On “Solar Geoengineering” by C. C. Zayasbazan

k. gatavan / untitled / collage / in parentheses / volume-6

Carmen C. Zayasbazan is a student at Western Washington University studying Environmental Policy. She grew up in the Chicago area and lived in San Antonio throughout her teenage years. She enjoys reading historical fiction, camping, writing and making art. She hopes to work in environmental law upon graduating from college.

Artwork by Kirill Gatavan

Solar geoengineering is the process by which sunlight entering the Earth’s atmosphere is reflected back into space in an attempt to cool off the planet in the face of global warming (Conca, 2019). Although this has been deemed a temporary fix by scientists researching this phenomena, it could decrease global temperatures by approximately two degrees in one year (Conca, 2019). Solar geoengineering should be used as a strategy to reduce climate change because it can decrease global temperatures with a cheap method, which can reverse the effects of global warming which are harming some of our planet’s most vulnerable beings the most.

From an anthropocentric ethical standpoint, an empirical defense of solar geoengineering is that it can reduce the frequency and severity of tropical storms by slowing the hydrologic cycle and lowering temperatures in the tropics (Harvard’s Solar Geoengineering Research Program, 2019). Tropical storms in the United States alone have cost billions of dollars in damage in the past four decades, and tropical storms have been increasing in severity and frequency as temperatures of the tropical seas rise (NOAA, 2017). By reducing the number of tropical disturbances, solar geoengineering could save many lives in impoverished coastal areas where infrastructure is weak such as Puerto Rico and Bangladesh, and save billions of dollars in damage.

From a feminist care ethical standpoint, solar geoengineering could motivate humans to have a more harmonious relationship with non-humans. With femenist ethics of care, the Earth is composed of individual “beings, entities, and collectives” that are all “embedded and interdependent,” (Cuomo and Whyte, p.16, 2016). A possession of feminist care ethics makes one more aware of the major problems going on in the system they are a part of, which would make it easier to come up with solutions based on caretaking to the problems history created (Cuomo and Whyte, p.16, 2016). Climate change has left the planet in a delicate place, so humans of developed countries should become caretakers and nurse the Earth and its inhabitants into a balanced, pre-industrialization state– a normative claim defending solar geoengineering.

From an indigenous ethics of care standpoint, a normative defense of solar geoengineering is that it should be used to benefit communities that are suffering, thus creating better relationships with them and bring forth balance among human beings (Cuomo and Whyte, p.6, 2016). We should view our political autonomy not so much as dominating the Earth and conquering its resources, but rather to be stewards who care for the planet they get to be a part of– another normative claim (Cuomo and Whyte, pg 6, 2016). Solar engineering has the potential to draw humans together, especially if it is undertaken with those in less-developed countries in mind, since they are most impacted by climate change. If powerful, developed countries have the power and resources to help out less-developed communities, they should do so, which could bring human beings closer together as we all share the Earth together.

From the ethical standpoint of utilitarianism, solar geoengineering would benefit the planet’s resources that are compromised due to climate change. For example, freshwater is running out as ice and permanent snow cover are melting at an accelerating rate (Ruz, 2011). According to the World Wildlife Fund, two-thirds of the world’s population will have a difficult time accessing water by 2025 (WWF, 2019). Although much of the freshwater has already melted, solar geoengineering can slow the melting process temporarily as policy-makers of the developed world seek out better alternatives to carbon-emitting processes.

We are in a climate crisis and many policy-makers in the United States do not care about mitigating the impacts of climate change or reversing anthropogenic carbon emissions. Since many other solutions, mostly surrounding carbon sequestration and reducing carbon emissions, are expensive and complicated, we should turn to solar geoengineering in the mean time to cool the climate of the planet as we come together to find a solution for the future of planet Earth.

Works Cited
Conca, J. (10 September 2019). Why solar geoengineering may be our only hope to reverse global warming. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2019/09/10/solar-geoengineering-we-better-do-it-or-well-burn/.
Gardiner, S., Thompson, A., Whyte, K., & Cuomo, C. (26 January 2017). Ethics of Caring in Environmental Ethics: Indigenous and Feminist Philosophies. In The Oxford Handbook of Environmental Ethics. Oxford University Press.
Harvard University. (n.d.). Harvard’s Solar Geothermal Engineering Research Program. Retrieved from https://geoengineering.environment.harvard.edu/geoengineering.
Ruz, C. (31 October 2011). The six natural resources most drained by our 7 billion people.The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2011/oct/31/six-natural-resources-population.
World Wildlife Fund. (n.d.). Water Scarcity. Retrieved from https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/water-scarcity.

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