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Africa: Thinking Geoengineering

Africa: Thinking Geoengineering

The Climate Vulnerable Forum has a number of sidelines events in the ongoing UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, in Brazil, to discuss their position and expectation from the conference. The Forum consists of a group of developing nations that have high stakes in climate change matters; this includes nations from Africa, Asia and the archipelagos.

The ongoing conference is the anniversary of the first conference on sustainable development in the world, held in Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro 20 years ago. It also doubles as another opportunity to pattern a future for the earth in this direction. The summit is strategically important, towards the sustainability goal and meaningful because of the profile of certain attendees.

Heads of government and deputies are attending, deviating from the UN-climate change meetings of the last two years where ministers and national climate envoys mostly attended. The summit opened as the G20 summit in Mexico, dominated by conversation on the world economy and present priorities, closed.

Climate change is a problem that is yet to be substantially acknowledged, for a reason that can be summarized as ‘the major players in global decision making aren’t burned by it yet’. If they are, commitments will roll, prodding others to, and sell that a global agreement is reached. This tepidness, so to speak, does not forefend developing economies vulnerable in climate change events to arrange and move towards global commitment.

The Climate Vulnerable Forum hopes to be a voice in this direction for nations that can’t afford quick adaptation -– either for climate change or as a move for development –- and some nations whose pollution can be ignored in the global emission average. The forum also has observer nations mostly consisting of top-polluting nations.

Nations from Africa who are members of the forum are also involved in global climate conversations. Africa’s position in the geography of the world makes its climate a little more delicate, with trends, peculiarities and anomalies seen from studies. Africans are generally worried about climate change; this is usually laid in conversations that present the opportunity.

Most nations in Africa would have pursed development at their pace, which will benefit any kind of environmental shift, but are under pressure to develop fast, or adapt -– to be able to contain climate change events. Some may eventually default. Climate change is big but not insurmountable, there are several angles of solution that have been suggested and the little more needed can sharply come if  global decision makers decide to act.

Finance for serious climate change response by all is estimated at 2% of global GDP annually, with carbon credit and taxes expected to provide a major part of the buck. This reality in a recession puts decision makers in a tight spot because they know that they don’t have to wait until pinched to act. The role of India and continental neighbors China also continue to be a puzzle, because they double as developing nations and top-polluting nations.

The world has evolved in several ways. The world that met for a sustainable development conference two decades back is much different from what we have now. The world at that time just came out of an agreement, the Montreal Protocol, directed to ban chemicals causing ozone layer depletion.

Given the teamwork, the world was more open to new regulations to sustain the world. This present world is different, unexpectedly clouded by challenges and have seen new powers emerge. This makes global environment goals sparingly adhered to in the commitment sense. Hope however, is not lost since there is a path to adopt a deal by 2020, and scientists have a technical-fix, geoengineering.

Geoengineering (or climate engineering) is a kind of solution for climate change that scientists and policy makers are preparing should the world near or hit disastrous emission levels. Geoengineering has several technologies and are categorized into reducing the amount of solar radiation or heat available to the surface and to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide, a potent emission.

There are several scientific studies on geoengineering, policy and governance concerns are also studied. Geoengineering conversation is growing around climate change, and is seen as possible for large scale deployment within this century, if the world does not agree to curb emissions.

Everyone is expected to have a say in a globe that belongs to all. This is known by scientists and the move is starting from the academe. Geoengineering is gradually prepared as a package for political powers to weigh in, court their people and decide to support for deployment. The subject is still at the academe phase, and it is gradually taken to science communities that have not started talking about it.

Africa is expected to gradually engage in geoengineering soon, in what will involve the continent in different aspects of the subject. This involvement is coming from pundits, in what will eventually escalate to the people. Cautiously, should be the stratum of involvement for now, because activists around the continent have pushed demands to top-polluting nations for action, and people involved now should not be perceived as ‘pushing other people’s dreams’, not even from the top-polluters end.

Pundits courting Africa at this level should not also see Africa as uncooperative, if their African counterparts are too cold on the subject. This says to those in Africa joining the conversation at this level should, cautiously. Africa, in reality, should not be thinking or talking geoengineering, because the priority -– adaptation -– need strategies to be further developed and adopted. Mitigation, that has come in bits so far, also needs improvement.

Africa’s position in the geography of the world makes its climate a little more delicate, so geoengineering conversation, test or deployment, therefore should be of interest to Africa, knowing how anything that may go wrong may impact the population.

There are several environmental, meteorological and climate groups and institutes across the continent, that can accommodate geoengineering according to their capacities. Some can relate geoengineering ‘going-bad’ to past studies, some may choose positions suitable for certain experiments that will also benefit the population first, some may focus on policy matters, others may just watch geoengineering closely as events around it emerge globally.

Africa’s effective involvement in geoengineering within the academe depends on popularity. As a relatively new subject interest will grow, as people know about it, and if there is a portal for information of varying category –- simple to advance – many will be agile to consult, submitting opinion and exploring new ways to grow involvement.

External funding for geoengineering globally is yet to be straight, and for newly sipping Africa, it may only come from the existing institution or NGO system, that decides to get involved. It would have been very interesting that the energy that Africa will spill to geoengineering is used to develop new strategies for climate change adaptation, but there is the need to move with an evolving world.

Adaptation is a development priority for governments that should be married to new projects and future plans but the speed that climate change calls to it make some people feel it’s a priority that should be cared for by others. In thinking geoengineering, therefore with adaptation and mitigation on table, Africa should set beneficial goals.

There are governments within the continent who are quick to move with development, pundits from there involved can buttonhole it to government officials for support. Some geoengineering solutions are cool especially those removing carbon dioxide, these can be researched and partly adopted, with eye on solar geoengineering.

Geoengineering is emerging around the world, and may never be deployed on a large scale. This is wished as the world may adopt a deal, in future, to curb emissions. No one lives life unprepared for certain possibilities, those of climate change bring geoengineering to table. Africa will start thinking, cautiously optimistic that the technology does not bring more harm.

By David Stephen

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