-trade-carbon-