CIA director John O. Brennan on geoengineering & stratospheric aerosol injection

Potential to alter weather patterns and benefit certain regions of the world at the expense of other regions.

Another example is the array of technologies, often referred to collectively as geoengineering, that potentially could help reverse the warming effects of global climate change. One that has gained my personal attention is stratospheric aerosol injection, or SAI: a method of seeding the stratosphere with particles that can help reflect the sun’s heat in much the same way that volcanic eruptions do.

An SAI program could limit global temperature increases, reducing some risks associated with higher temperatures, and providing the world economy additional time to transition from fossil fuels.

This process is also relatively inexpensive. The National Research Council estimates that a fully deployed SAI program would cost about $10 billion yearly.

As promising as it may be, moving forward on SAI would also raise a number of challenges for our government and for the international community. On the technical side, greenhouse gas emission reductions would still have to accompany SAI to address other climate change effects, such as ocean acidification, because SAI alone would not remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

On the geopolitical side, the technology’s potential to alter weather patterns and benefit certain regions of the world at the expense of other regions could trigger sharp opposition by some nations. Others might seize on SAI’s benefits and back away from their commitment to carbon dioxide reductions.

And as with other breakthrough technologies, global norms and standards are lacking to guide the deployment and implementation of SAI and other geoengineering initiatives.

Now, I could go on and on and on and on about the things that fascinate me. But rather than talk about them, I thought I’d stop here and start the conversation with Judy, and then I can take some of your questions.

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