May 18, 2017

We need to ensure a geoengineering cure isn't worse than the disease

Our Axios Voices conversation on geoengineering.

There may come a time where it would be immoral not to intervene to stop the Earth's temperature from rising. But engineering the climate by injecting particles into the stratosphere to reflect the sun's light is ambitious and risky. Before we do this, it would be important to know that the cure is not worse than the disease.

How to test the unknowns: The Earth system is complex. A path forward might include a series of experiments, with appropriate governance, that start at a very small (meter, kilogram) scale. Early work should not perturb the climate but rather teach us about, for example, potential chemical effects of injection.

Big questions: How are the benefits and costs balanced, economically, socially and morally? If rainfall increases in the Sahel but reduces in the Amazon, what do we do to compensate for those differences? These technologies could affect the most vulnerable, who are also likely to be the least culpable. How do we protect them?

Bottom line: One thing is clear, there is no rapid path back to pre-industrial equilibrium. If we do attempt to take control of the Earth's climate, we'll need to be more mindful, altruistic and empathetic as a species than we've been to date.

Other voices in the conversation:

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World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Countries where novel coronavirus cases are falling may be hit with a "second peak" if they relax restrictions too soon, World Health Organization emergencies chief Mike Ryan warned during a briefing Monday. "We're still very much in a phase where the disease is actually on the way up," he added.

By the numbers: Almost 5.5 million people have tested positive for the virus as of Monday, and more than 2.2 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 14.6 million tests). The U.K. is reporting over 36,900 deaths from the coronavirus — the most fatalities outside the U.S.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,498,849 — Total deaths: 346,306 — Total recoveries — 2,233,180Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 1,662,768 — Total deaths: 98,223 — Total recoveries: 379,157 — Total tested: 14,604,942Map.
  3. World: Italy reports lowest number of new cases since February — Ireland reports no new coronavirus deaths on Monday for the first time since March 21 — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: New York stock exchange to reopen its floor on Tuesday — White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

LATAM Airlines files for U.S. chapter 11 bankruptcy

A LATAM air attendant aboard one of the company's planes in March. Photo: Kike Calvo/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

LATAM Airlines Group SA said in a statement early Tuesday the firm and its affiliates in in the United States, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S.

Why it matters: Latam is Latin America's largest airline and its shareholders include Delta Air Lines. CEO Roberto Alvo noted in the statement the coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on the airline industry.