- Planetary engineering
Planetary engineering is the application of
technologyfor the purpose of influencing the global properties of a planet. [cite book| authorlink=Martyn J. Fogg| last=Fogg| first=Martyn J.| year=1995| title=Terraforming: Engineering Planetary Environments| publisher=SAE International| location=Warrendale, PA] The goal of this theoretical task is usually to make other worlds habitable for life.
Perhaps the best-known type of planetary
engineeringis terraforming, by which a planet's surface conditions are altered to be more like those of Earth. Other terms used for particular types of planetary engineering include caeliforming,cn|date=February 2008 for the creation of an Earth-like atmosphere, and ecopoiesisfor the introduction of an ecologyto a lifeless environment. Planetary engineering is largely the realm of science fictionat present, although some types of climate changeon Earth are recent evidence that humans can cause change on a global scale.
Terraforming is the hypothetical process of deliberately modifying the atmosphere,
temperature, or ecology of a planet, moon, or other body to be similar to those of Earth in order to make it habitable by humans.
Geoengineering is the deliberate modification of
Earth's environment on a large scale "to suit human needs and promote habitability". ["a controversial field known as geoengineering, which means rearranging the Earth's environment on a large scale to suit human needs and promote habitability" [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/27/science/earth/27cool.html?ex=1151985600&en=ca9e39a26d7e4ece&ei=5065&partner=MYWAY How to Cool a Planet (Maybe)] New York Times - June 27, 2006] Others define it more narrowly as focusing only on the mineralogyand hydrologyof the Earth. [cite web| url=http://www.ce.berkeley.edu/geo/index.php| title=UC Berkeley Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering| accessdate=2007-05-05] The term "geoengineering" is distinct from accidental anthropogenic climate change.
As human populations grow and technology spreads, measurable changes in the Earth are becoming more apparent. Anthropogenic
land use, accelerated since the industrial revolution, have led to the alteration of between one-third and one-half of the Earth's land surface. Levels of atmospheric CO2 have increased by approximately 30 percent over the last two centuries. More atmospheric nitrogenis fixed by humanitythan by all natural terrestrial sources combined. And, more than half of all accessible surface fresh wateris put to use by humans. [cite journal| last=Vitousek| first=P.M.| coauthors= Mooney, H.A., Lubchenco, J., Melillo, J.M.| year=1997| title=Human Domination of Earth's Ecosystems| url=http://www.well.com/user/davidu/domination.html| journal=Science| volume=277| pages=5325| doi=10.1126/science.277.5325.494]
Records indicate that surface temperatures have risen by more than half a degree
Celsius(one degree Fahrenheit) within the last 50 years. Sea surface temperatures(SST) have also risen during the last 30 years by a comparable amount. [cite journal| last=Sheppard| first=C. R.| coauthors=Spalding M., Bradshaw C., Wilson S.| year=2002| title=Erosion vs. recovery of coral reefs after 1998 El Niño: Chagos reefs, Indian Ocean| journal=Ambio| month=Feb| volume=31| issue=1| pages=40–8| doi=10.1639/0044-7447(2002)031 [0040:EVROCR] 2.0.CO;2] . While there is still political debate over the notion that these changes in Earth's climate are the accidental result of human civilizationthrough the industrial emission of greenhouse gases, the scientific community is almost entirely in agreement about the science of global warming. According to most climate models, climate change may result in altered precipitation patterns and the increased frequency and severity of extreme weatheraround the world. [cite web| url=http://www.ipcc.ch/| title=Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change| accessdate=2006-05-26]
Much proposed geoengineering is a reaction to human-induced global warming. Although many geo-engineering projects have been proposed (see below), large-scale CO2-storage through tree-plantations is the only serious, globally accepted means to decrease
greenhouse gases. In addition, it is also the only scheme being undertaken on a large (or planetary) scale.
Several geo-engineering projects have been proposed. The documentaries "
Five ways to save the world" and " La temperature grimpe" [ [http://www.arte.tv/fr/histoire-societe/Rechauffement-climatique/A-l-antenne/1922676.html La temperature grimpe-documentary] ] describe many of the most notable projects. Important projects include:
* Mirrors in space: proposed by
Roger Angelwith the purpose to deflect a percentage of solar sunlight into space, using mirrors floating around the earth in orbit. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/6298507.stm Five ways to save the world-overview] ]
* Phytoplankton: proposed by
Ian Joneswith the purpose to fertilize the ocean with urea, a nitrogen rich substance, to encourage phytoplankton growth.
St. Lawrence Dam: proposed by Rolf Schuttenhelmwith the purpose to decrease salinityand temperature in the Arctic Ocean, slowing down albedo and methane feedbacks. [http://www.cleverclimate.org/climate/12/diomede_crossroads/ Diomede Crossroads - Saving the Arctic? Thoughts on plausibility] ]
While many proposals have been considered, none have been implemented on a large scale. Many members of the scientific and technical communities fear that the full effects of various geoengineering schemes are not fully understood. The failure of the ambitious
Biosphere 2facility is one example of a complex project that was unsuccessful because scientists still have a limited understanding of how earth systems work together; the implications for a failed project of global scale are frightening, and as a result policy-makers are hesitant to embrace various geoengineering schemes for combating the effects of global warming.
Other criticism comes from those who see geoengineering projects as reacting to the symptoms of global warming rather than addressing the real causes of climate change. Because geoengineering is a form of controlling the risks associated with global warming, it leads to a
moral hazardproblem. The problem is that knowledge that geoengineering is possible could lead to climate impacts seeming less fearsome, which could in turn lead to a weaker commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. [cite web|url=http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/192|title="A surprising idea for solving climate change (lecture at TED conference)"|author=David Keith|accessdate=2008-04-06] It could be argued that pursing geoengineering solutions sends the message that humans can continue to live out of harmony with the Earth as long as we have enough clever technological solutions to preserve human life. This disregard for the overall health of Earth's ecosystems and natural environments is an affront to proponents of sustainable development.
Furthermore, geoengineering opens up various political and economic issues. David Keith argues that the cost of geoengineering the Earth is within the realm of small countries, large corporations, or even very wealthy individuals. This effectively eliminates any control over who gets to decide when to cool the Earth and how often this should be done. [cite web|url=http://www.ucalgary.ca/~keith/papers/89.Keith.EngineeringThePlanet.p.pdf|title="Engineering the Planet"|author=David Keith|accessdate=2008-04-08|pages="3-4,8"]
However, it could also be argued that more conservative use of resources is not enough to mitigate global warming. Even if all greenhouse emissions suddenly came to a complete halt, the climate would continue to warm well into the next century due to the residual effect of greenhouse gases. Conservation of resources and reduction of greenhouse emissions, used in conjunction with geoengineering, could be considered the best option by some.
Virgin Earth Challenge
Rendezvous with Rama"
* [http://www.metatronics.net/lit/geo2.html Geoengineering: A Climate Change Manhattan Project (Stanford Envtl. Law Journal]
* [http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/008364.html Geoengineering Retrospective] Overview of articles on geoengineering from the sustainability site
* [http://www.ce.berkeley.edu/geo/index.php UC Berkeley's GeoEngineering program]
* [http://geo-engineering.blogspot.com/ Geo-engineering blogspot; website describing all current methods/proposals done to revert climate change by geo-engineering]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/6298507.stm 5 ways to save the earth; documentairy about geo-engineering]
* [http://globalecology.stanford.edu/DGE/CIWDGE/home/main%20page/People/Caldeira/Caldeira_Research.php Caldeira lab] at the [http://www.ciw.edu/ Carnegie Institution for Science]
* [http://lifeboat.com/ex/climate.shield ClimateShield] -
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4762720.stm Guns and sunshades to rescue climate] BBC News
* [http://www.wired.com/science/planetearth/news/2007/07/geoengineering Climate Engineering Is Doable, as Long as We Never Stop] Wired Magazine
* [http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1720049_1720050_1721653,00.html 10 Ideas That Are Changing The World: 6.Geoengineering] Time Magazine
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