The earth’s near-surface and ocean temperatures have been increasing above average over the years, a phenomenon referred to as global warming. The phenomenon is caused by both natural and human factors that increase the concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere. These gases influence the atmospheric temperatures by creating a greenhouse effect, a situation where the heat radiation escaping from the earth’s surface to the outer atmosphere is trapped within the earth’s lower atmosphere, resulting in a general increase in the near surface and ocean temperatures. Natural factors contributing to the global warming effect include activities such as volcanic eruptions and wild fires that release GHGs such as sulphur oxides and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. However, human factors are the leading causes of global warming since the early years of the industrialization era. Although this fact is supported by numerous scientific studies, most people have continued to deny that human behavior is the main cause of global warming. Such behaviors include industrial pollution, deforestation, burning of fossil fuels, and agricultural practices such commercial livestock farming and rice paddy fields that release the GHG methane into the atmosphere.
The major effects of global warming include the rise of global sea level, which is being caused by the melting of ice, such as the mountain glaciers and ice sheets, in different parts of the world, especially at the poles. This rise in sea level will increase incidences of coastal flooding that will increase coastal erosion and displacement of coastal populations (Stern, 2007, 90). Secondly, global warming is responsible for increased ocean temperatures that are threatening marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs that support a wide range of fish species. This will not only threaten diversity of various fish species, but also the livelihoods of coastal fishing communities. Thirdly, the phenomenon has affected weather patterns, resulting in extreme weather events, such as extreme rain and heat events. It has enhanced the severity of tropical storms and drought events. Fourthly, the phenomenon is threatening wildlife diversity because it has changed the conditions of various ecosystems. For instance, the melting of polar ice sheets and glaciers might cause the extinction of the polar bears and penguins.
Several features of the Western culture have made people believe in their supremacy over nature. For instance, the rationalism has encouraged human control and domination over nature, which is being realized through the development of technologies that have modified the environment to ensure human survival and reproduction (Plumwood, 2005, p. 15-17). While Plato argued that the material or natural world is not real, his student Aristotle perceived the material world as an instrument for human survival, comfort, and enjoyment. Technological innovations have made humans overcome any challenges posed by nature, such as construction of dams and irrigation canals to facilitate food production. The Western Christianity also encouraged people to disregard the physical environment as something valuable that can be used, which signifies their supremacy over nature.
The term geoengineering refers to the intentional or purposeful manipulation of the earth’s climate to offset the adverse effects of climate change or its warming effects resulting from human activities. Its first approach that appears most promising is the carbon dioxide removal (CDR) techniques, which involves removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (Corner & Pidgeon, 2010, p. 26). The captured carbon in then stored in reservoirs in the long term. It can also be achieved by stimulating algae growth in oceans, thus increasing absorption of carbon dioxide. Use of biofuels as substitutes for fossil fuels and large-scale afforestation are other possible means of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The second approach is the solar radiation management (SRM) techniques, which are meant to reflect a small proportion of sun’s light and heat back into space (Corner & Pidgeon, 2010, p. 26). This will be achieved through placing reflectors in space, or developing stratospheric aerosols particles to deflect light. Other methods include enhancing surface albedos of human settlements and oceanic clouds.
The purposeful manipulation of the global climate has raised concerns of whether it is ethically acceptable. While other people believe the interference will worsen the situation, others perceive it as a possible solution (Corner & Pidgeon, 2010, p. 28-29). The world society is also not in agreement regarding the adoption of the technique by seeking international consent. Since geoengineering is founded on military strategies for weather modification, it would raise global security and law conflict among the world’s powerful nations and their allies (Corner & Pidgeon, 2010, p. 30). The approach also distracts the world from embracing adaptation and mitigation measures, as they believe they can fix it using technology. Instead of spending valuable resources and time in research to develop a technology that can fix global warming, the world’s nations should commit themselves to adaptation and mitigation measures that are timely and less costly.
Corner, A., & Pidgeon, N. (2010). Environment: science and policy for sustainable development. Environment, 52(1).
Plumwood, V. (2005). Environmental culture: the ecological crisis of reason. New York: Routledge.
Stern, N. (2007). The economics of climate change: Stern review on the economics of climate change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.