Provincial Geoengineering

What if states suffering from climate change become, quite realistically, frustrated with waiting for coordinated global solutions and attempt to modify their own local climates?

This is just a hypothetical possibility that occurred to me, yesterday, prompted I suppose by the COVID pandemic and how that’s going. I’m not a climate scientist, or really any sort of expert in the natural sciences or engineering at all. I am a historian and chronicler of contemporary civilization, though, and from that perspective this concept seems very realistic.

Most of this concept is not even new. Any number of schemes for geoengineering responses to the climate crisis have kicked around for many years. As has speculation about the possibility of unilateral attempts, in the absence of global consensus; the harrowing short story collection The Hidden Girl even considers a private attempt at global geoengineering.

Microclimates are obviously not new, though the intersection of climate complexity and anthropogenic rapid climate change is revealing that the results will not be smooth and uniform.

Local-scale response is a well-established concept, also. The urban heat island effect is really a basic corollary of cities, but systems and policies can do a lot to minimize or intensify it, through e.g. choosing more trees instead of blacktop parking lots.

But what about in-between the local and global scale? Might individual nation-states (or federation member-states) try to protect their climates amid the continuing absence of global solutions? Whether or not they can in fact do so, what if one or more decide that they can, and try it?

How this might work I do not know. Like, space mirrors to turn back some of the sun’s heating, but for a specific region only? Actually [quick search query] I guess that idea has also circulated already. Right, okay. Uh.

For whatever it’s worth, the past year or so really seems to hint that this idea may have its day. I should add that I’m not recommending this. I recommend an urgent, coordinated global program to radically drive GHG emissions into negative numbers, through halting fossil fuel use and developing large scale systems to capture and sequester GHGs already in the atmosphere. But come on, humanity is not good at coordinated global action, and not getting noticeably better at present.

I’m reminded of the preface to Ghost in the Shell, stories of a no-longer-distant future in which, however, “computerization has not yet wiped out nations and ethnic groups.” Nor have world wars, global economic crises, or global environmental hazards, and COVID-19 has not really prompted any great pulling-together, either. To the contrary, although COVID is very very much a disrespecter of political borders, not only responses but whether even to respond at all have varied dramatically from one side of a border to another.

Combine this with the recurring demonstrations that climate crisis impacts—and therefore, presumably, motivation to respond—are regional and nonlinear.

It just seems like one should not rely on expectations that climate crisis response options will be a binary set of coordinated global solution or inaction and the crisis has its way with all.

What that may mean in any practical sense I don’t really know. If I were a novelist I would probably start a science fiction novel exploring provincial geoengineering. Otherwise, I don’t know, maybe one more reason to think about not just right now but the coming decades, also, as one considers where to live.

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