Reduce emissions before trying climate engineering
With so little being done politically on climate change, Dana Milbank ["Plan B on climate change," op-ed, Oct. 17] noted that scientists want to research additional measures, often called geoengineering or, better, climate engineering. Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere will be essential, but it will have a significant effect only with sharp emissions reductions. Reducing warming by interfering with incoming solar radiation appears possible but is likely to have unintended side effects and involves difficult governance issues.
Climate engineering thus makes sense as a strategy only after making commitments to limit emissions. The United States needs to take the lead and demonstrate the technical ingenuity to show that a modern economy can prosper with low greenhouse gas emissions, and Congress needs to enact incentives for this to happen.
Ending dithering requires both a well-designed cap-and-trade program to provide incentives for industry to move aggressively and cost-effectively, and a carbon tax with per capita rebates to provide incentives for families and individuals to adopt green technologies. Because mitigation and adaptation will require time and effort, climate engineering may well be needed to moderate the worst effects.
Michael MacCracken, Washington
The writer is chief scientist for climate-change programs at the Climate Institute.