Those who fry the planet and geoengineering

Those who fry the planet and geoengineering

Days ago, a report on climate change being prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was leaked to the press. It is a report on the impacts of global warming at 1.5or C on pre-industrial levels. According to data obtained by Reuters, if the current rate of emissions continues, this limit will be exceeded as early as 2040 (, which will lead to serious impacts on many countries, mainly island states with low coasts, damage probably irreversible to coral reefs (which are the first link in the marine food chain) and ice melting in Greenland and West Antarctica. Although the report is a draft and the IPCC stated that it may change after the reviews to which it is subjected, the science data will not change, what could - and should - change are the proposals made by the IPCC regarding this reality.

The Paris agreement on climate change, signed by 197 governments in 2015, established the goal that the increase in global warming be “well below 2or C ”through 2100. With the data disclosed, there is a very high risk that that goal will be exceeded long before then. The only way to avoid this would be to immediately put in place drastic reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally. The IPCC had previously stated the need for these reductions, but this report also suggests that the excess carbon dioxide will have to be removed from the atmosphere by other means, such as geoengineering technologies.

The planetary climate has already warmed 1or C on average from its pre-industrial levels, but in reality, more than three-quarters occurred in the last 50 years, due to skyrocketing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These emissions are mostly caused by industrial economies based on fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal). The main emitting activities are the energy extraction and production industry, the agro-industrial food system and uncontrolled urban growth, including the transportation that all these items imply.

The IPCC is not looking now at what activities cause the emissions. It is assumed that they have already done this in the global evaluation reports that they produce regularly. The most recent is its Fifth Report which was published in 2014. The next will be published in 2021.

An aspect of enormous relevance that the IPCC does not consider is the enormous inequality that exists over who causes the GHG emissions. The richest 10 percent of the planet's population is responsible for half of all global emissions. At the other extreme, 50 percent of the world's population, starting with the poorest, does not cause even 10 percent of total emissions. The average level of emissions generated by a person in the poorest 10% of the world's population is 60 times lower than that of someone in the richest 10%. (Oxfam, 2015, According to Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research, if the richest population on the planet reduced its standard of living to the European average, it would reduce 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. greenhouse effect.

However, these data are not considered by the IPCC. In general, in the climate change negotiations - and also in the IPCC, which is ultimately not only a technical but also a political instance - there is a pact of the governments in the regions that cause the most emissions, so as not to interfere with the profits of the most rich, including the oil transnationals and others that profit from the activities that generate climate chaos.

Instead, which would be necessary, the IPCC proposes geoengineering techniques, such as large plantations for bioenergy with geological bottom carbon capture and storage systems (BECCS for its acronym in English). Already in the IPCC's Fifth Global Report, they incorporated this technique as one of the possible "solutions" to reduce global warming, which prompted much criticism, both from civil society organizations and scientists, because the requirement of land , water and nutrients from mega-plantations for “bioenergy” to really affect climate change, would be greater than all the land currently used in agriculture. It would therefore compete in a devastating way with food production, displacing peasants and indigenous people, with a strong impact on biodiversity.

BECCS, like all geoengineering proposals, never addresses the causes of climate change - it proposes to remove carbon when it has already been emitted - so this would continue to be ongoing, thus generating a captive business for those who sell the technologies to absorb and store carbon. Which coincidentally are often the same oil companies (Exxon, Shell and others). Companies that, as we explained in a previous article, even have two of their employees that the IPCC accepted as authors of this report (

By Silvia Ribeiro

Researcher at the ETC Group.

Video: Can Geoengineering Undo Climate Change? I NOVA I PBS (August 2021).