The 1946 discovery of cloud seeding by Schaefer and Langmuir (Schaefer, 1946) at the General Electric research labs ignited a commercial boom in weather modification.2 Within five years private cloud seeding ventures had total annual receipts of $3-5 million, and in 1951 had targeted an area equal to 14% of the landmass of the lower 48 states (ACWC57, see Table 10.1). The boom rapidly attracted government attention with the first court case involving
2 Contemporary documents, and more recent historical summaries, ignore prior work in the USSR.
liability for cloud seeding occurring in 1950, the first senate hearings in 1951, and the formation by congress of the Advisory Commission on Weather Control in 1953.
In the late 1950s weather modification became entangled in the politics of the cold war. Instead of regulating a growing industry, the focus became national security, and during the next decade the issue moved to the top drawer of national science politics. Apparently central to this transformation was growing knowledge of the Soviet effort in the area combined with concern about the possibility of superior Soviet scientific accomplishment marked by the launch of Sputnik in 1957.
Henry Houghton, the chair of the MIT meteorology department, summarized these fears in an influential 1957 address, "Man's material success has been due in large degree to his ability to utilize and control his physical environment. ... As our civilization steadily becomes more mechanized and as our population density grows, the impact of weather will become ever more serious. . . . The solution lies in . . . intelligent use of more precise weather forecasts and, ideally, by taking the offensive through control of weather." Of Soviet effort he said, "I shudder to think of the consequences of a prior Russian discovery of a feasible method for weather control. Fortunately for us and the world we were first to develop nuclear weapons . . . International control of weather modification will be as essential to the safety of the world as control of nuclear energy is now." He concluded "Basic research in meteorology can be justified solely on the economic importance of improved weather forecasting but the possibility of weather control makes it mandatory." (Orville, 1957, Vol. II, p. 286).
During the 1960s federal support for weather and climate modification grew rapidly, reaching —$10 million by the decade's end. A series of NAS and NSF reports echoed - and occasionally quoted - Houghton's claims, confirming the central importance of the topic in the atmospheric sciences and repeating concerns about Soviet leadership in the area (e.g., NAS66, see Table 10.1).
In the United States the focus was on weather, with large-scale climate modification receiving distinctly less attention than it did in the USSR. Occasional counter examples stand out, for example, in a 1958 paper in Science, the head of meteorological research at the United States weather bureau speculated about the use of nuclear explosives to warm the arctic climate via the creation of infrared reflecting ice clouds (Wexler, 1958).
By 1966 theoretical speculation about use of environmental modification as a tool of warfare (MacDonald, 1968) became realized as the United States began a campaign of cloud seeding in Vietnam that ultimately flew more than 2600 sorties and had a budget of —3.6 $m/yr. Public exposure of the program in 1972 generated a rapid and negative public reaction, and lead to an international treaty, the "Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques" (1976).
The gradual demise of weather modification after the mid-1970s may, arguably, be attributed to three forces: (a) backlash against the use of weather modification by the US military, (b) the growing environmental movement, and (c) the growing realization of the lack of efficacy of cloud seeding.
Beginning in the early 1960s, concerns about CO2-induced climate change and other forms of inadvertent climate modification become interwoven with work on climate and weather modification. The gradual shift in concern is evident in National Academy documents charged with planning the research agenda for the atmospheric sciences and in the history of climate assessments that is the topic of Section 10.3.5.
Terraforming is "planetary engineering specifically directed at enhancing the capacity of an extraterrestrial planetary environment to support life" (Fogg, 1995). The topic is relevant to the assessment of geoengineering because the terraforming literature is remarkably broad. In addition to technical papers in mainstream scientific publications (Sagan, 1961; Sagan, 1973; McKay, Toon et al., 1991), it includes popular fiction and work by environmental philosophers that examines the moral implications of planetary engineering (Hargrove, 1986). Though fragmentary, this work compliments the geoengineering literature, which is almost exclusively technical. They are linked by commonality of proposed technologies, ethical concerns, and by their ambiguous position between the realms of science fiction and reasoned debate about human use of technology.
Speculation about geoengineering - in the form of climate and weather control - and about terraforming both emerged in the 1950s during an era of technological optimism. The history of terraforming is well summarized by Fogg (1995). Both the concept of terraforming and the term itself originated in science fiction of the 1940s and 1950s. In 1961 a paper by Sagan in Science momentarily brought speculation about terraforming into the "respectable" scientific literature, with a suggestion that "planetary engineering" of Venus could be accomplished by seeding its clouds with photosynthetic microbes to liberate O2 from CO2 (Sagan, 1961). Another paper by Sagan in 1973 considered terraforming Mars via alteration of the polar cap albedo using dark dust or living organisms (Sagan, 1973). Beginning in the mid 1970s, a small community of research on and advocacy of terraforming grew around a nucleus of professional planetary scientists. While clearly at the margins of the scientific mainstream, the terraforming community has nevertheless been able to generate a remarkable continuity of dialogue.
Interestingly, the terraforming community has generated a more robust debate about ethical concerns than exists for geoengineering. Rolston and Callicott, for example, have separately attempted to integrate a value for extraterrestrial life into their separate conceptions of a terrestrial environmental ethic (Hargrove, 1986).
Arguably the first high-level government policy assessment that stated the CO2-climate problem in modern terms3 was Restoring the Quality of Our Environment, issued in 1965 by Johnson's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC65). In concluding the section of the report devoted to climate, the sole suggested response to the "deleterious" impact of CO2-induced climate change is geoengineering: "The possibilities of deliberately bringing about countervailing climatic changes therefore need to be thoroughly explored." The report continues with analysis of a scheme to modify the albedo by dispersal of buoyant reflective particles on the sea surface, concluding, "A 1% change in reflectivity might be brought about for about $500 million a year. Considering the extraordinary economic and human importance of climate, costs of this magnitude do not seem excessive." The possibility of reducing fossil fuel use is not mentioned.
It is noteworthy that the NAS report on climate and weather modification (NAS66), though it was written contemporaneously with PSAC65, does not suggest use of climate modification to counteract human impacts, although it does contain a fair summary of the CO2-climate problem in its chapter on "Inadvertent Modification of Atmospheric Processes".
The Study of Critical Environmental Problems (SCEP70) and the subsequent Study of Man's Impact on Climate (SMIC71) (see Table 10.1 for references), both led by MIT during 1970-71, reflect a sharp break with the tone of optimism about technology that marks the meteorology assessments of the 1960s. Both reports include broad statements that exemplify the emerging environmental consciousness. SMIC, for example, notes the increasing demands
3 The report combines analysis of atmospheric CO2 content based on the then —6 year record of accurate measurements with estimates of global fossil fuel combustion to estimate future concentrations. It then combines concentration estimates with early radiative convective models to estimate temperature change, and then compares that estimate to observed changes with consideration given to intrinsic climate variability. Finally, it speculates about possible impacts beyond temperature, e.g., CO2 fertilization of plant growth.
"man" places on "fragile biological systems" and asks "How much can we push against the balance of nature before it is seriously upset?" Neither report devotes significant attention to possible responses to the CO2-climate problem, although SCEP70 does note that reduction in fossil fuel consumption is the only solution and cites nuclear energy as the sole alternative. Neither report suggests countervailing measures (geoengineering). SMIC71 explicitly considers weather and climate modification as a potential environmental threat, noting that "like so many human endeavors, cloud seeding is showing evidence of unexpected side effects", and recommending "that an international agreement be sought to prevent large-scale4 experiments in persistent or long-term climate modification".
The release of the NAS report Energy and Climate in (NAS77) coincided with an increasing federal research and assessment effort on the CO2-climate issue centered at the Department of Energy. It marks the beginning of a continuing chain of NAS reports on the topic that are linked by shared authorship, and explicit cross-references (e.g., NAS79, NAS83, NAS92). Like PSAC65, the report linked projections of fossil fuel consumption with models of the carbon cycle and the climate to estimate future climate change. In contrast to SCEP70 and SMIC71, and like PSAC65, geoengineering was again on the agenda. The fourth of four "crucial" questions listed in the introduction to NAS77 is "What, if any, countervailing human actions could diminish the climatic changes or mitigate their consequences?" Several possibilities were examined, including fertilization of the ocean surface with phosphorus, engineered increases in planetary albedo (citing PSAC65), and massive afforestation with subsequent preservation of woody biomass. However, the report is less optimistic than PSAC65 about countervailing measures and concludes that mitigation via "increased reliance on renewable resources ... will emerge as a more practical alternative". Though not given prominence, the report concludes its introductory statement of the "Nature of the Problem" with an implicit taxonomy of responses that presages the formal taxonomy in NAS92 seen in Figure 10.2: "If the potential for climate change ... is further substantiated then it may be necessary to (a) reverse the trend in the consumption of fossil fuels. Alternatively, (b) carbon dioxide emissions will somehow have to be controlled or (c) compensated for." (Geophysics Study Committee 1977, p. 3).
Geoengineering in its most recent incarnation, as a means of counteracting CO2-induced climate change, receives its most serious airing in the NAS reports of 1982 and 1992.
NAS83 articulated a general framework for understanding the implications
4 Large-scale was specified as >106 km2.
of climate change. The explicit aim of the framework was to broaden the debate beyond CO2, to examine the spatial and temporal inequalities in the distribution of impacts, and finally to consider the problem dynamically over an extended timescale. The report considered measures of CO2 control separately from countervailing climate modification. With respect to CO2 control NAS82 notes the importance of the distinction between pre- and post-emission CO2 control and discusses post-emission sequestration in terrestrial and oceanic ecosystems, including the burial of trees at sea to effect more permanent sequestration. With respect to countervailing measures NAS83 notes that "in principle weather and climate modification are feasible; the question is only what kinds of advances . . . will emerge over the coming century", and adds that "interest in CO2 may generate or reinforce a lasting interest in national or international means of climate and weather modification; once generated, that interest may flourish independent of whatever is done about CO2." Finally, NAS83 speculated about the political consequences arising from the possibility of unilateral action to engineer the climate.
In contrast to the NAS83 report, NAS92 made less effort in the direction of an overarching framework. Rather, it focused on detailed technical analysis and included a chapter titled Geoengineering that included detailed analysis of a diverse array of options. NAS92 did contain a brief three part taxonomy of response strategies like that presented in Figure 10.1, in which CO2 capture from the atmosphere (post-emission) is considered geoengineering and in which sequestration of CO2 from industrial systems is grouped with other methods of reducing emissions from the energy system. In a synthesis chapter, NAS92 heroically attempted a uniform comparison of the cost effectiveness of all mitigation options, including geoengineering and presented aggregate mitigation supply curves for many options - a comparison that has not since been repeated.
In the chapter titled "Geoengineering", NAS92 analyzed four options: reforestation, ocean fertilization, albedo modification, and removal of atmospheric chlorofluorocarbons. Multiple cost estimates were presented for reforestation, oceanic fertilization with iron, albedo modification with space-based mirrors or with aerosols in the stratosphere and troposphere. The chapter's introduction included a discussion of predictability and risk assessment, comparing the risk of geoengineering to the risk of inadvertent climate modification. A summary of steps toward further assessment suggested small-scale experiments and the study of side effects including consideration of reversibility and predictability. The chapter ends by observing that "perhaps one of the surprises of this analysis is the relatively low costs at which some of the geo-engineering options might be implemented" and concluded that "this analysis does suggest that further inquiry is appropriate".
Beginning in the late 1980s the trickle of climate assessments became a flood.
A selected set of assessments is summarized in Table 10.1; most mention geoengineering peripherally or not at all. I conclude this survey of geoengineering in assessments with a summary of first and second assessment reports5 (FAR and SAR) of the IPCC.
The FAR dealt with mitigation in the report of Working Group III (IPCC, 1990) whose sole charge was to "formulate response strategies". The report adopts an abstract tone and contains little detailed economic or technical analysis. Neither the FAR nor SAR include a general framework for categorizing of response strategies as was done in the NAS studies of 1977, 1982, and 1992. The FAR mentions the possibility of "CO2 separation and geological or marine disposal" as a long-term option but does not describe the possibility further. Enhancement of natural carbon sinks is discussed only for forestry, and as an aside to a more detailed discussion of preventing further emissions by slowing deforestation.
Working Groups were reorganized for the SAR, with WGII charged with scientific and technical analysis of mitigation. WGII treated enhancement of terrestrial sinks in separate chapters devoted to forests and agricultural lands, and covered capture and sequestration of industrial carbon emission in the chapter on mitigation in the energy sector. The WGII report included a three-page section (—0.3% of the report) on "Concepts for Counterbalancing Climate Change". The text is primarily descriptive, presenting a taxonomy6 and review of geoengineering methods including enhancements to the oceanic carbon sink, alteration of albedo, and manipulation of feedback mechanisms. The SAR nowhere addresses the question of why enhancement of terrestrial carbon sinks is treated as mitigation while enhancement of oceanic sinks is treated as geoengineering. In contrast to NAS92 there is no attempt at cost estimation nor is there mention of broad ethical implications of geoengineering. Risks and uncertainties are stressed, but again in contrast to NAS92, no general heuristics for assessing risk are mentioned.7 Despite the absence of any cost calculations or attempts at risk assessment, the WGII report and the SAR "Summary for Policy Makers" concludes that geoengineering is "likely to be ineffective, expensive to sustain and/or to have serious environmental and other effects that are in many cases poorly understood".
For the SAR, WGIII was charged with assessing the socio-economic
5 The author is a contributor to the section of the Third Assessment Report that is provisionally titled "Biological uptake in oceans and fresh-water reservoirs; and geo-engineering". While technical details of some of the new work described here in Section 10.3.5 will be included, the report will not significantly improve on the SAR with respect to assessment of geoengineering.
6 The first two elements of the SAR's four-part taxonomy are identical to "albedo" and "emissivity" categories used here (Figure 10.3). The third element SAR's taxonomy covers all of the "energy transport" category. The fourth element, "counteracting the harmful effects of changes that do occur" represents a different view of the problem from that presented here.
7 For example, comparison of the magnitude of natural to engineered effect.
Table 10.1 Selected climate assessments. Note the definition of the NASxx style mnemonics used in the text. The notes are focused on the treatment of geoengineering
ACWC57 Advisory Committee on Weather Control (Orville, 1957)
NAS66 Weather and Climate
Modification: problems and prospects (Committee on Atmospheric Sciences, 1966)
PSAC65 Restoring the quality of our environment (President's Science Advisory Committee, 1965)
SCEP70 Study of Critical Environmental Problems (Study of Critical Environmental Problems, 1970)
SMIC71 Study of Man's Impact on
Climate: Inadvertent Climate Modification (Study of Critical Environmental Problems, 1970)
NAS77 Energy and Climate (Geophysics Study Committee, 1977)
NAS79 Carbon Dioxide and Climate: A Scientific Assessment (National Research Council, 1979)
NAS83 Changing Climate (Carbon
Dioxide Assessment Committee, 1983)
EPA83 Can we delay a greenhouse warming? (Seidel and Keyes, 1983)
Efficacy of weather control; legal implications; peripheral mention of deliberate and inadvertent climate modification.
Focus on weather, but extended discussion of deliberate and inadvertent climate modification including the CO2-climate problem.
Seminal modern statement of the CO2-climate problem. Countervailing measures were the only mitigation method considered.
Detailed examination of CO2-climate problem as one of a small set of critical environmental problems.
Very little on mitigation. Concern for the impacts of weather modification.
Stressed importance of limiting fossil emissions and of understanding countervailing measures.
Focus on estimating climate sensitivity; mitigation was not addressed.
General framework of responses to climate change includes countervailing measures and CO2 control. General discussion of methods; little technical analysis.
Focus on mitigation in energy sector. Terrestrial sequestration, countervailing measures, and ocean CO2 injection covered as "Nonenergy options".
Geoengineering the Climate Table 10.1 (cont.)
NAS92 Policy Implications of Greenhouse Warming (Panel on Policy Implications of Greenhouse Warming, 1992)
EPA90 Policy Options for Stabilizing Global Climate (Lashof and Tirpak, 1990)
IPCC90 The IPCC Response Strategies (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 1991)
OTA91 Changing by Degrees: Steps to
Reduce Greenhouse Gases (Office of Technology Assessment, 1991)
IPCC95 Climate Change 1995: Impacts, Adaptation, and Mitigation of Climate Change: Scientific-Technical Analysis (Watson, Zinyowera et al., 1996)
Included a chapter titled geoengineering that considered many options and attempted to estimate marginal CO2-equivalent mitigation costs.
No general framework for response strategies; CO2 capture and enhancing forest sinks get minor mentions. Focus on mitigation in energy sector. Analysis of carbon sequestration by afforestation. No general framework for response strategies; terrestrial sinks covered extensively, oceanic sinks and geoengineering mentioned peripherally.
dimensions of climate change and was specifically instructed to "be comprehensive, cover(ing) all relevant sources, sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases". The report, however, contains no analysis of geoengineering per se. It briefly mentions sequestration of carbon from industrial sources, but does not address any socio-economic implications of issues raised by those technologies, such as the gradual re-release of sequestered carbon. The possible enhancement of ocean carbon sinks is not addressed, and while enhancement of terrestrial sinks is considered, little discussion of the social, economic, and biological consequences of the enhancement is presented.
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