A Harvard physics professor claims geo-engineering could serve as a viable means for ameliorating the negative impact of climate change in the short term.

While geo-engineering long been touted as an effective means of dealing with planet-wide climate change, some of the world’s  leading scientific research bodies have recently produced studies indicating that the technologies involved entail immense risk, and in many cases could even exacerbate environmental disruption.

David Keith

David Keith

A study recently released by Germany’s Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research led by oceanographer Dr. David Keller found that none of the five of the most promising forms of geo-engineering are likely to make a significant dent in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, yet would inflict major damage upon local ecosystem.

Other studies provide an even more damning assessment of the ramifications of tinkering with the climate on a planet-wide scale. A report produced by the University of Exeter, Rutgers University and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory toward the end of last year concluded that geo-engineering would result in accelerated global warming following its eventual discontinuation, placing even greater stress on regional ecosystems.

In spite of these dour assessments, David Keith, Gordon McKay Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University and Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, claims climate engineering should still be considered a viable option for addressing the pressing dilemma of planetary warming.

In his new book, A Case for Climate Engineering, Keith points out that despite the extravagant, sci-fi air of the climate engineering fixes proposed, which include terraforming by way of mass afforestation, and the creation of artificial cloud cover to ward off solar radiation, many remain both technically feasible and affordable cures for global warming.

“I think the import point is that it’s not hard to do, that all the hard questions are about whether we should do it, who controls it, how well it works,” said Keith to Canada’s CBC News.

While conceding that the implementation of climate engineering could also be accompanied by the moral hazard of weakened incentive to cut down on emissions, Keith nonetheless contends that the technologies will serve as a practicable means of counteracting global warming in the short term, providing humanity with a stop gap solution until it manages to reduce its collective emissions of carbon dioxide.

“You [need to] do geoengineering during the time that you slowdown emissions,” said Keith. “In the long run, you have to bring emissions to zero.”

Keith says that he is not advocating the precipitous implementing of climate engineering measures, but notes that he would like more funding and research devoted to the issue, so that both policymakers and members of the public can make properly informed decisions.