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Geoengineering, Annotated Bibliography Example

Pages: 7

Words: 1815

Annotated Bibliography

Thesis paragraph: Global warming and climate change are two very real concerns of scientists and researchers around the world, and while several solutions for each of those problems are already in place, none of them seem to be making much of a difference; the environment is still suffering and people around the world can feel the environmental result of global warming and climate change. Geoengineering is a newly researched technology, and it is a potential solution for the increasing problems concerning global warming and climate change.  While the research regarding geoengineering is still relatively slim, there is a very common thread through the works of many researchers: geoengineering is certainly promising, but there are many ways that it might go wrong.  Because of the very versatile nature of the new technology and the threat of massive, unforeseen global impact, any implementation of geoengineering should be well researched, well planned, and scientists responsible for the results of geoengineering should be prepared to handle any problems that might arise from it.  Zang Yanzhu and Alfred Posch emphasize the idea of unforeseen consequences at the hands of scientists toying with geoengineering, and they explain that there is “no accepted weighting mechanism of geoengineering side effects and impacts” to predict such results (404).  Clare Heyward is also wary of the use of geoengineering over traditional attempts to cut back on emissions, and she writes that we should “focus on specific features of proposed technologies and the appropriate mix of emission reductions” rather than place hope in geoengineering (26).  Many researchers support the belief that geoengineering, while being a technology with some potential, should be treated with caution, as there are many unforeseen consequences that might arise from its utilization.

“Geoengineering Would Be ‘Irresponsible.’” TCE: The Chemical Engineer 885 (2015): 6. Print.

The article argues not only that geoengineering is an irresponsible and irrational way of dealing with climate change issues, but that the best, safest, and least-risky way to handle climate change and global warming is to adjust current habits and to decrease emissions.  The article begins by describing the difference between Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) and Solar Radiation Management (SRM) practices in engineering, and goes on to describe faults in each of them.  CDR is by far the lowest-risk option when dealing with geoengineering, but implementing it around the world would be equally or much more expensive than switching from fossil fuels to something with less carbon-emissions.  In general, the article argues that it would be equally, if not more cost efficient to simply switch from fossil fuels, rather than utilize CDR practices.  Next, the article points out that while SRM implementations are far less expensive than CDR, researchers have suggested that there will likely be very large and unforeseen consequences following the utilization of SRM.  The US National Academies—the primary source of the article—not only holds that research should go into geoengineering, but that much more research should go into the development of any plan to adjust the climate prior to action.

The article includes one primary source, which makes it far less reliable.  In addition, the article does not go in depth to describe potential environmental consequences that might appear because of geoengineering.  It does, however, support my thesis that geoengineering should be taken lightly because of its unforeseen consequences.  Because of the incredibility and shallow information provided, however, I do not plan to use this resource.

Heyward, Clare. “Situating and Abandoning Geoengineering: A Typology of Five Responses to Dangerous Climate Change.” Political Science and Politics, 46.1 (2013): 23-27. Print.

Heyward’s primary argument is that geoengineering should not be considered a third category regarding climate change response (alongside adaptation and mitigation), but should be considered a part of a five-step process (to which geoengineering provides two steps) that handles climate change. Heyward begins by drawing similarities between the two parts of geoengineering—Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) and Solar Radiation Management (SRM)—and then uses those similarities to compare both CDR and SRM to the definitions and characteristics of adaptation (reduced vulnerability to climate change of systems) and mitigation (implementing policies to enhance sinks and reduce emissions of GHG).  After thoroughly comparing and contrasting CDR and SRM to both adaptation and mitigation (using characteristics involving deliberation, land usage, the amount of area affected by each method, the “naturalness” of each), Heyward connects the similarities by suggesting that each of the methods are related somehow, but utilizes their differences to infer that a five-step process to handle climate change is in use.  Four of those distinct steps, Heyward argues, are mitigation, CDR, SRM, and adaptation.  Preventative measures that avoid certain levels of atmospheric GHG concentration include mitigation (such as driving less) and CDR (removing GHG from the atmosphere); a preventative measure that avoids a rising global temperature is SRM.  Once climate change has begun but is not dangerous, adaptation takes place (being the fourth of five steps), and rectification begins once dangerous climate change has set in.

The article is very well organized and supported by outside sources, and Heyward portrays a deep knowledge in the subject.  By suggesting that CDR and SRM techniques should be considered separate from mitigation and adaptation (two categories in which they are usually placed), the article solidified my understanding not only of what other methods of defense exist against climate change, but it helped me understand the timeline of defenses against climate change.  The article supported my thesis that geoengineering may have unforeseen consequences and should be handled gently.

Srokosz, M. A. “Geoengineering or Planet Hacking?” God and Nature Magazine, 66.4 (December 2014):  213-220. Print.

Specifically regarding the ethical issues surrounding geoengineering, Srokosz’s stance seems to be against the utilization of geoengineering even though his final statement suggests that he is more “on the line” regarding its usage.  Srokosz begins the article by admitting that the best way to help the environment is to stop pumping harmful chemicals in the first place, but he acknowledges that it is unlikely.  He then explains that there are two types of geoengineering (Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) and Solar Radiation Management (SRM)), each of which contain specific options for cleaning up the environment.  CDR includes the collection and storage of CO2 found in the atmosphere; another option is to absorb CO2 into the ocean, where photosynthesizers use it in order to grow.  For SRM, there are three subcategories, including mimicking the effects of ash from volcanic eruptions by injecting aerosols into the atmosphere (the goal being to use this clouding effect to cool the planet); a second option is to increasing the number of cloud condensation nuclei in order to increase the amount of low-level marine cloud albedo, which would reflect more sunlight back to space (thus cooling the planet); a third option is to take solar reflectors and put them out in space in order to redirect the sunlight.  Srokosz goes on to question the ethical questions raised regarding geoengineering, (including but not limited to: should these solutions be truly considered at all? Who gets to decide whether research findings should be implemented? If it were to be implemented, what is the “exit strategy?”), and he promptly shuts down each question with the exception of “should we research this at all?” He argues that the Christian belief system holds no room for geoengineering and he uses many biblical citations to back up his findings.  Overall, Srokosz argues against the adjustment of the world (in general), against its implementation, and against anything that might adjust the future.  He only argues that research is acceptable (though not implementable).

While Srokosz used nearly 40 citations to back up his work, the natural bias evident throughout the piece makes it less scientific and more personal.  Because he speaks from a theological standpoint, Srokosz holds different values and beliefs, along with a set of moral obligations that do not apply to all men and women.  The non-objective view makes his article less reliable, and while it supports the idea that geoengineering will likely cause more problems than it will help, I do not plan to use the article.

Yanzhu, Zang & Alfred Posch. “The Wickedness and Complexity of Decision Making in Geoengineering.” Challenges 5.1 (2014): 390-408. EBSCOHost. Web. 9 Nov. 2015.

Yanzhu and Posch’s goal in writing the article is to not only inform policy-makers directly, but to specifically hit on the negatives and the difficulties that making decisions in geoengineering include.  They suggest a type of central governing body that would be in charge of decreasing the problems with geoengineering decision-making, and that would attempt to address each of the issues Yanzhu and Posch lay out.  Yanzhu and Posch begin the article by describing the need for and complex definition of geoengineering; the climate change is severe and is a force that must be stopped, and while geoengineering is certainly an option, its exact definition is confusing.  There are two subtypes of geoengineering: Solar Radiation Management (SRM), which deals with the symptoms of climate change, and Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR), which handles the root of climate change.  The first (and most in-depth) complexity Yanzhu and Posch describe is the interdependence of nature; more specifically, everything in nature works together, and a change in one aspect will result in many changes both in the short term and the long term.  They explain that changes in the environment as results of human-environment reactions are oftentimes very intense, and they result in humans trying to fix whatever problem may have been created, essentially worsening the issue.  Yanzhu and Posch evaluate both SRM and CDR and conclude that CDR would result in fewer forseen catastrophes upon implementation than SRM, the primary reason for which being that CDR interventions would be easier to stop than SRM intrusions.  Yanzhu and Posch continue to evaluate whether geoengineering is affordable (most SRM: yes; most CDR: questionable, depending on the methods utilized), whether money should be the only criteria involved in decision making (no direct suggestion is provided, but several other criterion are suggested to be mulled through, including social equity, “have we tortured our environment too much,” or “how do we know future generations will keep it up”), and what the different conflicting interests and values are between nations.  They discuss issues arising from a lack of a central, geoengineering-focused power structure, and conclude by considering the fact that the act of decision-making is, at its very core, imperfect.

Zhang and Posh use complex language to match the difficult concepts, but the article is very well supported and logically structured.  There is a lot of information regarding impacts that both CDR and SRM might have on the environment and Zhang and Posh admit to not knowing everything that might result from such actions.  Because it emphasizes how difficult decisions in geoengineering will be (due to conflicts of interest, environmental concerns, etc.), the article supports my thesis that geoengineering involves technology that could cause problems of its own, and that any utilization of the research and technology should be handled with care.

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