November 2012 |Planungsamt der Bundeswehr | Source |
Armed Forces, Capabilities and Technologies in the 21st Century
Geoengineering – One of many possible futures 1
Press release 01.02.2027 “Economic power does geoengineering”.
The head of state of one of the new economic powers announced a turning point in climate policy at a press conference in the capital today. Since the previous climate policy efforts of the international community had no effect, the head of state said, his country had decided to confront the climate problem by using geoengineering. He said he takes concerns of the country’s international partners seriously, but stressed, “Melting of mountain glaciers threatens our water supply. Droughts threaten our crops. Thousands of fellow citizens have died in extreme weather events in recent years alone. While we are aware of the risks, action must be taken in this situation.”
Press release 16.05.2027 “Crisis summit of the geo opponents”.
Today the heads of state of the European continent met in Brussels to decide on further action against the threatening use of geoengineering. The President opened the summit by saying, “Geoengineering is unacceptable, an irresponsible gamble with our future!” Earlier, negotiations on a geoengineering moratorium had failed at the UN General Assembly. Nevertheless, European leaders can be sure of the support of a number of other countries that fear the possible side-effects of geoengineering. The USA, on the other hand, has not yet taken a clear position and abstained from the vote.
The meeting was accompanied by numerous demonstrations. After massive worldwide protests in recent weeks, an estimated 1.5 million people demonstrated in Brussels, Paris, Berlin and London alone on the day of the meeting.
Press release 20.06.2027: “The tone gets tougher”.
The spokesman for the U.S. President has announced a press conference for tomorrow morning, in which the President will comment on yesterday’s announcement of the official launch of geoengineering programs by one of the new economic powers. Assessments of how the president will position himself vary widely. The tone in the social and political debate about geoengineering has become harsher in recent weeks. Both opponents and supporters have mobilized their followers in the USA. Media campaigns by both camps created a heated atmosphere. Opponents of geoengineering demanded that the “destroyers of divine creation” and “climate fiddlers” be stopped from their plans by military means if necessary.
In Europe, too, there have been protest marches in recent weeks. The demand to stop the “end of the world” by force of arms came up more and more often. The media and individual politicians began to seriously consider this option. P.1
“Geoengineering – A Security Perspective
“Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it.” (Mark Twain)
For centuries, humans have tried to influence the weather in their favor, for example to produce rain – whether through traditional rites such as rain dances or the first technical experiments with explosives in the 19th century.
2 Nowadays, however, it is no longer just a matter of influencing local weather phenomena. Rather, there is discussion about shaping the global climate according to human will. With geoengineering, possibilities for this are increasingly being explored. The term refers to interventions in the global climate system with the aim of mitigating climate change and counteracting the rise in average temperatures.
This Future Topic discusses the security implications associated with the possible use of geo-engineering.
First, it outlines what is meant by geo- engineering, how it could be used to prevent dangerous climate change, and when it could be used.
Then, existing technologies and those to be developed are presented and evaluated with regard to their risks, further points of controversy, relevant legal framework conditions, and possible motivations of individual states to intervene in the climate.” P.3
“The analysis comes to the interim conclusion that a possible future use of geoengineering would have various dimensions relevant to security policy. These are described in the third section.
The acute need for action by the German Armed Forces is rather low. However, a possible future deployment of armed forces in a conflict resulting from the use of geoengineering cannot be ruled out. The protection of the civilian infrastructure necessary for an intervention in the climate system or the provision of military infrastructure for this purpose would also be conceivable options for the deployment of the Bundeswehr in this context.
1 What is geoengineering and when could it be used?
In principle, there are two different types of geoengineering, which are shown in Figure 1.4
Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) aims to achieve a reduction in the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration.
Solar Radiation Management (SRM) aims to influence the Earth’s radiation budget so that solar radiation heats up the Earth less. One approach within SRM tries to increase the reflectivity (albedo) of the earth’s surface or the upper air layers. There are also approaches to prevent the solar radiation from reaching the earth by technical installations (reflectors) in space. The methods are manifold and their description would go beyond the scope of the Future Topic. The description of the technologies (mode of action, research status, costs and effectiveness as well as possible side effects) is to be found in the following section.
Text, to be found in the appendix (Appendix 1).
Proponents particularly emphasize the potential of SRM measures. These would be able to act in a timely manner and have a high efficiency.5
Most geoengineering technologies are not yet fully developed and safe to use. There is still a considerable need for basic research to enable effective and safe application.6 In the long term and assuming further research successes, application seems technologically possible. It is controversial how this basic research should be structured and financed in the future. Critics, such as the non-governmental Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group) and scientists, for example from the Oxford Geoengineering Program (Oxford Principles), are already calling for non-patentability and basic open-source research in order to reduce private-sector interests.7 If this demand prevails and, at the same time, basic research continues to be funded by government money, the knowledge could be available to an even broader number of actors in the future. This would then entail a potential risk, for example, “use of geoengineering by non-state actors.”
To ensure that Mark Twain’s sentence is not reversed in the future – “Everyone is doing something about the weather (climate) and no one is talking about it” – prompt political regulation of the phenomenon is essential, with the widest possible involvement of all relevant actors. Otherwise, geoengineering could become a significant object of conflict in international politics in the future.
Transboundary problems, such as those that may arise from the use of SRM measures, do not have to be inevitably end in escalating conflicts. These kinds of problems always provide incentives and opportunities for cooperation and regulation.57 Violent conflicts are thus not subject to coercive dynamics, but are always the result of concrete policies and their consequences.
For Germany, this issue is brisant, especially against the background of its current climate policy and the strong focus on emission reductions. First, the use of geoengineering would be highly critical due to its potential side effects. Second, an eventual shift away from the goal of an overall post-fossil transformation of economy and society to a new paradigm – the use of technologies instead of emission reduction to tackle climate change – contradict Germany’s current climate policy goals and national interests.
Thus, geoengineering is primarily a strategically important field of foreign policy. However, the Bundeswehr should develop its own position on geoengineering based on this Future Topic, the studies of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Federal Environment Agency, not least because of the dual-use problem.
It is particularly important to monitor the geoengineering policies of countries such as the USA, China, India and Russia. In the long term, a possible deployment of armed forces in the world cannot be ruled out in the event of a conflict. The protection of infra- structures or the provision of military infrastructure for the use of SRM measures also appear possible. Therefore, the Bundeswehr should continue to monitor in particular the societal discourses of countries highly vulnerable to climate change and emitters with little interest in a transformation to a post-fossil society. Furthermore, technological developments and international legal frameworks in general should be monitored in order to anticipate possible threats and prepare for them in the medium term.
The acute need for action on the part of the Bundeswehr can be assessed as rather low. However, since geoengineering may become an issue of strategic importance in the future, the Bundeswehr should position itself and monitor relevant technological, social and legal developments.” P. 10-11