May 18, 2017

Talking about geoengineering is a distraction

Our Axios Voices conversation on geoengineering.

The Paris climate agreement and some nations, including the U.S, recognize certain geoengineering projects as potentially legitimate, but the legal status of technologies to deflect the sun's radiation is wholly undefined despite carrying geopolitical and moral risks.

Why it matters: Solar radiation management, in which the sun's light is reflected by mirrors or particles deployed in the atmosphere, could have terrible environmental and societal consequences. It could be weaponized and lead to conflict between nations. Even if the risks are overblown, merely talking about and conducting research into geoengineering may weaken support for limiting emissions via renewable energy and conservation, methods we know work. When geoengineering is presented to people as a potential solution to climate change, their support for mitigation measures falls.

Bottom line: We need responsible communication. Even if solar radiation management never becomes a physical reality, how it is portrayed by scientists, governments, and corporations could have a profound effect on how the world addresses climate change.

Other voices in the conversation:

Go deeper

The polarized pandemic election

A Trump supporter protests Pennsylvania's stay-at-home order, during a May 15 rally outside the Capitol in Harrisburg. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

President Trump is going all-in on pushing for a rapid, robust return to normal life, creating a visual, visceral contrast with Joe Biden and other Democrats who are more reticent to rip the masks off.

The state of play: Business friends have been urging Trump from the beginning to keep the lockdowns short. He's listening more and more.

Tech's long hot summer of antitrust

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Google, Facebook and other tech giants face a summer of regulatory grilling as long-running investigations into potential anticompetitive practices likely come to a head.

The big picture: Probes into the power of Big Tech launched by federal and state authorities are turning a year old, and observers expect action in the form of formal lawsuits and potentially damning reports — even as the companies have become a lifeline for Americans during the pandemic lockdown.

Palantir CEO hits Silicon Valley "monoculture," may leave California

Palantir is "getting close" to a decision on whether to move the company out of California, CEO Alex Karp said in an interview for "Axios on HBO."

The state of play: "We haven't picked a place yet, but it's going to be closer to the East Coast than the West Coast. ... If I had to guess, I would guess something like Colorado."