2012-07-20

Co.Exist

Mapping Geoengineering Projects Throughout The World

Though humanity has never attempted a major project (like creating a fake volcanic eruption) minor geoengineering projects are going on across the planet. Take a look.

Geoengineering, or large-scale engineering of the environment, is a controversial method of delaying climate change, especially with reports now claiming that it could actually make climate change worse. But while scientists haven’t yet attempted a large scale geoengineering effort, smaller efforts have been underway around the world for the last 50 years. Below, a map from ETC Group that shows some of the most significant geoengineering projects around the world.

Click to enlarge.

As you can see, the U.S., Canada, the European Union, and Australia are the biggest geoengineering hotspots. Almost all the countries in Asia, South America, and the Middle East have played host to some projects. African countries have done the least--appropriate since they generally contribute the least to climate change (though they will be hit particularly hard when it worsens).

The map uses a pretty broad view of geoengineering. Many of the projects have involved weather modification--either increasing precipitation by seeding clouds with chemicals, or reducing precipitation through a number of techniques (one example: using fleets of vessels to cut down on hurricanes by mixing warm water from the ocean’s surface with cold water found deeper in the ocean). Carbon sequestration using biochar (agricultural waste burned to make charcoal) that is buried in the soil is another popular technique. But others--like cultivating algae to consume CO2, whitening the Earth’s surface with "space mirrors" to redirect sunlight, and fertilizing the ocean with iron or nitrogen to sequester CO2--haven’t seen nearly as much testing.

The most recent plan we’ve seen (it’s not on the map) comes from a pair of Harvard engineers who are aiming to launch a balloon that sprays sun-reflecting chemicals--a technique that could cool down the planet if used on a global scale. This would be the first test of the technique.

Scientists have to do a lot more field testing before geoengineering can be deployed in any significant fashion. Sure, it could backfire, and some would argue that even testing these techniques is admitting defeat in our battle against climate change. But it’s always good to have a backup plan.

Add New Comment

4 Comments

  • Jungletrump

    Blocking sunlight?  Does anyone else see the fallacy of this idea? I'd be interested to see who is funding this research.  I certainly wouldn't put my name on it.  This would destroy agriculture and all plant life on earth.  The only logical reason for this research is to hold the world hostage with the threat of blocking sunlight.  The core problem is de-forestation, creating a CO2-O2 imbalance.  The research we need lies in the development of construction materials that re-use packaging waste. 

  • Nosybear

    Let us not forget the largest geo-engineering project never designed nor tested, the emissions of huge quantities of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere by human beings.  But there are some other potential ways of geo-engineering:  Paint roofs white instead of black to reflect energy into space, for example.

  • Max Mogren

    Thank you for covering this crucial topic.  That map and your analysis of the situation are commendable, but if solar radiation management projects are only limited to the experimental stage, what are all those unmarked, untrackable planes doing as they criss cross our skies leaving what NASA calls "lingering contrails" but which are obviously not normal contrails but in fact some sort of chemical being sprayed into the atmosphere on a near-global scale.  The independent media has acknowledged the existence of Chemtrails for quite some time and it would be great to see the MSM actually tackle this issue.  Thanks again!