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Will a watered-down global climate agreement do more harm than good? Why not try radical geo-engineering solutions if disaster is looming? The University Post interviews German climate scientist Hans Joachim Schellnhuber to get some answers
»Two degrees Celsius is a compromise, but it is at least a tangible and feasible target, so this is something, but the two degree guardrail is somewhere around or above the tipping point. It is the dividing line between dangerous and catastrophic climate change.«
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, climate adviser to German chancellor Angela Merkel, was not sugar-coating his message when he spoke at the University of Copenhagen Monday.
In case we were in any doubt, climate change is serious – catastrophic even. And even the most ambitious feasible political solutions will leave us around the ‘tipping point’, on the brink of disaster.
The University Post caught up with Hans Joachim Schellnhuber after his talk to hear his take on geo-engineering and the possiblities of a global agreenment:
If we are in such a mess then why not try the cartoonish geo-engineering solutions?
»Let us try to get the agreement first, and if all else fails we can look into geo-engineering. But to suggest tinkering with the atmosphere at this point is simply irresponsible. Actually, it’s cynical, I think,« he replies.
He points out that even if Bjørn Lomborg’s vision of an armada of ships pumping out clouds of white steam to reflect sunlight worked, it would not do anything about the equally serious problem of the falling PH value of the oceans.
Which is worse – a bad deal or no deal?
»I did hear Jim Hansen (James Hansen, NASA, google him – ed.) say that he hoped the whole thing would fail, and probably a bad deal will be worse than no agreement. But all my bets are on this.«
»The very worst that could happen would be if the door was slammed on the two degree target in Copenhagen – and that can happen too,« he warns.
If everything is riding on the agreement in Copenhagen and it is all the fault of the industrialised world, why aim for a global agreement. Can’t the rich countries just make an agreement?
»Even if we reduce emissions almost over night in the rich world, we would still get a temperature rise of three degrees just from the developing world,« he explains.
»The industrialized countries cannot solve the problem anymore. That’s the irony of it: We have caused the problem, but we have over-used the atmosphere so much that we cannot get out of the trap anymore alone.«
»We, the industrailized world, have used the atmosphere over the last two centuries. Some other countries want to use it in this century. In net terms this means that a lot of money will have to be handed over to the poor countries. In a sense it’s only a historic compensation.«