Professor James Fleming
Much to my parents’ dismay, I spend a lot of my time on the internet. Recently, perusing the internet has become a chore. I often stray from my favorite content and find new personalities that I must follow. Though some may find this laborious, I find it entertaining and refreshing. Meeting new internet personalities is like broadening my real social network. Whenever I watch a video on YouTube, I feel as though that person is having a conversation with me. For example, I frequently watch Casey Neistat’s video blogs on YouTube. I adore Casey Neistat for his positive, motivational vibes. When I hear Casey Neistat tell me, “Success is where opportunity meets preparation,” I feel encouraged enough to surmount my obstacles. If he can do it, then I can too. In short, I relate myself to Casey Neistat; we both want to seize the moment. However, just like with friends in real life, I could not tolerate listening to just Casey Neistat all day. That is when I click over to jacksfilms who is another internet personality who utilizes the YouTube platform. Jack Douglass is my most comedic online “friend.” I could spend hours listening to his hilarious, cynical humor. Quite honestly, I am cynical myself. Douglass is an outlet for me to express my cynicism in the comment section of Douglass’ videos which will reach the millions of other cynics who follow Douglass. Though a meme could make me chuckle, I do not connect with content as much as I do with the personality. I crave the sense of belonging when watching Jack Douglass or Casey Neistat, I crave the eye contact between these internet personalities (I stare at my computer screen way too close), and I crave the authenticity of the personality. Most of all, however, I crave the community built around the internet personality.
May 16, 2018
Artificial Intelligence and its Implications on the Future of Humanity
Though some may think of robots taking over the world when they envision AI, artificial intelligence is a very broad term that includes things from Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, to, more recently, more complex things like autonomous vehicles and robotics with the ability to interact and adjust appropriately to their environment in order to complete small tasks. It is growing in importance every year, with new forms and uses constantly being dreamt up and brought to life. This is a highly sophisticated area of modern science and gaining a better understanding of how it works will lead to a better understanding of how it may affect our lives as humans the more it expands. We know that AI could be an incredible tool once we master it, but what areas will it affect the most and what significant changes will it bring to life as we know it today? I believe that AI will have massive implications in more areas than one and will one day be an extremely relevant topic in the human scientific and intellectual realm. Artificial intelligence is very important because it may one day completely change the face of society with an impact on the job scene and theoretically endless other areas. AI’s development has skyrocketed in the past decade, and is more prominent today than it has ever been. As this technology gets increasingly refined, perfected and applied in more areas, the implications could be drastic for the human race, with humans effectively being replaced by machines in some ways.
It is easy to see why one would be uncomfortable or off-put by the idea of artificial intelligence becoming a staple in everyday life, as there is a negative stigma attached to it in media and popular culture. It is painted as some kind of enemy that we should fear and try to supress. These notions are largely unfounded, however, and many experts agree that anything like what we’ve seen in movies like the Terminator franchise or 2001: A Space Odyssey are far off in the future and essentially a different beast altogether from what we have been able to develop thus far. The technology seen in these films is what is known as “true AI” which is far more advanced than anything the current state of society has to or can experience today. Popular culture has done its best to tarnish the image of artificial intelligence in the public eye. TV, movies, media, and books depict a darker side of robots and artificial intelligence that casts a negative shadow on them. It would make sense that the race to produce true AI might slow with all of this media teetering between horror and sci-fi on the subject of AI circling the globe. But yet, the acceleration of the field has only increased. A great deal of people find AI somewhat unsettling, and rightfully so. The idea that something can get so close to being a human, but only consist of wires, metal and code, is a disturbing thought. They can certainly be categorized as a candidate for falling in the uncanny valley. Super computers have the ability to recall and analyze more data and gather information faster than any one human could. Robots, depending on the purpose they serve, can be hundreds of times physically stronger than a human. Combine the two in one creation, along with the ability to learn and think for itself, and just the thought of what it might be capable of is terrifying. Despite all of this, though, the field of AI continues to grow, with new advances being made all the time. However, we are still in the early stages of developing artificial intelligence, and the invention of anything seen in a movie like Ex Machina, where an inventor creates a truly artificially intelligent, sentient robot that can manipulate humans to reach a desired outcome for itself, is still likely decades away. Adam Coates, director of the Baidu Research Silicon Valley AI Lab, believes this to be so: “I think that sometimes we get carried away and think about ‘sentient machines’ that are going to understand everything the way we do and totally interact with us. These things are pretty far away… A lot of the scaremongering of AI taking over the world or getting out of our control are a little bit overwrought.” Much of the fear surrounding AI comes from overestimating the advancement and power of this technology and conjuring up mainly overhyped ideas of the eventual implications it will have on the human race. The mainstream media and popular culture have given a bad reputation to artificial intelligence, making it seem like more of a force that will eventually harm humans, or even be the ultimate demise of humanity as a whole. It has an almost apocalyptic stigma attached to it that leaves the public to wonder not what potential benefits and positive implications AI could have, but whether the finished product will be deadly or not. Experts who research, work with, and use it on a day to day basis agree that the overwhelming majority of fears and apprehensions people have about AI and where it is headed are mainly unfounded.
Now that we have established what it is that makes people so afraid of AI, we can dive deeper into this subject as it pertains to the shared future of this technology and mankind. True artificial intelligence, or “strong AI” is achieved when a system can take information from the outside world, learn by itself and build an awareness similar or superior to that of a human. Some scientists refer to the artificially intelligent systems we have today as “weak AI” since it can only operate once given a set of rules or algorithms from the creator to follow. For example, Apple’s Siri technology is not sentient in any way. It simply takes user input and gives a calculated response based on the rules and code it was given by Apple. It does not learn or think consciously. A true AI could interact with and learn about things in its environment through observation or trial and error and generate a conscience on its own. Some theorize that what makes humans “human” is the ability to reason. A true AI would be able to mimic this trait. This is where humans begin to get apprehensive about whether or not we are headed in a safe direction pursuing the advancement of this technology. Even some of humanity’s most brilliant minds have expressed their concerns when it comes to this subject. In an interview, Elon Musk, CEO and founder of both SpaceX and Tesla, had this to say concerning AI: “We should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that… Scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon.” He finishes the demon metaphor by saying that in movies and stories there is the exorcist or medium (humans) that claims to have the demon (AI) under control and it typically does not work out as planned. Elon Musk is a man at the forefront of state-of-the-art technology, and yet he has his concerns and goes as far as to liken the future of AI to summoning a demon. Hearing this come from such a prominent intellectual figure in this day and age is sure to discourage some from supporting AI. Even Stephen Hawking chimed in on the debate of whether or not AI could be detrimental to humanity: “The primitive forms of artificial intelligence we already have have proved very useful. But I think the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” And yet, this field has shown no signs of slowing down its development. So why is that? What uses do we have planned for AI that will eventually help humans? What are the downsides to these applications? Well, it is possible that a good chunk of jobs currently held by us could be run instead by machines in the near future.
Of all the possible ways AI could change our society, the most drastic is easily how it could affect the job scene. Theoretically, AI or robots could replace almost any job a human can do. Robots can simply be programmed to do easy jobs that currently use a human workforce, and artificial intelligence can perform slightly more advanced tasks that require more than simple straightforward inputs. An increasing number of people feel that their ability to make a living will be threatened by artificial workers in the near future. However, this all depends on what job you have, and how long you have had it. The relative job security of older generations is in part due to the senior positions they hold within their companies. After all, it’s easier to replace somebody in the beginning of their career rather than replace entire established branches of management or leadership. On top of this, it’s typically these more established employees who will be in charge of decisions surrounding the implementation of AI in the first place, and they’re unlikely to want to replace themselves. For the foreseeable future, only low-level, repetitive tasks will be automated, and those with more nuanced and difficult jobs will likely be safe. This means that younger people with developed and adaptable problem-solving and decision-making skills can exclude themselves from the immediate threat of being replaced, and aim to work alongside AI in more senior positions in the long term. On the other hand, widespread job-redundancy is inevitable and will bring in a new philosophy regarding the role of human work in society. If machines and robots are going to be able to perform cognitive functions that were once too difficult to automate, very few jobs are safe. Theorists suggest a universal basic income as a solution, whereby governments provide their citizens with a living wage to combat their inability to secure employment. This is a scary proposition, and could cause backlash from the public on the issue of moving forward with this movement from manned jobs to an automated workforce. This, however, may not actually be such a bad thing when you listen to the other side.
A study of 1,000 companies revealed that AI systems created new jobs in 80% of the organizations they were implemented in. In fact, a 2017 report by Gartner predicts that AI will create 2.3 million jobs while eliminating only 1.8 million by the year 2020, creating a much more diverse workforce of creative and high-skilled individuals, and a net gain of over 500 thousand jobs. As the global economy gears up for the widespread adoption of AI solutions, competition grows fierce for employees with the scarce skills required to implement, manage and work alongside this new technology. Developing these skills is therefore vital for any young professional wishing to retain job-security in an increasingly automated workplace. And as this skilled workforce drives the AI industry forward at an accelerated pace, the demand for even more highly trained professionals will grow with it. This will result in a workplace comprising of adaptable people – according to Gartner – whose jobs are reimagined, enriched or facilitated by the technology they work alongside. While it’s true that many low-skill jobs will fall by the wayside, replaced by the sophisticated automation AI enables, new careers and industries will emerge that haven’t been invented yet. Just as our parents struggled to predict the emergence of fields like social media or blogging, so, too, are we incapable of comprehending the jobs AI will create for the time being. Artificial Intelligence is still in its infancy, and is yet to reach the point of mass adoption. As such it’s difficult to predict the extent to which it will redefine the workplace or the jobs of the young professionals within it. The most likely scenario, however, is a combination of both the optimistic and pessimistic views. An economy that prizes highly-skilled, well-trained, and adaptable employees who work alongside very smart machines. And a large segment of low-skilled workers whose skills are made redundant at an alarming rate. While we can appeal to the better nature of organizations to nurture and prepare their staff for an inevitable technological transition, millennials should heed the warning signs, take initiative, and equip themselves with the skills needed to survive a potentially tumultuous economic evolution.
In conclusion, it can be said with certainty that within the next 5-10 years, due to the increasing implementation of artificial intelligence in everyday life, modern society will look very different than it does now. This change will most likely not occur in the same apocalyptic manner that some fear it may, but it will nonetheless be a drastic change for better or worse. As the field of AI expands and improves, more applications will arise and more pieces of how our society currently operates will become affected. The global economy and workplace will see drastic changes if these speculations and estimations are correct, and we could see millions of jobs worldwide formerly performed by human workers be replaced with robots and AI. As stated, those who have held their positions for a greater amount of time and cemented themselves as senior staff members and employees at their position will be at a lower risk of having their job taken by an artificially intelligent system than a new member of the job scene whose career is still in its early stages. On the bright side, these aspects of society will almost certainly recover from the blow that was the various applications of AI to different companies, markets, and industries. The advent of new uses for AI will create new jobs that may not even exist today, and we will have a more skilled and effective workforce because of it. With the majority of simple tasks being taken over by robots, new opportunities will open up for humanity. It will interesting to see what kinds of changes unfold as the years pass, and what sorts of breakthroughs will occur sooner or later than we imagine possible. But the same holds true no matter what: things will likely never again be as they are today.
Meulen, Robert, and Christy Petty. “Gartner Says By 2020, Artificial Intelligence Will Create More Jobs Than It Eliminates.” Hype Cycle Research Methodology | Gartner Inc., Gartner, Inc., 13 Dec. 2017, www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3837763.
Floridi, Luciano. “True AI Is Both Logically Possible and Utterly Implausible – Luciano Floridi | Aeon Essays.”Aeon,15 May 2018,aeon.co/essays/true-ai-is-both-logically-possible-and-utterly-implausible.
Hornigold, Thomas. “When Will We Finally Achieve True Artificial Intelligence?” Singularity Hub, 1 Jan. 2018, singularityhub.com/2018/01/01/when-will-we-finally-achieve-true-artificial-intelligence
Anderson, Janna Q. “The Future of Work? The Robot Takeover Is Already Here.” Medium, Augmenting Humanity, 12 Aug. 2015, medium.com/@jannaq/the-robot-takeover-is-already-here-5aa55e1d136a.
Brown, Rosie. “Where AI Is Headed: 13 Artificial Intelligence Predictions for 2018 | NVIDIA Blog.” The Official NVIDIA Blog, 3 Dec. 2017, blogs.nvidia.com/blog/2017/12/03/ai-headed-2018/.
Mulhall, Douglas. Our Molecular Future: How Nanotechnology, Robotics, Genetics, and Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Our World. Prometheus Books.
HUSAIN, AMIR. SENTIENT MACHINE: the Coming Age of Artificial Intelligence. SCRIBNER, 2018.
The Unfounded Fear of Machine Learning
If one were to take a random group of people and ask their opinions on machine learning, the vast majority will voice concerns of robots rising against their creators and wreaking havoc on society, often referencing movies such as The Terminator and Ex Machina. The cultural lexicon regarding machine learning is misleading as to what machine learning is and what it can potentially achieve. Though many have fears of malignant artificial intelligence, the fears of machine learning are largely unfounded and can be tempered through an understanding of the particularities of machine learning, suitcase words, and an examination of previous technologies that were initially met with resistance but became invaluable. Continue reading
May 16, 2018
Geoengineering: The Boomerang Solution to Climate Change
Global climate change is one of the greatest issues to ever face humanity. Studies have found that global temperatures have been rising at an average rate of 0.17°C per decade since 1970, largely due to carbon dioxide emissions (Dahlman, 2017). In a paper published by the IPCC, it was found that increasing temperatures have resulted in a loss of biodiversity, and have caused large-scale extinctions, especially among endemic species (IPCC, 2002). Researchers also found that climate changes are resulting in droughts, which negatively affect agricultural industries, namely in the southwest United States (NASA, 2018). Fortunately, politicians are taking action to combat climate change through means such as renewable energy and environmental laws (Corner and Pidgeon, 2014). However, findings show that despite attempts to reduce carbon dioxide, we are still producing 25% more carbon dioxide than the predicted safe amount to avoid more extreme environmental damages (Khan, 2016). Clearly, more action needs to be taken to combat climate change. One proposed solution to the environmental crisis is geoengineering, a practice that uses technology to control the climate, which in turn allows humans to minimize or reverse climate change. This paper will specifically investigate aerosol loading, a subset of geoengineering; therefore, this paper will use the terms geoengineering and aerosol loading synonymously. Many proponents argue that geoengineering will be the solution to climate change; however, there are severe potential repercussions to engineering nature, including environmental degradation, negative economic consequences, and the moral hazard.
In order to understand the dangers of geoengineering, we must first understand what it is. Experts, like Alan Robock, explain that the idea behind aerosol loading is firing sulfates, which are a specific type of aerosol, into the atmosphere (Robock, et al., 2009). According to NASA, aerosols are highly reflective particles, produced from the burning of coal and oil (NASA, 2017). Experts in the field of geoengineering propose to use cannons and airplanes to fire sulfates into the atmosphere to increase earth’s albedo (Robock et al., 2009). Sulfates have an extremely high albedo, meaning they are highly reflective, and therefore can prevent the earth from absorbing some of the sun’s energy (NASA, 2017). Geoengineers propose that if they injected sulfates into the atmosphere more energy from the sun would be reflected back into space which would decrease global warming (Robock et al., 2009). Ideally, this would allow humanity to solve the issues of climate change by means of science and technology, rather than such things as reducing carbon dioxide output and consumption of goods. However, controlling the climate is exceptionally challenging, and perhaps impossible, so attempts to do so could have severe economic and environmental consequences (Robock, et al., 2009).
Effects on the Environment
Aerosol loading is a highly imperfect science and would result in numerous negative environmental effects. The basis of geoengineering is disturbing the natural environment, especially the atmosphere, to prevent global warming. Humanity has already damaged the natural environment through burning fossil fuels and industrializing. Similarly, an alternative disruption to the environment will have the potential to affect the atmosphere and earth as well. While geoengineering does attempt to remedy some environmental issues, it also causes many others.
One key concern of aerosol loading is that it would cause ozone depletion as a result of the increased number of aerosols entering the atmosphere (Robock et al., 2009). Ozone depletion would result in increased ultraviolet radiation (UVB) reaching the earth’s surface, which causes skin cancer and malignant melanoma development (EPA, 2016). Furthermore, UVB interferes with various other forms of biota by means of hindering plant development and interfering with biogeochemical systems, many of which are involved in natural carbon sequestration. Without this means of carbon sequestration, carbon concentrations in the atmosphere will increase, in turn, increasing the rate of global warming (EPA, 2016). In this case, not only would geoengineering negatively affect the health of humans and wildlife but it, in fact, has the potential for exacerbating the issue it is ultimately trying to stop: increasing global temperatures. Ozone depletion demonstrates the idea that controlling the environment would have severe environmental effects.
Aerosol loading would also negatively impact renewable energy in the form of sunlight. While the purpose of aerosol loading is to reduce the amount of solar energy from entering the atmosphere to reduce global temperatures, this can also have direct negative effects. The sulfates injected into the atmosphere would cause the sunlight that came in contact with them to scatter and diffuse (Robock, et al., 2009). This would negatively impact solar generators because solar panels require the use of direct sunlight to properly function (Knier, n.d.). Stratospheric aerosols would decrease the amount of direct sunlight by 4 watts per every watt reflected out of the atmosphere (Murphy, 2009). This would be a serious setback against solar power, a growing source of renewable energy (Environmental Science, 2018). Currently, solar power is the fastest growing source of renewable energy, but if aerosols were injected into the atmosphere the future of renewable energy would be at risk (Nyhus, 2018). Geoengineering is designed to address environmental issues; however, by decreasing renewable energy potential, it would impede other attempts to address carbon dioxide emissions. Aerosol loading would cause the loss of a natural resource that provides for sustainable energy. For climate solutions to be effective, not only must they target an environmental problem, but they must also not interfere with current other established solutions.
Aerosol loading would also increase the amount of acid rain, which would have detrimental effects on the environment. Increasing atmospheric aerosol content would result in more aerosols entering the troposphere, which would cause an increase of sulfuric acid in rain (MIT, 2009). When acid rain falls, it leaches aluminum out of the soil, which can be harmful to an array of plants and animals (EPA, 2017). Furthermore, when the sulfuric acid reaches waterways, it increases the acidity, which is detrimental to many species, especially those who cannot adapt to significant changes in pH, such as snails and clams (EPA, 2017). Acid rain also leaches essential nutrients from the soil, which is taxing on the growth and hardiness of plants, especially those in mountainous regions that lack a thick soil foundation (EPA, 2017). Furthermore, less successful plants would negatively affect the food industry. Already there is a food crisis across the globe, and decreasing the fitness of an array of plant species would limit the amount of food that could be produced across the globe (NASA, 2018). This demonstrates another way that aerosol loading could negatively impact environmental health.
The science behind geoengineering is untested and unpredictable. Furthermore, it will negatively impact the earth’s environment, which, is, in fact, the thing it is meant to improve. Based on its environmental consequences alone, the implementation of it across the globe should be questioned. Furthermore, if it were ever to be implemented, and if it was decided after the fact that the environmental damages of it were outweighing the benefits, the cost would be immense. Aerosols cannot be removed from the atmosphere once injected, so the negative effects of geoengineering would continue after aerosol loading was terminated (Robock, 2008). Furthermore, if aerosol loading were terminated, there would be a climate shock which would result in global warming accelerating to a rate far greater than it is currently (Robock, 2008). Essentially, there is no going back. Unlike other attempts to combat environmental degradation and climate change, we cannot undo aerosol loading, and therefore the risks are too great.
Economic Consequences and Immediate Impacts of Aerosol Deployment
The practice of geoengineering could be extremely economically costly and aerosol loading would have immediate environmental consequences, questioning whether it is the most efficient use of funds to target environmental issues (Robock, 2008). While some proponents of geoengineering claim that aerosol loading would be relatively inexpensive, there is evidence to refute this (Robock, et al., 2009). Cost estimates of firing sulfates into the atmosphere are as low as about 2 trillion dollars (Fleming, 2012; BLS, 2018). However, the cost of aerosol loading has not been definitively established, and economic estimates of large-scale governmental projects are almost always too low (Robock, 2008). Furthermore, economic estimates of aerosol loading neither include a monitoring system for the injected sulfates, nor considerations of environmental and industrial damage from albedo modification attempts (National Research Council, 2015). Atmospheric scientist, Jim Fleming, states that firing sulfates into the atmosphere would produce about 2 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year (Fleming, 2012). Therefore, aerosol loading would increase the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to some degree directly after deployment.
Geoengineering could result in reduced funds towards other attempts to mitigate climate change. According to economist Nicholas Stern, the current annual budget for climate change is only about 9 trillion dollars (Robock, 2008). Aerosol loading would take up a large percentage of this budget, assuming no additional money was given to target climate change. This could result in fewer funds for renewable energy and other carbon dioxide mitigation efforts. This cannot be afforded. Geoengineering is insufficient to protect natural environments, animal habitats, and sustainable food systems, and therefore cannot be counted on entirely to address environmental issues (Fleming, 2012).
Geoengineering could also result in adverse economic consequences. Astronomers spend billions of dollars on observatories, and aerosol loading would render these stations useless as a result of the permanent pollution that they would cause above the telescopes (Robock, et al., 2009). This would limit future research in the field of astronomy and waste large sums of money that could otherwise be used for scientific advance. Aerosol loading would also necessitate more artificial light be given to plants, due to the decreased direct natural sunlight that would be entering the atmosphere (Robock, 2009). Finally decreased direct sunlight could negatively impact humans, as sunlight provides a source of vitamin D, and serves as an antidepressant. This could result in increased consumption of vitamin D and antidepressants supplements (Robock et al., 2009). Therefore, the potential economic consequences of geoengineering are too high to warrant the use of aerosol loading.
The Moral Hazard
Geoengineering is positioned and touted as the technology that will solve all environmental issues, and because of this, it would likely decrease environmental action, causing the moral hazard. The moral hazard is the idea that because we are insured to some degree against a particular threat, we do not need to worry about that threat anymore (Lin, 2013). For example, not worrying about crashing your car because you have car insurance would demonstrate the moral hazard. In the case of geoengineering and climate change, insurance would be a metaphor for geoengineering, and car crashes would be a metaphor for climate change and environmental degradation. However, as demonstrated earlier, geoengineering alone cannot address all environmental issues, and will in fact negatively impact the environment in many ways.
Geoengineering could disincentivize other governmental action to address climate change. Even though many politicians and scientists are aware of the moral hazard, they are still concerned about it with respect to climate change (Corner and Pidgeon, 2014). Environmental policy makers unanimously claim that geoengineering will only be a band-aid solution to climate change, and will not, in fact, address many environmental issues (Corner and Pidgeon, 2014). Despite this, environmental politicians worry that discussing geoengineering and considering its possibilities would distract them from making necessary policies concerning carbon dioxide outputs and other climate issues (Corner and Pidgeon, 2014). Supporting their concerns, studies show that geoengineering efforts and discussions would negatively impact climate legislation (Lin, 2013). Geoengineering is very appealing to many people, despite the fact that it is a highly flawed solution to climate change. Having blind faith that geoengineering would address all environmental issues is extremely risky and impractical, yet people still support it, proving the existence of the moral hazard of geoengineering.
The science and practice of geoengineering appear to be an easy solution to climate change to the public due to its psychological appeal of control. Studies in psychology show that having a sense of control over a situation is highly attractive to humans (Lin, 2013). In a study conducted on random individuals, it was found that many participants thought geoengineering could be an effective solution to climate change. They came to this conclusion despite being informed on the technical difficulties and imperfections of geoengineering. Many of these participants also said that geoengineering would be easy to “switch off,” and that it would be highly “controllable” (Lin, 2013). Sadly, terminating aerosol loading would not be an easy switch off, and would, in fact, result in accelerated global warming (Robock, 2008). Furthermore, claiming that the climate and climate engineering is controllable is a stretch. The climate is dynamic and unpredictable. Claiming that scientists who have never controlled the climate before will be able to do so is an overstatement of the abilities of these scientists. Nonetheless, people believe that geoengineering will allow humans to control the climate to a greater extent than is realistic.
Many climate skeptics support geoengineering, likely because it appears an easy way to address climate change (Ellison, 2018). In February 2018, President Trump signed a budget to provide funds for geoengineering research in the United States. This action had bipartisan support and was especially favored by Republicans. After the budget was passed, Randy Weber, a Republican representative from Texas said that “the future is bright for geoengineering (Ellison, 2018). The fact that geoengineering is getting support from those who traditionally deny the existence of climate change is concerning (Koronowski, et al., 2018). President Trump is a renowned climate denier and has made the point of filling his cabinet with other climate deniers (Koronowski, et al., 2018). Furthermore, Trump and much of his cabinet have worked hard to dismantle research and environmental protection groups such as NASA and the EPA (Koronowski, et al., 2018). Why they would support something that is meant to target climate change is suspicious, and their motivation is not completely clear. Perhaps Trump and his cabinet thought that by supporting geoengineering research, the public and the government would release the pressure on them to address current environmental issues. Several business leaders, politicians, and world leaders have reached out to Trump to try to get him to act on climate change. Pope Francis, Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, and Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, are among many prominent world figures that have pressured Trump into fighting for environmental protection (Buncombe, et al., 2017). Perhaps the pressure from these world leaders, alongside public discontent, led him to support the geoengineering (Buncombe, et al., 2017). For the climate deniers in the government, geoengineering likely appears to be an easy solution to the climate situation. Supporting geoengineering would make the statement that they were addressing climate change, and could potentially decrease the pressure and criticism that they are receiving around environmental issues. Climate deniers are giving into the moral hazard. They are accepting geoengineering as a metaphorical seatbelt that will save the world from the car crash. However, just as seatbelts are not failsafe, neither is geoengineering. It will not address all environmental issues. It will be expensive. And finally, it will worsen much of the existing environmental crisis.
The appeal of geoengineering is significant. It appears as a technological miracle that will solve key environmental issues without any mitigation efforts. However, the ramifications and costs of geoengineering are too great to consider it as a possibility. Therefore, contemplating the potential of it as a climate solution is a waste of time and resources. Geoengineering, would not only be a failed attempt at addressing climate issues, but it would, in fact, interfere with progress being made against climate change on an individual scale and in sectors such as environmental law and policy.
The consequences of geoengineering that have been explored in this paper demonstrate just a few ways that it can negatively impact the environment and society (Radford, 2014; Murphy, 2009; Connolly, 2017; Robock et al., 2009). We know numerous ways geoengineering could backfire, however, there are likely far more ways that we simply do not know of because we do not fully understand the climate. There is no way of knowing what will happen when you try to alter an entire global system (Robock, 2009). The repercussions of geoengineering could be incredibly severe, far beyond what we already understand and expect.
The solution to the climate crisis is not simple. Instead of investing in a few trillion dollar ideas to reverse climate change, we need to consider our own individual impact on the environment. We need to stop considering the environment as something under our control. On the contrary, we need to accept our place in the world as just one species among many that is trying to fit into its ecosystem. This means mitigating our consumption of energy and goods, both on an individual and governmental scale. We need to pass aggressive laws limiting consumption of all goods, especially those that emit fossil fuels. We need to stop trying to controlling the climate, and instead, focus on mitigating our impact on the planet.
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