Leading article: Climate of technological hope

Share
Related Topics

There is something viscerally attractive about large-scale engineering projects that promise to mitigate the process of climate change, whether by reflecting the Sun's rays away from the Earth, or sucking C02 out of the atmosphere. Various schemes ranging from injecting sea salt into the air using floating pontoons to placing giant mirrors in space are attractive because they suggest that technological innovation can save us from the damage that unchecked climate change threatens to inflict on our planet.

Who, when faced with disaster, could fail to be enthused by talk of a potential saviour in the form of a technological fix? And now the respected Royal Society has declared that such large-scale engineering projects, which some assumed to be pie-in-the-sky, are "technically possible" and that research into them ought to be pursued. We can draw some measure of encouragement from this. But we must also heed the very clear caveats in the Society's report. First, simply because some of these ambitious schemes have been judged "technically possible" does not mean that they would actually work in practice. Second, there is considerable uncertainty about their wider environmental impact and the costs involved.

Most important of all, the report does not suggest that any of these projects constitute a "solution" to climate change, and they certainly do not give us the green light to scrap our efforts to decarbonise our economies. The authors of the report are very clear. Reducing our industrial, domestic and transport carbon emissions must be the first priority of all governments. It envisages these engineering projects as a "Plan B" in the event that mankind fails to get its carbon emissions under control in the coming years.

What these scientists are doing is looking into the future, preparing for dire contingencies. This is a responsible approach. It is infinitely better to plan early, rather than wait until the crisis is upon us. But it is also vital that governments and citizens around the world are not distracted from the overriding priority of the moment which is to reduce drastically the amount of carbon dioxide our societies pump into the atmosphere in the first place.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UX Consultant

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working with a 8 st...

Recruitment Genius: Part-time Editor

£8000 - £12000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Executive

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An exceptional opportunity has arisen for a pa...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen and Bathroom Installers

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of designer kitch...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jeb Bush's campaign will emphasise both his conservative record as a former governor of Florida and his commitment to building a more inclusive Republican Party  

American democracy is up for sale, and it’s a warning to us all

Shirley Williams
Pupils arrive at school with their parents at the start of a new school year  

School-run parents: be careful – very careful – what you wish for

Grace Dent
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border