ETC in Copenhagen, December 2009
There could be some objection from "conspiracy theorists" that
Diana Bronson's response to the journalist from the Montreal Gazette shows she
isn't really against geoengineering, including the "artificial
volcano" kind, but only against unregulated geoengineering. Under a system
of global government run by the United Nations she would accept it. She is
therefore a globalist, a proponent of world government and all the schemes of
the Illuminati, the Rockefellers, Rothschilds, etc. etc. etc. Well.
What Diana Bronson says is that until such time as this global governance exists, the geoengineering should stop. She also says that civil society must be involved in the discussion as to whether we wish to have this kind of technology. The position that we maintain is that we are "civil society". We therefore support her demand and involve ourselves.
Should our involvement be unconditional, or should we pose conditions?
We should pose conditions. It is evident that a certain kind of spraying from aircraft has been going on everywhere for a long time, in many places since at least the late nineties, in a few places even longer. It is also evident that this spraying corresponds to what one kind of geoengineering would look like if implemented. Acceptance of that reality by our interlocutor should be a condition for our consent to engage in dialogue. If not acceptance then public submission of an acceptable reason why there cannot be acceptance. A reason which is not an insult to the intelligence.
What might such reasons be?
The ETC report makes the valid point that it is largely those who deny the reality of anthropogenic climate change that are most favourable towards geoengineering-type "solutions". This has been evident since Edward Teller's 1997 "Sunscreen" article. Bjorn Lomborg is another example of a prominent climate change "sceptic" who has by his own admission been converted to geoengineering. The Australian politician Steve Fielding, prominent and effective opponent in the Australian Senate of carbon emissions trading, recently met Lomborg in Copenhagen and seems to have been positively impressed by him, in particular by what he had to say about carbon trading.
But there are also tacit advocates of geoengineering on the non-sceptic side of the climate change debate. A notable example is the celebrated and politically influential Australian palaeontologist Tim Flannery. His remarks on the future of civil aviation in his book “The Weather Makers” leave no doubt of his support for aerosol spraying schemes using aircraft.
Could abstention from acknowledging that key geoengineering programmes are already well and truly established have something to do with residual loyalties to a certain faction of scientists in past (and perhaps even present) struggles against climate change “contrarians”? After all, the spraying that we are seeing is clearly illegal, part of a growing practice of “innovation by stealth”, as pointed out by the unnamed audience member at ETC’s December 2009 Copenhagen press conference. This illegality leads to political vulnerability. Lawsuits could be launched, including politically motivated lawsuits, by “sceptics” and the lobbies that support them.
We should accept dialogue with Diana Bronson and ETC, but not on the basis of participation in a fiction that geoengineering, including in its most outrageous forms, is something merely theoretical. We will tolerate others maintaining this fiction if they give us, publicly, plausible reasons to explain why they do so.
Enouranois, December 2009
Climate Chaos in a Geoengineering Age,
UN Climate Conference, Copenhagen, 14th
December 2009. (See
the press conference video )
(presentation by Diana
So, let’s begin and I’d
like to welcome you to this press conference, the first one today I suppose,
which is covering two very relevant and important topics related to climate
change, and also involves the launching of two publications. This is a press
conference put together by the ETC group, Diana here and Silvia, Diana Bronson
and Silvia Ribeiro, represent the ETC group, and my name is Niclas Hallstrom.
I’m working with the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation and we have
indeed, in fact, published the report that Diana will be presenting and briefing
you on, which is going to be the
first presentation, and that is a report covering the issue of geoengineering.
We will begin with Diana, who will
give you the essence of this very very challenging and thought- provoking and
very relevant publication on an issue very few have been thinking about but
which will be hitting us and has already started to hit us and that is the whole
issue of new technologies and geoengineering and the risks involved in that.
So, Diana, please? The floor is
Diana: Thank you very much, Niclas,
and thank you very much to the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation for
commissioning and publishing this report, which we intend to offer as a
contribution to the emerging international debate around geoengineering, which
is the intentional large-scale manipulation of the climate system. You may all
wonder what that has to do with the negotiations going on in the Bella Centre and,
well, it is not a direct subject of the negotiations. It is very much implicit
in the debates around technology. We have thought for some time at the ETC group
that a technology agreement would be one of the major outcomes of this meeting
and certainly at the beginning of the second week of negotiations it looks like
exactly that is what is going to happen. It contains a number of dangers, the
current text on technology, notably there is no mention of precaution and there
is no means of assessing the technologies that will receive massive financial
and institutional support out of the
structures that will be created in this meeting. The most dangerous
climate-related technologies in our view are those technologies which fit into
the category of geoengineering and this publication is a critical overview
of some of those technologies and it raises a series of questions
about how governments, negotiators and civil society should be looking
and these technologies and what kinds of governance arrangements we need to
begin to consider.
I’d like to speak a little bit to a couple of these
technologies. You’ll see that there’s
quite a complete overview of them in the paper. Generally we’ve divided them
into three different categories. The first category would be what’s known as
“solar radiation management”. The
second category would be carbon dioxide removal and sequestration. And the third
category is weather modification. And
we look at each of these three categories of technologies and some of the
problems in this publication that we’re launching this morning. There are
three short case studies in the publication.
Ocean fertilization would be one of the technologies which would fit into
the carbon dioxide removal and sequestration,
the idea is simply that you dump iron particles into the ocean in order to
stimulate the growth of phytoplankton, algae, which will absorb carbon dioxide,
theoretically, and then sink to the bottom of the sea. This creates enormous
dangers for the integrity of marine ecosystems, for the food chain in the ocean,
for the livelihood of fisher folk around the world, and for many other aspects
which you can read about in the report. Of course we do have here in the Bella
Centre we have firms that are interested in ocean fertilization and obtaining
carbon credits for fertilizing the ocean for an unproven technology to sequester
carbon that could be devastating to marine ecosystems.
A second category is what we call in the report “artificial volcanoes”
or shooting sulphate into the stratosphere and that may sound like complete
science fiction but in fact it is receiving relatively serious consideration
from very highly placed officials. Just to cite one example, Steve Koonin, who
is the Undersecretary of State in the Department of Energy of the United States
of America chaired a group of ten men who studied the “technical
feasibility” of shooting sulphates into the stratosphere and published a
report last summer on this topic by an institution called Novum in California,
which pretends to offer scientific, neutral scientific, assessments. Of course,
shooting sulphates into the stratosphere the idea is that these particles will
reflect a portion of the sunlight back into outer space. Some of the side
effects would be causing drought in equatorial regions, notably in Central
Africa, just as happened after the 1991 natural volcano Pinatubo in the
Philippines. It brought the temperatures down, and it caused drought, and there
are very unequal regional effects of these technologies, and the possibility of
them being used in a unilateral fashion we find absolutely unacceptable, if not
to say terrifying. We also look at the technology of cloud whitening and I’ll
let you refer to that in the report so as not to take too much time.
One of the things that is in the report that has not been looked at before
is the whole question of intellectual property. And of course while many of the
proponents of geoengineering say that “we are doing this as Emergency Plan B,
that “we are just pursuing scientific research”, in fact what we have is a
number of individuals and corporations that are placing patent claims on these
technologies and are developing them purely in order to own those claims. And if
you can contemplate for a moment the notion that we would have a geoengineering
technology that would, could, in any way mitigate global warming, which is a
doubtful notion, but the notion that that could be privately owned, by an
individual, or a corporation, or a single state , or privately deployed, we find
absolutely terrifying, and the list of patent claims that you will find in the
Report just gives a small sample of some of the dangers that would be involved.
Finally I’d just like to draw your attention to the end of the Report,
where we have recommendations. We are here to alert negotiators in this building
that they may be agreeing to something that they don’t fully understand. The
texts that are currently on the table on technology and the possibility of
having a new technology institution with intense private-sector collaboration
embedded into its very mandate, and a series of mechanisms to advance and
accelerate the deployment of technology around the world with no assessment of
the social and environmental implications of those technologies would be a very
serious and potentially devastating outcome for the climate.
So, there is a series of recommendations which, as you know, the debate
here is now evolving very rapidly and this report is written some months ago.
But we still believe that there should be an exclusion for geoengineering
technologies, for any of the enhancement measures that are now envisaged under
this new technology body, and that there should be means of assessment and also
of precaution. We are also advocating that in the absence of any proper
international governance regime there be an immediate moratorium, and very
strictly enforced, on real-world experimentation. We cannot have different
corporations and different countries running around trying to modify the global
system on an experimental basis. The consequences of doing so would be most
serious. So, thank you very much for your attention and after we present the
other report we’ll take some questions on that.
We do have a few minutes for questions to the presenters. Yes, please, and
there’s a microphone coming here.
Bill: I’m Bill Marsden from the
Montreal Gazette. I was just curious, Diana, what essentially is wrong with
developing geoengineering technology given the fact that science says that we
could be looking at some disastrous climate situations in the future.
Diana: Well, there’s many reasons, I think, that are wrong with it. If you
look on page 34 on box six we’ve offered a summary so. You now, really,
just because we have the capacity to develop something in science,
doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to do it. We believe that because that
geoengineering technologies are by definition large-scale, that they pose
inevitably, serious problems of control over who will develop those
technologies, who will own the patents, who will have the hardware and the
software to deploy them. It is giving the possibility to a very small group of
people, or corporations, or countries, to intervene on the planetary climate
system on behalf of the rest of the world. And the countries and peoples that
are in the front line in the fight against climate change and who are already
suffering the impacts will have very little to say about how those technologies
will be developed and how they will be deployed. There are also questions around
existing international law, and there’s a question of human error. I mean, who
is going to – so-called – control the thermostat? Who is going to decide
where exactly those sulphates should
be deployed. Who is going to decide whether or not a company has permission to
dump iron in the ocean? All of these
international rules are not developed. And to move ahead with research and
experimentation and investment, and to have this also be distorted by a
speculative search for carbon credits we consider to be very dangerous.
Bill: If you have proper regulations in place, on an international basis,
would you be satisfied to go ahead with geoengineering, at least theoretical
development of it? I’m not quite
sure I clearly understand at what point you do not agree with all of this.
Diana: All right. Then let me be clear. We think geoengineering is a bad idea.
We do not think that that is the way to resolve the climate crisis that we’re
in. That as a general statement.
In terms of research, and modeling, whatever scientists want to do with
their computers, they can go ahead and do. However, when it comes to
experimentation on the real world, and in particular on the content of the ocean
and the atmosphere, that should not be allowed to go ahead, without
international rules in place. And what kind of international rules? We can no
longer live with an ad hoc patchwork of international rules We need a global
governance and global regulation of these technologies. We need a process, under
the auspices of the United Nations, that will bring those questions forward. We
need all countries involved. It needs to be transparent. It needs to involve
civil society. It needs to involve the scientific community. And it needs to
involve the people who are suffering at first hand the impacts of climate
Nick: I think we have time for at least one more question.
Participant: I guess I have a sort of political question. One thing that struck me, I
guess in both presentations but particularly with Diana’s presentation, is the
extent to which climate policy and policy that relates especially to some of
these geoengineering technologies is effectively being developed around us and
is being developed in a sense by stealth. In a sense it’s being developed in
plain view. I mean doing you report you can go out and find out who is getting
the patents, what the scientists are experimenting with and talking about and so
forth. In a sense it is going on in plain view. Yet, as you point out, the
degree to which even negotiators comprehend what is going on under their noses
is very much in doubt. It strikes me that this is a pattern that we have seen
before in the development of the UN climate policy. For the last twelve years
we’ve seen the development of a massive carbon trading system as the
mainstream approach to global climate policy. And in a sense this has been
developed in plain view. All the documents are available, and so forth. In the
discussion you can find the information about carbon trading, if you look for
it. Yet, even negotiators here at the UN, I think very many of them, do not
understand what has been going on in the last twelve years. Such that in effect
a lot of climate policy is now passing into the hands of Wall Street. Because
they are beginning to dominate this market, which started here at the UN, twelve
years ago. And it strikes me that the same kind of political process is
happening with geoengineering. It’s going on under our noses and yet if you go
out and ask people on the street what’s going on with these technical attempts
to fix the climate, they won’t know. Just as if you ask people on the street,
what is mainstream climate policy, you know, what is carbon trading, most people
don’t know. My question is, given this new kind of political reality of the
development of policy in plain view, yet no-one knows about it, what are the
political organizing necessities in order for the public to get a grip on
what’s going on, and in order for the public to begin to take more of a role
in deciding, you know, whether we really want, to have these private
geoengineering technologies being developed for private use under our noses. I
mean what kind of political organizing is possible given these new political
Diana: We’re out of time. I’d just say as a concluding comment that what we
might see is that the role that market mechanisms played in Kyoto we’ll see
technology play in Copenhagen. And I’m afraid we’re out of time, but I’ll
be happy to answer questions after too.
Nick: Thank you very much, everyone. And please do pick up the publications.
Take a few. Spread them around. And you can also download them on the web, of
course. Thanks very much for coming and listening, and engaging. Thanks.