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Geoengineering II: The Scientific Basis and Engineering Challenges

Date: Tuesday, February 23, 2010 Time: 11:00 AM Location: 2325 Rayburn House Office Building

Opening Statement By Chairman Brian Baird

Good Morning. I want to welcome everyone to today’s hearing discussing the scientific and technological premises underlying various proposals for geoengineering.
Geoengineering is a term that has come to define a range of often controversial strategies to deliberately alter the Earth’s climate systems for the purpose of counteracting climate change – presumably through reflection of sunlight or absorption of C02 from the air.
Make no mistake, despite the sometimes far-fetched proposals, this is not a subject that should be taken lightly. As Chairman Gordon has also made clear: Geoengineering has been proposed as, and it can only be responsibly discussed as a last-ditch measure in the case that traditional carbon mitigation efforts prove ineffective on their own.   Even then, a tremendous amount of research is required to know what strategies may be worth deploying.
The concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is already driving great changes in the Earth’s climate.
The long-term consequences of climate change will become especially threatening, and some of these consequences are already being felt.
For example, oceans naturally absorb atmospheric carbon through the air-water interface. As the concentration of greenhouse gases has increased in the atmosphere so has the absorption of carbon by the oceans. On the surface this is good because it helps to mitigate climate change; however, below the ocean’s surface the excessive absorption of carbon is changing the chemistry of the ocean—it is creating ocean acidification.
The effects of ocean acidification will span the ocean food web which will affect our fishermen, coastal communities, and our national and global economies.
Today’s hearing is not about ocean acidification per se, but it is about controversial methods to reduce or mitigate the causes and effects of climate change through geoengineering.
Without question, our first priority is to reduce the production of global greenhouse gas emissions.
However, as I said, if such reductions achieve too little, too late, there may be a need to consider a plan B — to utilize methodologies to counteract the climatic effects of greenhouse gas emissions by ‘geoengineering’.
Many proposals for geoengineering have already been made. Some may have potential, some sound downright scary, and they all carry levels of uncertainty, hazards, and risks that could outweigh their intended benefit.
Furthermore, the technologies proposed for deployment of many of these geoengineering techniques are very young or non-existent, and there are major uncertainties regarding their effectiveness, environmental impacts, and economic costs.
For example, I am especially interested in discussing the potential for the solar radiation management techniques to exacerbate ocean acidification.
The implications of geoengineering are decidedly global in scope, but geoengineering has the potential to be undertaken in a unilateral fashion, without consensus or regard for the well-being of other nations.
Therefore, an open, public dialogue is needed in the face of such hazards, risks, and uncertainties.
As you may recall this hearing is the second of a three-part series on geoengineering.
On November 5, 2009 the Full Committee held the first hearing in the series, entitled “Geoengineering: Assessing the Implications of Large-Scale Climate Intervention.”
Today’s Sub Committee hearing will examine the scientific basis and engineering challenges of geoengineering.
This series of hearings serves to create the foundation for an informed and open dialogue on the science of geoengineering, and should in no way be regarded as supportive of deployment of geoengineering.
With that I turn it over to the distinguished Ranking Member, Mr. Inglis.



0 - Dr. Philip Rasch
Laboratory Fellow Atmospheric Sciences & Global Change Division Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Atmospheric Sciences & Global Change Division Pacific Nort
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0 - Dr. Robert Jackson
Chair of Global Environmental Change Nicholas School of the Environment Professor of Biology Nicholas School of the Environment Professor of Biology
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0 - Dr. Klaus Lackner
Department Chair Earth and Environmental Engineering Ewing Worzel Professor of Geophysics Earth and Environmental Engineering Ewing Worzel Professor of Geophysi
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0 - Dr. David Keith
Canada Research Chair in Energy and Environment University of Calgary University of Calgary
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