by Joel Abraham Enriquez *
Should North America go beyond the net-zero emissions race and begin leading the geoengineering era as a strategic option to compensate for climate degradation?
Given extreme drought conditions, Mexican authorities opted to bomb clouds last week to create rain in the Monterrey area just 138 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border. Climate change interventions like this have significant short and long-term implications on our region’s global and national security, economic growth, and quality of life.
Overwhelming scientific consensus concurs on the challenges of climate change. The North American region —Canada, Mexico, and the United States— has experienced severe climate and weather conditions that have cost human lives and directly impacted our economies. It is estimated that the 2012 drought/heatwave in the U.S. cost more than US $30 billion. On that same year, the indirect costs of Hurricane Sandy surpassed US $65 billion. Severe weather effects had a negative combined impact of US $111 billion for that year.
Climate change poses a worldwide threat to energy and human security, and balance. Specific threats to our regional and global security include threats to a country’s stability including how respond and adapt to potential disruptions, heightened social and political tensions, adverse effects on food availability or prices (risks of famine), increased risks to human health, negative impacts on investments and economic competitiveness, and potential greater inequality that may promote non-absorbable massive migrations to Canada and the US, and even Mexico, from less-developed countries in the hemisphere.
While geoengineering technologies hold immense potential, they are also associated with significant implications for human security. For starters, geoengineering is the deliberate large-scale intervention in the Earth’s natural systems to counteract climate change. Technologies can be divided into two groups: 1) Solar Radiation Management (SRM), a technology that physically blocks or reflects sunlight back into space, offsetting temperature increases caused by greenhouse gas induced warming (GHG); and 2) Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR), which removes carbon from the atmosphere, reversing the greenhouse effect directly.
Studies confirm the efficacy and feasibility of geoengineering in combating climate change’s adverse effects. However, the development of geoengineering to manipulate climate and weather patterns holds serious threats and geopolitical implications relevant to the world’s security. For example: when a country uses climate manipulation for its own benefit or/and affect those of its adversaries.
China has recently assembled one of the world’s most significant research projects to assess the impact of geoengineering and explore related policy and governance issues. As we know, China is one of the most acutely affected countries by climate change and pollution. The environmental emergency directly affects non-traditional Chinese security, i.e., water, energy, and trade security). Its consequences could be particularly acute in politically unstable provinces like Tibet-adjacent Sichuan and Xinjiang. Currently, China is shifting from a production-and exports-driven economy to a consumption-driven one. Given that political stability and power in China are closely tied to economic growth, geoengineering technologies comes as an attractive tool to mitigate climate change and maintain the pace of economic growth, including in the least developed, coal-producing Chinese provinces.
Let me now propose a set of questions:
• Can we count on China fixing a global problem that further affects world climate or ecosystems if it incurs in some geoengineering mistake?
• Is there a global regime to exercise oversight of geoengineering activities ? Where are its limits and rules? Should the United Nations play any part in this?
• Who is leading the geoengineering era? Should a North American alliance become the world’s leader in geoengineering science and technologies?
I strongly think that, in the short term, efforts should be directed towards creating a multilateral geoengineering governance mechanism with strict rules and effective enforcement. Furthermore, the U.S., Canada, and Mexico -under the USMCA trade deal umbrella- should consider taking immediate action to develop geoengineering technologies. The three countries should jointly assess the scope and current efforts to train a North American geoengineering workforce, advancing future careers and culturally jumping into a new area of “cleaning and fixing our mess”.
Mitigation and offsetting are simply not enough anymore. We must start fixing our deeply damaged planet and invest no longer in “more apples for tomorrow” because there will be no apples if we, in next to no time, save this world.
* Joel Abraham Enríquez is Chief Governance Officer (CGO) & Corporate Affairs at Jaguar Exploration and Production, responsible for strategic communications, legal counsel, security, CSR & BC. He is also a member of the Young Advisory Council of The US-Mexico Foundation, a binational non-profit organization dedicated to fostering bilateral cooperation and improving the understanding between the United States and Mexico by activating key people in the relationship that once were dormant. Twitter: @usmexicofound