It is often thought that we can engineer our way out of problems, manmade and natural. Sea walls are designed to protect against storm surges, tsunamis and hurricanes. Buildings are designed for life safety during an earthquake. There are endless examples of man designing to combat the forces of nature. Yet, a plethora of natural disasters have taken their toll on human populations over the centuries, regardless of engineered solutions.

The natural environment often does a much better job protecting against storms than anything that the most talented and thoughtful engineers on the planet can muster. So is it right, or even possible to engineer the planet (geoengineering) to slow or reverse the effects of climate change?

Geoengineering has been proposed to help mitigate the effects of climate change. One of the many problems with geoengineering is the subsequent effects on larger planetary systems. What will really happen if we undertake massive iron seeding, carbon sequestration, and cloud seeding projects? What are the unintended consequences?

There are always links and reactions anytime we tamper with or attempt to manipulate complex, dynamic natural systems. Two of the results of iron seeding (which sequesters carbon via massive algae blooms) are increased ocean acidification and dead zones. The oceans are acidifying because the oceans are the largest global carbon sink; they have already delayed many of the effects of climate change. Increased carbon dioxide in the oceans is changing ocean pH and ocean chemistry. This seemingly insignificant change has many unintended consequences, and could result in the collapse of the food web.  

Fortunately, there is currently a global moratorium on geoengineering as it deemed too risk-laden and uncertain.

If geoengineering is not the most appropriate solution, given that it is a risk-laden short-term solution to a massive long-term problem, what can we do?