The laws of global warming: How to regulate geo-engineering efforts to fight climate change

Dec 20, 2012 by Tom Snee
Credit: ©istockphoto.com/Trifonov_Evgeniy

(Phys.org)—With policymakers and political leaders increasingly unable to combat global climate change, more scientists are considering the use of manual manipulation of the environment to slow warming's damage to the planet.

But a University of Iowa law professor believes the legal ramifications of this kind of geo-engineering need to be thought through in advance and a global governance structure put in place soon to oversee these efforts.

"Geo-engineering is a global concern that will have climate and in all countries, and it is virtually inevitable that some group of people will be harmed in the process," says Jon Carlson, professor of law at the UI College of Law. "The international community must act now to take charge of this activity to ensure that it is studied and deployed with full attention to the rights and interests of everyone on the planet."

Carlson is an expert in environmental law and international law who believes geo-engineering is inevitable and will likely happen sooner than later. He considers the issue in a new paper, "Reining in Phaethon's Chariot: Principles for the Governance of ," published in the current issue of the journal Transnational Law and Contemporary Problems. His co-author, Adam D.K. Abelkop, is a UI law graduate now in the doctoral program at the Indiana University School of Public Health and Environmental Affairs.

Carlson says the concept of geo-engineering goes back to at least the 19th century, when scientists proposed to increase rainfall. Today, scientists have a long list of geo-engineering ideas that could be used to slow the impact of global warming while other methods are developed to actually mitigate the damage. Some ideas are simple and locally focused, such as planting new forests to absorb carbon dioxide, or painting roofs and paved areas white to reduce absorption.

Others are more complex and controversial—manually cooling oceans so carbon dioxide-laden water sinks to the bottom more quickly; building space-based shields and mirrors to deflect solar heat from the planet; or injecting chemicals like hydrogen sulfide or sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere, creating an aerosol shield that reduces the amount of solar heat reaching the earth's surface.

But Carlson says geo-engineering comes with obvious international legal implications because no one country can implement its own geo-engineering plan without causing weather or climate changes in other countries. There's also the law of unintended consequences, because while many geo-engineering concepts have proved hopeful in the lab, nobody knows what will happen when actually put into practice. For instance, Carlson says that while manually cooling the ocean may be seen as a generally good idea, what impact will that have on farmers in India whose crops depend on rain from heat-induced tropical monsoons?

To address these issues, Carlson urges the creation of an international governing body separate from any existing organization that approves or rejects geo-engineering plans, taking into consideration the best interests of people and countries around the world. He says any legal regimen involving geo-engineering activities should require they be publicly announced in the planning stage, and all countries are notified so they have a voice in deliberations.

As a model for his oversight body, Carlson suggests the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Like the IMF, his proposed organization would give all countries a place during discussions, but decisions would be made by a relatively small group of directors, each of which has a weighted vote that's based on their country's greenhouse gas production. That is, countries that produce more greenhouse gases will spend more money to combat , and so will have more votes.

Carlson's proposed body would oversee a compensation fund to help people and countries that are harmed by other country's approved geo-engineering activities, or by unseen effects of those activities.

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User comments : 19

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Tausch
2.3 / 5 (6) Dec 20, 2012
Another declaration. Of war.
A strange nation.
rubberman
3.6 / 5 (9) Dec 20, 2012
Geo-engineering....Hollywood is going to have a blast with this one.
konewt
4 / 5 (4) Dec 21, 2012
Manually cool the ocean? Where do we put the heat we harvest from the ocean (plus the generated heat ex cooling process)? Hollywood maybe?
The Alchemist
2.8 / 5 (8) Dec 21, 2012
Hmmm... we want to stop the "warming" right?
Instead of the dangerous manipulation of the environment, how about we stop releasing heat from burning fossil fuels, be more efficient, and use wind and solar?
Or is that too simple/extreme?
ryggesogn2
1.9 / 5 (11) Dec 22, 2012
"

It may be difficult to see that simply dismissing groups of people as not worth taking seriously is a form of coercion. It's intellectual overpowering: "Trust us; you wouldn't understand anyway." Whatever we call it, the chance for persuasion is lost.

It's a chance that's lost every time authorities (especially scientists) try to tell people how to eat, drive, spend money, raise their kids without explaining why—the evidence and reasoning, in other words, that persuaded them. Instead, it's like a parent telling a child: "Because I said so!" Nothing lasting is passed on."
http://www.slate....gle.html
Were is the persuasion from AGWites?
djr
3.9 / 5 (7) Dec 25, 2012
Rygg - "Were is the persuasion from AGWites?"

Ice sheets are melting, glaciers are receding, oceans are rising, atmospheric C02 is rising, ocean ph is decreasing - everyday here on Physorg we read new articles representing the work of thousands of scientists studying the climate - and making their case. But Rygg sees no evidence of persuasion. I wonder where Rygg's head might be??????
Shinobiwan Kenobi
2.5 / 5 (11) Dec 26, 2012
I wonder where Rygg's head might be??????


The same place he pulls his "facts" from =^-^=
VendicarD
3.5 / 5 (6) Dec 26, 2012
"It may be difficult to see that simply dismissing groups of people as not worth taking seriously is a form of coercion." - RyggTard

Odd how RyggTard dismisses the vast majority of his fellow citizens in just that manner.

Psychopath's always do.
Feldagast
1.8 / 5 (8) Dec 26, 2012
In other words how to make a buck by scaring people with global warming. Its not man made and cant be fixed by man.
julianpenrod
2.2 / 5 (6) Dec 26, 2012
The Alchemist expresses half of a point I have been making for some time. The Alchemist suggests, instead of monstrous geo-engineering projects to undo "global warming", that the fossil fuel burning corporate source be regulated and controlled and asks why it isn't considered. I mentioned that a number of times and provided the answer. Government, whether Democrat or Republican, exists only to make sure the rich get richer, and the "rank and file" shoulder the entire load. If an individual polluted a stream, the government would be on them with SWAT teams, if a corporation pollutes the ocean, the government "negotiates massive tax breaks to entice them not to break the law". The "rank and file" are called on to suffer quality of life being destroyed by things like gigantic umbrellas in space, but corporations making those actions necessary aren't called to task! And the corporations will be paid huge amounts of taxpayer money to carry out the projects!
antialias_physorg
4.6 / 5 (5) Dec 26, 2012
Carlson says that while manually cooling the ocean may be seen as a generally good idea, what impact will that have on farmers in India whose crops depend on rain from heat-induced tropical monsoons?

And the aerosols idea is similarly idiotic. Farmers don't really like it if someone artificially reduces the source of energy that makes their crops grow.

But you know what? I'm sure someone will try it: just because there's lots more money in doing something than in stopping to do something disastrous.

Greed trumps sensible actions every time. Because it needs 7 billion sensible people to do the latter, while it only needs one greedy bastard to do the former.
Howhot
5 / 5 (3) Dec 26, 2012
I have to agree with R2, the simplest form of Geoengineering would be to start a movement of "AGW-ites" that forced market conditions on manufacturers to produce energy efficient cars - Hybrids and electrics, conserve energy and push to non-(coal oil or gas) power plants, and a migration away from fossil fuels.

Oh wait ...
The Alchemist
2.8 / 5 (8) Dec 26, 2012
Greed trumps sensible actions every time. Because it needs 7 billion sensible people to do the latter, while it only needs one greedy bastard to do the former.

Spot on!
cantdrive85
1.8 / 5 (8) Dec 27, 2012
Geoengineering has been happening on a large scale since at least 1996, all one needs to do is look up. And warming continues unabated, supposedly.

http://www.fourwi...50053032
Howhot
5 / 5 (3) Dec 27, 2012
After seeing Cantdive's site, It might take something like that to remove generations of atmospheric damage from fossil fuel CO2. If all of the jets in the world sprayed some CO2 sticking gas that lofted into the air and cleaned the air of CO2.

You mean like hot diesel gas soot (jet fuel) striking -30F air where H2O C02 -> H2CO3 carbolic acid that falls into the oceans, landmasses and cities as acid rain. Obviously higher concentrations in some places rather that others.

Sound very desirable.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (5) Dec 27, 2012
After seeing Cantdive's site, It might take something like that to remove generations of atmospheric damage from fossil fuel CO2. If all of the jets in the world sprayed some CO2 sticking gas that lofted into the air and cleaned the air of CO2.

You mean like hot diesel gas soot (jet fuel) striking -30F air where H2O C02 -> H2CO3 carbolic acid that falls into the oceans, landmasses and cities as acid rain. Obviously higher concentrations in some places rather that others.

Sound very desirable.

Right... because arsenic, barium, boron, nano aluminum-coated fiberglass [known as CHAFF], radioactive thorium, cadmium, chromium, titanium, nickel, desiccated blood, mold spores, yellow fungal mycotoxins, ethylene dibromide, polymer fibers and any number of other harmful chemicals and paticles are much better than a little extra CO2 in the atmosphere.
The Alchemist
1 / 5 (5) Dec 27, 2012
Though in the media, increasing levels of CO2 used to be a joke, a lie to confuse the issue of GW. The Earth USED TO have plenty of capacity to sink more CO2 than we humans could generate.
So leave it to we humans to turn the joke into a reality... http://en.wikiped...ecology)
I have trouble believeing the causal agent is fertilizer, wouldn't that have an opposite effect? And oxygen-generating critters seem to be causing a lack of O2? Not my area of expertise, but anyway... CO2 is rising, and the problem's not at the source, it's at the sink.
Howhot
4 / 5 (1) Dec 28, 2012
Right... because arsenic, barium, boron, nano aluminum-coated fiberglass [known as CHAFF], radioactive thorium, cadmium, chromium, titanium, nickel, desiccated blood, mold spores, yellow fungal mycotoxins, ethylene dibromide, polymer fibers and any number of other harmful chemicals and paticles are much better than a little extra CO2 in the atmosphere.


And now we know where the ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE is coming from!

Maggnus
3 / 5 (2) Jan 02, 2013
The same place he pulls his "facts" from =^-^=


Ha! Yep.