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What are Geoengineers?

By Haven Esme
Updated May 21, 2024
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Geoengineers are professionals that find ways to manipulate the environment to combat changes in temperature and weather. Modifying the earth's atmosphere may seem like an impossible feat, but geoengineers do this by eliminating greenhouse gases and controlling other factors that affect the atmosphere directly.

As global warming poses a serious threat to the atmosphere, geoengineering is becoming more of a priority and a much needed concept. Geoengineering deals with the warming affects of gases, carbon dioxide, and any other chemicals in the atmosphere that cause warming. The job of a geoengineer is to determine ways to eliminate gases as well as reduce the earth's temperature through scientific means.

Geoengineers are constantly trying to find new ways to cool the temperature of the earth. For example, geoengineers have considered launching millions of mirrors into orbit to reflect the sun. They have also considered placing aluminum foil over vast parts of the desert to reflect heat, however, both ideas have proven too costly to institute.

The engineers believe that if they can drop global temperatures the earth will be better off. A more feasible option that geoengineers have been using is the attempt to formulate clouds on their own, which is called called cloud brightening. By thickening existing clouds and creating new ones, the engineers are able to reduce the amount of sun that hits the earth and increase precipitation and rainfall.

There are certain subjects that geoengineers study to gain their expertise - the most important are chemistry, plant biology, ecology, meteorology, and the atmosphere. Engineers combine these subjects to determine new ways to modify the atmosphere.

Although geoengineering could have a positive affect on the earth, numerous civil society groups around the world condemn the idea that geoengineers should interfere with the climate. These society groups believe that the impact of interfering with the earth's atmosphere could cause more damage than good. They also believe that a geoengineer's ideas and experiments could be devastating to the ecosystem.

According to the Wall Street Journal, geoengineering won;t completely solve global warming and it's not considered a technical fix, but geoengineers can eliminate the use of fossil fuels, create sustainability and reduce the number of carbon emissions that cause global warming. One thing is certain - the management of the environment is vital to the well-being of the earth's future. Mankind and ecosystems will be greatly impacted by how current generations handle climate change.

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Discussion Comments
By anon336253 — On May 27, 2013

Geoengineers are the lowest form of life on the earth.

By Comparables — On Sep 20, 2011

What kinds of geoengineering projects are researchers working on to reverse climate change? I thought this article was interesting, and I would like to learn more about some of the research going into this type of engineering. I vaguely understand carbon sequestration, but I do not know any of the technical or practical details about any of this technology. All I know about is the very little that is presented in those "Clean coal for America" commercials.

Do we even have any clean coal plants in this country or anywhere in the world? Does this clean coal technology only remove the carbon from the coal it is burning, or does it also remove some of the ambient carbon in the atmosphere? I am somewhat of a skeptic about these new geoengineering solutions for climate change, but maybe a little discussion can change my mind.

By GenevaMech — On Sep 20, 2011

@Chicada- Environmental and civil engineering are very similar to geoengineering. Some would even consider geoengineering to be a sub-field of environmental engineering, since the projects a geoengineer works on helps to improve the health and safety of the environment.

If I had to define geoengineering I would say it involves working with the earth as a medium to improve human and environmental conditions. Civil engineering integrates the human (built) environment with the natural environment. Environmental engineering insures the built environment works with the natural environment to improve the safety and health of the human population.

If you were thinking about working in a field that involves mitigating natural hazards and disasters, mining resources, or engineering the foundation for built environments (earth systems), then geotechnical engineering or geoengineering may be the right path for you. An environmental engineer will be more concerned with public health and safety, and a civil engineer will focus on constructing the built world we live in.

By chicada — On Sep 19, 2011

Are environmental engineers considered geoengineers? I would like to go to school for engineering because I love math and science, but I have no idea what field of engineering I want to go into. I am curious about the responsibilities of environmental and geological engineers because I think working to find solutions to earth's problems is important. Can someone give me a little insight into what the difference between the two would be, and what I could expect to study to earn a degree in each of these fields? Thank you.

By istria — On Sep 18, 2011

@highlighter and fiorite- you both make very interesting points, but I wonder if the truth lies somewhere in the middle. While our population may seem unnaturally high, we evolved as a species naturally. I think that most new geoengineering ideas have inherently incorporated the precautionary principle. Many of the systems we refer to as geoengineered are simply engineered systems that have learned from previous nearsightedness.

Every type of engineering alters some natural or geological system in some way or another. The geoengineering that this article talks about is simply engineering to help mitigate former mistakes made by society’s former engineers.

By highlighter — On Sep 18, 2011

@fiorite- I would have to disagree with you completely. Geomechanics and geoengineering have never been more necessary. While in theory, people may be able to reverse climate change, the reality is that it has not happened. For people to reverse climate change and return levels back to pre-industrial revolution levels, you would need to severely reduce the resource use of all but the poorest of the poor. The truth is that the human population was somewhere between one and two billion people when atmospheric CO2 was below 300 ppm. Even the wealthiest and most resource intensive members of the population at that time likely lived at a lower level of comfort than the average Chinese or Brazilian person does today.

Another factor is that laws of physics and chemistry would dictate that it is not possible to return an earth system back to its original state. You will likely never be able to return an ecosystem to anything more than marginally better than its current state.

The only way that we can repair an earth system is to input energy into the system and geoengineer a new system. We (Homo Sapiens) would be fooling ourselves if we assumed that we are not an important part of the natural system. However, unlike other species, we have found ways to beat the natural population checks in these natural systems through medicine, technology, and food production techniques. This means that we must engineer these natural systems if we want these systems to support our unnatural population.

By Fiorite — On Sep 17, 2011

Geoengineering is not necessary. Society is capable of doing everything that is necessary to reverse catastrophic climate change, without the need to further destroy the planet. The geoengineering we have been doing for the last few hundred years has already caused enough problems for the planet and all life forms on the planet.

Maybe the approach should be a precautionary approach. It would be much easier to stop destroying the environment and allow it to heal itself over time then to geoengineer a solution that only leads to more problems. I personally believe that people need to leave natural processes to nature.

How will people fare better if we bioengineer our food crops, and it leads to increased disease rates and the extinction of species that cannot compete with these new super species? How will we fare better if we sequester carbon so that we can burn more fossil fuels and dioxin levels increase to the point that it completely wipes out amphibians?

These are only a number of the possible side effects of biogeochemical engineering. The problem with geoengineering, and technological advancements in general, is that they are commercialized before proper studies can be done to determine the physical and ethical side effects of these advancements.

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